Thursday, May 29, 2008

Heading north

Later this morning we'll be throwing the suitcase back in the truck and heading north towards Wisconsin. It's been an interesting few days here in east Texas. Wound up being here longer than originally planned due to the Younger Daughter's car blowing a head gasket this past Friday. She'd been hoping to nurse that Ford Tempo along for a few more months (it only had 235,000+ miles on the odometer) but no such luck. So instead of just being here for the weekend, we stayed longer to drive her around to banks, car lots, her insurance agent, and the garage where the tow truck driver had dumped the Tempo. (Slight digression -- had the rare experience of seeing an honest mechanic. Instead of trying to persuade her to spend a ton of money on an engine rebuild the man told her to junk it, which is what she was planning to do anyway but it was still nice to not have the garage owner try to persuade her it was fixable.) She managed to find a used Chevy Cobalt that is now the newest and nicest car she's ever owned, so she's happy.

Our visits to shade tree mechanics and various car lots was not exactly the type of tour itinerary the local chambers of commerce would probably recommend for visitors to the Texas pine forests, but it was interesting. Got to see several very sad looking downtowns, the courthouse squares that once were the center of economic and community life for towns like San Augustine and Hemphill but now just look abandoned. San Augustine's is actually healthier looking than some I've seen (Jasper's is like the aftermath of a disaster; completely ringed by vacant buildings with not even a bail bondsman or a lawyer's office to be seen), but even in San Augustine there's one entire side of the square lined with empty store fronts, and quite a bit of the rest is occupied by "antique" stores. I don't think there's anything in any of the buildings on Hemphill's square -- maybe an insurance agent, but that's it. No stores, not even a coffee shop that people with business at the courthouse might stop in before or after going to pay for license plates. It's not as derelict looking as the Jasper square, but not by much.

It's a shame from a historic preservation point of view, of course, because those empty decaying buildings are often quite interesting -- much more fun to look at than the basic metal pole shed that gets thrown up these days when Family Dollar comes to town. Nothing against Family Dollar -- I'd rather shop there than at the Evil Empire -- but they don't exactly have the 21st century equivalent of McKim, Mead & White designing their stores. Not that Family Dollar would ever locate on a courthouse square; Family Dollar, just like its bigger box competitors, wants to be on a busy street or highway and not tucked away where there's less vehicle traffic. It's an old pattern, of course. This country is full of town sites where communities dried up and blew away when traffic patterns shifted. In Hemphill you can even date when the shift away from the square began -- there's a very nice 1960s brick bank building done in a kind of futuristic heavily influenced by the Jetsons style that's oriented toward the highway that bypasses the square about two blocks to the east. It seems likely the Texas DOT re-routed the highway circa 1960 to bypass the square instead of looping around it, and businesses began mutating towards strip development instead of being centered on a square shortly after.

So what happens when people start doing less driving? Good question. They're still not going to be walking to the local town squares, not in rural areas like this one. The YD tells me that when she first got here last fall and asked about where to shop, she was told most people in this area go to Jasper (~45 miles away) to shop at the Evil Empire because the Brookshire Brothers store in Hemphill isn't very good. Having been in that Brookshire Brothers store exactly once, the only problem I saw with it then was it's a whole lot smaller than the Publix I'd gotten used to in Atlanta, but perception is everything. And, given the love affair Texans seem to have with both trucks and driving, gas is going to have to get much, much higher per gallon before they start re-thinking driving anywhere -- one of the problems we ran into while car shopping was that 90% of the used vehicle inventory on most car dealers' lots was trucks. Big trucks. Full size or better trucks with quad cabs and dual rear wheels.

I would love to know how people are managing to buy those vehicles. Texas is not noted for high wages in general and the cost of living doesn't seem to be appreciably lower here than anywhere else in the country. YD pays as much in rent here as she would for a comparable house in Omaha. Maybe it's more creative financing, like with the strange schemes the mortgage industry developed to fuel the housing bubble. Or maybe the reason those quad cabs are popular is that for more and more people the trucks are becoming their primary residence. I have a lot of days when I wonder just how average people, the ones who fall someplace close to or below the median household income for the U.S., manage to survive.

In any case, the Texas phase of the vacation is about to end. Did not get to do the one thing I had hoped to while here -- confer with the owner of the sawmill house -- as he's on a fire detail somewhere out west this week, but that can always be done via telephone or e-mail. Overall it's been a nice visit with YD, and, if the weather forecast wasn't for 90s with humidity to match, I'd say I hate to leave.

The news has been on in the background as I've been getting the morning caffeine fix while typing this, and I am tempted to do a rant about feckless weasels like Scott McClellan (as in "where were your balls when they would have done the country some good?!") but I'm not even going to do a link. Anyone who's reading this and is interested has either already done his or her own rant, or simply doesn't care. Besides, it's time to get dressed, throw the suitcase in the truck, and hit the road.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Willis Carrier deserves sainthood

We're in Texas. It is hot. Forget the usual pantheon -- here in east Texas the one person who should be on prayer cards, tacky candles, and cheap medallions is the guy who invented central air.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Your tax dollars at work

The Large Nameless Agency definitely got its money's worth in the filtering software it's using. Check out the web site it won't let me vist:

Your organization's Internet use policy restricts access to this web page at this time.
Reason: The Websense category "Sex" is filtered.


Taking a break

Heading out on vacation tomorrow morning doing a road trip that will take us over to Texas to visit the Younger Daughter in the piney woods of Sabine County, then up through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin to Upper Michigan. Once we hit the U.P. it will be like stepping back into the 1950s at the "camp" with no computer, no telephone, and no indoor plumbing. There is electricity so it isn't totally rustic. The S.O. and I will be spending part of the time working on the retirement bunker, but most of the vacation will be simply . . . vacation.

No Wolf Blitzer for almost three weeks. It's going to be wonderful.

[Note to self: pack lots of mosquito repellent.]

Blogging isn't an obsession; it's therapy

Jason at the EvolutionBlog has a link up to an interesting piece in Scientific American describing research that's another example of telling us what we all already know:

Blogging--It's Good for You
The therapeutic value of blogging becomes a focus of study

Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.

I always thought of self-medication as involving kegs or qualudes, not keyboards, but I'm not going to argue the point.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sawmill houses

A few months ago I got asked if I'd help with a possible National Register nomination for a house located in the east Texas pine forests, a really nice example of vernacular construction and style. The house is one story on stone piers (probably loose laid, but I haven't taken a close look at them yet) with a hipped roof and a veranda that runs the full width of the facade. It's got the classic deep South windows, the ones that come close to being floor to ceiling in height, front door is centered and there's a stone chimney on each side wall. It's a style I always think of as Acadian, but I'm told is referred to as French Creole. It is, in fact, a considerably down-sized version of the plantation house in the photo -- same general concept with the deep veranda, the big windows, hipped roof, but all done a whole lot smaller and minus the attic dormers. It's an east Texas vernacular farmhouse, after all, not the remnants of a high-style plantation.

The style isn't the interesting thing about the house, though. What makes it potentially NR eligible is that it's sawmill construction, and still looks it. Sawmill construction is a technique that's only possible in situations where load-bearing walls aren't going to be supporting a whole lot of weight. An alternative name for the technique is box construction. Putting it as simply as possible, there are no wall studs. As the above photo of the interior of the Klepzig Mill illustrates, there's a stringer at the top, a stringer at the bottom, and sometimes a stringer across the middle, but no vertical studs. The walls are nailed to each other at the corners. What you're seeing when you look at the vertical planks is the backside of the exterior wall. From the outside it looks like this:
The gaps between the vertical planks would be covered with battens. The technique was widely used across the South. It was fast, it was easy, it was cheap. Lumber companies often built dozens of sawmill houses for use as lumber camps or company towns as a cheap, temporary solution for workers needing housing; settlers moving into rural areas to farm used the same technique for similar reasons. Ozark National Scenic Riverways has three examples I'm familiar with: the Klepzig Mill building and springhouse (interior pictured below) associated with the Klepzig farm, and the Suzie Nichols cabin. Although the written descriptions of sawmill construction always talk about it being a 19th century transition between log cabins and balloon or platform framing, the OZAR structures are all twentieth century.
The house in east Texas in some ways is a totally typical sawmill house, while in others it's rather unusual. Among other things, it still looks like a sawmill house -- it has the original board and batten exterior. I've no doubt Sabine County had quite a few others like it built around the same time, using the same floor plan and materials, but they're all either long gone -- razed because they were too small and too old-fashioned -- or so thoroughly covered up with aluminum or vinyl siding that they're now unrecognizable.

I'll be back in east Texas next week. Here's hoping the house still looks as eligible the next time I see it as it did eight months ago.

Speaking of gender equity

Nothing surprising about the headline these days; the twist is in the lead paragraph.

Computer charged to Ga. Tech used for porn, documents show
Employee fired last fall, charged by GBI with theft

A former Georgia Tech employee who was recently charged with theft as part of the ongoing state purchasing card investigation used the computer, Web cam and headset she bought with her card for pornography, documents show.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This is news?

Another one of those no shit, Sherlock, news reports.

No Crisis For Boys In Schools, Study Says
Academic Success Linked to Income

A new study to be released today on gender equity in education concludes that a "boys crisis" in U.S. schools is a myth and that both sexes have stayed the same or improved on standardized tests in the past decade.

The report by the nonprofit American Association of University Women, which romotes education and equity for women, reviewed nearly 40 years of data on achievement from fourth grade to college and for the first time analyzed gender differences within economic and ethnic categories.

The most important conclusion of "Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education" is that academic success is more closely associated with family income than with gender, its authors said.

Go check out the rest of the article. It's definitely another one of those "Doh" moments where social scientists affirm what anyone with two brain cells to rub together would recognize as being fairly obvious to begin with.

Of course, I've no doubt some of the right-wing "men are victims of power hungry feminazis" wackaloons out there (the name Phyllis Schafly comes to mind) will claim the fact the study was done by the AAUW renders its conclusions suspect, but from what I can glean from the news article the methodology and data sources used meet all the criteria for solid research.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Happy anniversary to me

Lots of milestones in May. May 19 marked exactly one year at our current address in Atlanta, last week was the one year anniversary of employment at the Large Nameless Agency, so I spent the weekend kind of moping around the house missing Omaha, missing the Park Service, and generally doing the usual second guessing about roads not taken. I still have very mixed feelings about the lateral from NPS to LNA, even though it did provide more job security (went from being a term employee with an uncertain future to being Permanent [I always feel like should use text art on that magic word, and maybe include some special effects, too, kind of like in the Disney movies when Sleeping Beauty or Snow White wakes up and suddenly there are butterflies fluttering around and birds singing]).

Some of the mixed feelings come from remembering what we left behind -- the 1920s Craftsman bungalow with the great front porch, the quiet neighborhood, and an actual yard -- as compared to what we've got now; some is probably lingering culture shock, both professionally and away from the office. The work I do now is generally interesting and possibly important, but there's no way sitting in a cubicle editing an article on one particular aspect of tuberculosis is ever going to be as much fun as hiking the backcountry at Buffalo National River or getting out on Lake Superior at Apostle Islands.

Addendum: Then again, I did get handed an assignment last week that encouraged me to dream up a nasty contagious disease that started off looking sufficiently benign to lull clinicians into not worrying about it immediately but then had victims dropping like flies -- it isn't every day that a person gets asked to channel Stephen King. I have to admit that this job, too, has its moments.

The Book Meme

The Book Meme is making the rounds. I caught it from Yellow Dog Granny and am about to pass it on. Here are the rules:

1..Pick up the nearest book.

2.Open to page 123.

3.Locate the fifth sentence.

4.Post the next three sentences on your blog and in so doing...

5.Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged me.

The book I grabbed kind of randomly off the shelf was one of John D. MacDonald's Travis Magee novels, Pale Gray for Guilt. Opening it to page 123 I found:

"I might have some good news for you when I get up there."

"I need some good news, and you can believe it. When are you coming up?"
And I'm tagging Bob, Tracy, Jean, (((Billy))), and DaveO.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Adventures in the bureaucracy

A few weeks ago the director for my branch of the Large Nameless Agency that employs me sent around an e-mail asking that anyone interested in being deployed in the event of a public health emergency identify him or herself. People had to be willing to travel at the drop of the proverbial hat as well as be willing to work at odd times (nights, weekends). Why they'd be interested in having writer-editors as part of a response team mystified me as old hands at LNA tell me it used to only very specific scientific types (i.e., actual epidemiologists) who got tapped to be on the response list. Who knows, though, maybe there is a remote possibility it would be good to have someone checking the press releases for dangling participles and misplaced hyphens before telling folks, "Hey, did you read The Stand? Guess what? It's no longer fiction."

In any case, being willing to do almost anything if it provides an opportunity to escape from the cubicle (including, obviously, being exposed to unknown pathogens), I volunteered. Yes, I said, put me on the list. I then forgot about it. I am super low in seniority among the writers at LNA -- there's no way I'd ever get tapped. I was, of course, wrong. Turns out only two or three of us wordsmiths volunteered, and, no surprise here, we've all been at LNA for less than two years. As with bureaucracies everywhere, apparently the only people who ever volunteer for anything are the folks who haven't been at LNA long enough to have their curiousity and/or ambition extinguished.

This week I began the process of getting all the various bureaucratic hurdles cleared that will allow my name to be added to the response list. Yesterday I passed both the physical and the respirator training. Next week I'll start the paperwork in motion for the other items on the list -- but the biggie was the physical. However, being middle-aged and sedentary aren't the handicaps I'd feared they would be. It appears the major qualification for being judged physically fit was simply being able to breathe and walk unassisted, although they did do both a lung capacity test and an EKG to confirm the visual evidence. So who knows? Maybe I will get to escape the cubicle occasionally after all.

[The respirator is a glorified dust mask. I will never, ever be one of those people at LNA who get to wear the nifty spacesuits with a self-contained air supply. ]

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What not to eat when the cornflakes run out

The latest MMWR is out, hot off the metaphorical presses, and it appears that dipping into the dog's kibble when the supply of Captain Crunch runs low is not a good idea:

I was a tad surprised to see that salmonella would survive on dry dog food. For some reason I was thinking the bacteria would prefer damper conditions. Live and learn. Or maybe it would be more appropriate to say "learn . . . and live"?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Reality check for anyone who thinks racism is dead

Depressing article in this morning's Washington Post:

Racist Incidents Give Some Volunteers Pause

An excerpt:

For all the hope and excitement Obama's candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed -- and unreported -- this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.

Doesn't surprise me much as I've been the recipient of some pretty twisted and hateful e-mails forwarded by acquaintances whose politics are a tad more to the right than my own. I do have a fairly good idea of how the wackaloons back in the hollers, so to speak, are thinking, but I can see how it could all come as a shock to college kids who are obviously far more cosmopolitan and open minded than the small-town Bubbas they're running into.

Saying it's been unreported is kind of an understatement, too. If anything the MSM media has been falling over backwards repeating a "racism is dead/racism doesn't exist/Jeremiah Wright is delusional" mantra.

Oh well, I'll just keep my fingers crossed that the most ignorant members of the general population are also the same folks who are too lazy (or stupid) to bother to register to vote.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Life list grows

Little River Canyon National Preserve.

One of the newer units in the National Park system. More photos and thoughts when I've had a chance to do a thorough sort through the pictures.

Not commenting on politics

just posting some humor. . .

Friday, May 9, 2008

Good news

The tease actually refers to birds, of course, but what a great line.

This little gem is up on several sites this morning, but H/T to Kate Harding because that's the first place I spotted it.


I'm sitting here semi-listening to the early local news, hearing the traffic reports and once again being happy I'm able to walk to work, sipping my coffee, playing Tetris (I love the classics) and generally killing time until I have to head for the Dilbert cage for the day when my ears perk up: a local teen is upset over the invasion of her privacy by the manager of a local cell phone outlet.

Turns out this 18-year-old naif had taken some rather intimate photos of herself -- showing off the new Wonder bra for the boyfriend, perhaps, or just indulging in fantasies of being a Victoria's Secret model -- using her cellphone. She left the photos on the phone, then brought it to the store for some unspecified reason. (In their usual fine style of reporting only 1/5th of a story, the TV newshounds fail to mention whether she needed to have it serviced or if she was turning it in after closing an account.) Suddenly her private photos weren't so private anymore. And she's shocked. And outraged. And generally freaking out because people she doesn't know have seen her in her unmentionables.

Here's a hint, kid: if you don't want the whole world to see you flaunting the new thong, don't take a picture of it to begin with. Or, if you are dumb enough to play at being an exhibitionist, delete the photos before handing the device they're stored on to a total stranger.

Ah, the innocence of youth. . . I'm not sure which amuses me more: her initial dumb mistake with the photos, or the fact she was willing to go on local TV to tell the whole world she was an idiot.

(Kids today have no clue about the levels of protection against future embarrassment offered by the now defunct technology of Polaroid film -- only one copy of the money shot, and it could be shredded.)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Economic indicators

More signs of a struggling economy?

Atlanta police charge men with stealing manhole covers
'Not a prank': 28 manhole covers still missing in Cherokee

Manhole covers are apparently disappearing because they bring in approximately $15 each when sold as scrap metal. I'd heard of thieves stripping copper wiring and pipes from vacant buildings, but copper sells for a lot more per pound than cast iron. Things are indeed getting tight when the crooks start hunting out the low value metals.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Work fascinates me

I can sit and watch it for hours.

The S.O. has been strolling down Memory Lane recently thinking about the various things he has done in order to collect a paycheck. Or, to quote the immortal Shel Silverstein, remembering "how much soul one man has to sell just to rub two coins together." Work is not one of my favorite things to think about, but his ramblings did get me thinking about the various job titles I've held, some of which described the work pretty accurately and some that were so unbelievably grandiose in comparison to the actual duties.
In order, starting with earliest paid labor, I've been a berry picker (also cucumbers but never potatoes, for about five growing seasons in a row), cashier at the defunct Saxon Co-op (even the building's long gone), mother's helper for some obnoxious people in Chicago (an experience that gives me one degree of separation from the actor Alan Arkin; the woman I worked for had an affair with him)(and obviously had no clue just how tacky it was for her to brag about it to the teenage hired help); short order cook at Joe's Pasty Shop (had never even eaten a cheese burger before I got told to make one); nurse aide at the University of Wisconsin hospital, dash waxer in a carwash (Octopus Carwash -- many hands to serve you)(I loved this job; minimum wage but we all had a blast), did telephone sales for aluminum siding (I sucked at it. Big time), operated a hydra-fold machine at a commercial laundry, ran a shirt press machine at F. W. Means (another commerical laundry)(and I still have burn scars from the sleeve irons), did a stint in the U.S. Women's Army Corps (told you I was old), did some freelance writing, was a stringer for a newspaper, functioned as the activities director at a nursing home that was like the waiting room for a local funeral home (the doctor who owned the place kept the patients so heavily medicated to control them that I kept expecting to see George Romero and a camera crew), enjoyed being a restorative therapy aide (grandiose title; my duties consisted of walking old people) at another, spent several interesting months as a power sewing machine operator for a company owned by a coke head (the company's profits kept going up his nose so eventually the business went bankrupt), spent about five months as a sales analyst (job title definitely did not match job responsibilities; I hand addressed thank you cards and other mailings to customers so they'd be suckered into thinking the salesmen actually cared about them) at Galpin Ford (the largest Ford dealership in the U.S. at the time); moved on to being a nurse aide at the Sunshine Nursing Home in Panorama City, California; wound up with two degrees of separation from Bob Hope when I did some subsitute teaching at the Country School (Hope's grandkids were students there); got lucky in Arizona and was a Secretary II at the University of Arizona in a NIOSH Educational Resource Center; on to Nevada and housekeeping at Harrah's, then data entry at the J.C. Penney catalog sales distribution center; back to the U.P. and a newspaper staff job, then back to school because I finally got tired of minimum wage . . . then grad school because I'd figured out I'd rather be a student than work for as long as humanly possible, two summer jobs as a historian with the National Park Service's Historic American Engineering Record, a string of part-time teaching gigs and temporary secretarial (although not simultaneously, more like alternating), an editor's job with a monthly publication, then back to the Park Service as a temporary historian for a number of years, and finally where I am now, a technical-writer editor with another (unnamed but humongous, especially compared to NPS) federal agency. And I'm job hunting again. Sort of. I think I've spent so many years always thinking that whatever it is that I'm doing is temporary that job hunting has become like breathing.

Besides, I'm still indulging in wishful thinking about the writer-editor job I interviewed for a few years ago on the Tongass National Forest and will apply again the next time they have an opening. Didn't get it back in 2002; they hired someone with more tree experience than I had. It would have meant being duty stationed at Thorne Bay, Alaska. Sure, it rains every day and it's a 60 mile drive over a gravel road to get to the ferry landing -- but I hear the view out the office window (when it's not obscured by drizzle) is amazing. Orcas in the channel, mountains on the mainland. It would have been amazing. And I still have days when I fantasize about the Sea Dory we never had an excuse to buy.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Happy birthday to me

Happy birthday to me, and my cousin Waino, and my friend Ann. We were all born on the same day in the same year in what now feels like long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. I'm on one end in the back row in the photo, Waino's on the other end, and we were definitely a whole lot younger then. (I've stayed quite young; Waino's gotten really, really old.)

This is one of those birthdays that gets referred to as the "big [number I'd rather not think about] 0." Naturally, just about every greeting I've received has had that number emblazoned on it, front and center, including the card my mother sent. Ever notice how it doesn't start turning into the big whatever until it's associated with becoming older than dirt? It's not the "big 2-0" when a person turns 20, and for sure it's not the "big 1-0" when you hit ten.

Oh well, no matter how a person feels about aging, it does beat the alternative.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Get a life

Almost forgot -- I put this image up yesterday, but failed to properly credit Blue Gal for the reminder that it's okay to walk away from the computer occasionally.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hei, it's Vappu!

Terveiset Teille, toivo Kalle..näin Toukokuussa Vuosi 2008! Today is Vappu, a major holiday in Finland. It's time to get out there, enjoy life, be a Finn for a day, and (if you really want to emulate your Nordic brethren) party till you puke.

Vappu, or May Day, has been the cause for celebrations in Europe for hundreds of years. In modern times it became the equivalent of Labor Day in this country, but the holiday itself was celebrated long before industrialization turned workers into wage slaves. Its roots lie, of course, in the traditional pagan celebrations of Beltane. It's a spring festival that falls midway between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice and commemorates the true end of harsh weather and the beginning of the growing season. Agrarian societies had reason to celebrate Vappu -- the snow was gone, flowers were blooming, early crops may have already been planted, so they knew the seasons had turned to the point where they no longer had to worry about either starving or freezing to death. It's a fun holiday with no (unless you're pagan or wiccan) overt religious symbolism tied to it, so it's not surprising Vappu celebrations have persisted into the 21st century.

It's becoming quite the annual event among Finnish-Americans, too, marked by dances at the Finn hall (but probably not at the one pictured above in Herman, Michigan), community picnics, bonfires, and other celebrations throughout the U.S., although not necessarily today. Finns are a pragmatic people, and in recognition that not everyone would have today free from work, Vappu celebrations were scheduled for this past weekend and for this coming one. The Finnish American Club in Port Richey, Florida, will be having a Vappu lunch on Sunday, May 4; the folks at Saima Park in Massachusetts had their Vappu gathering last weekend on April 26.

I'm not sure when Vappu started being celebrated again in this country. I don't remember ever hearing about a Vappu dance until sometime in the 1990s. Thanks to the McCarthyism of the 1950s, Vappu was a nonevent in the U.S. for many years. Older Finns who had survived both the tragedy of Karelian fever prior to World War II and the anti-communist fervor of the Eisenhower era wanted nothing to do with a holiday that had become associated in many minds with the Soviets. (Anyone else remember seeing the tv coverage of the Soviet May Day military parades?) But then Communism fell, third and fourth generation Finnish-Americans with no strong memories of the Red Scare reached adulthood and began taking an interest in their ethnic heritage, and Vappu reappeared. Vappu's rebirth is probably connected to the growth of events such as FinnFest, the survival of publications like the Finnish American Reporter and New World Finn, the unlikely persistence of Carl Pellonpaa and Finland Calling (the longest running Finnish language television program in the United States, viewable now via the internet), and maybe the overall appeal of symbolic ethnicity.

Or maybe underneath it all we're all just pagans who love any excuse for a party.

As Carl poika would say, Hei hei. Now get out there and enjoy the day.