Friday, November 30, 2007

I Did It!

I managed to post every day for the month of November, fulfilling my duties for membership in NaBloPoMo.

Some days were harder than others. As I mentioned yesterday, it was a challenge to come up with something to say every single day; sometimes I was able to write a thoughtful post, other days not so much. Probably the number of well-thought-out posts was the same as any other month.

It was the in-between ones that were the hard ones, and made me reach into whatever depths of creativity I had to come up with something to say. It's not that I don't always have something I'm outraged about, or interested in, on any given day, but I don't always have the energy to delve into it.

There were a few negatives to posting every single day. One is that it gave me less time to just meander among my favorite blogs and read all of the interesting posts that other people have written. I'm sure I have missed some good ones this month and will have to go back into people's archives and catch up.

Another negative was that I had no time or energy left to post to my Medicana blog, let alone try to write a new travel post for my travel blog, Marvelous Meanderings. Now that I won't feel obligated to post every single day on my main blog, I'll have more time to devote to those other pursuits.

Last but not least, I got a lot less sleep this month! I found myself sitting there blogging in bed at 1:30 in the morning after being out all evening somewhere. This is not good for my health. I hope I can get back to a more normal schedule now!

On the positive side, it was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the feeling of camaraderie with other NaBloPoMo members and the feeling of being part of something big.

So let's hear it for NaBloPoMo! And yes, I'll do it again next year!

Today's Haiku:

NaBloPoMo is done
Weary bloggers can relax
Time to get some rest.

One More Day

Yes, NaBloPoMo is almost over. And I have to say it has been a great experience to blog every day; I was surprised I was able to find something to say almost every time.

Except tonight.

Yep, tonight I got nothing. Sorry about that.

I had a lot of work to do today so I left work rather burned out to go meet friends for dinner - the same friends I dined with at the Lebanese restaurant on the infamous evening of the camel milk. This time we met at an Italian restaurant that two of us hadn't been to before, and we started out sitting in the bar and ordering appetizers and ended up eating in the bar at a table rather than in the restaurant itself. We had a great time, laughing and talking, and sat there for a good three hours.

So by the time I got home I had no energy to write an insightful post, a humorous post, or even an intelligent post. So you got this instead.

I meandered (as is my wont; I didn't name this blog Meanderings for nothing) around some of the other blogs, putting off the moment of truth, and now here I am with time running out. Nothing has come to me.

But, as Nick said before, it still counts if it's in haiku, so I will end with one!

Great Italian food
Men at the bar watching sports
Why are they so loud?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lightening Up!

A friend of mine sent me this link to a fun game. Try it, you'll be amazed - it seems to work every time (at least the two times I tried it!).

This will be a short post as I have been hard at work at the Big Corporation all day; and, because I've had early meetings all week so I haven't had time to read the newspapers, and The Daily Show and Colbert are still all repeats, I haven't been exposed to any new harrowing news reports that will make me angry or crazy. In fact, I am going into news withdrawal!

So here is today's haiku:

Still no newspapers
And no time to eat breakfast
Early meetings suck.

That one word will probably push my blog from a "G" rating to a "PG" but there really is no substitution for "suck," is there?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Update on HR 1955 - "Thought Crime" Bill

The bill I wrote about a few days ago that passed in the House of Representatives has now been introduced in the Senate as S. 1959. Please see Ronni Bennett's site Time Goes By for more information.

The Baltimore Sun had an Op-Ed piece opposing the bill on November 19:

"Not since the "Patriot Act" of 2001 has any bill so threatened our constitutionally guaranteed rights.

The historian Henry Steele Commager, denouncing President John Adams' suppression of free speech in the 1790s, argued that the Bill of Rights was not written to protect government from dissenters but to provide a legal means for citizens to oppose a government they didn't trust. Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence not only proclaimed the right to dissent but declared it a people's duty, under certain conditions, to alter or abolish their government."
(emphasis added).

The article goes on to explain all of the dangers of this bill:

"Ms. Harman, a California Democrat (the H.R. bill's sponsor) thinks it likely that the United States will face a native brand of terrorism in the immediate future and offers a plan to deal with ideologically based violence.

But her plan is a greater danger to us than the threats she fears. Her bill tramples constitutional rights by creating a commission with sweeping investigative power and a mandate to propose laws prohibiting whatever the commission labels 'homegrown terrorism.'

The proposed commission is a menace through its power to hold hearings, take testimony and administer oaths, an authority granted to even individual members of the commission - little Joe McCarthys - who will tour the country to hold their own private hearings. An aura of authority will automatically accompany this congressionally authorized mandate to expose native terrorism.

Ms. Harman's proposal includes an absurd attack on the Internet, criticizing it for providing Americans with "access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda," and legalizes an insidious infiltration of targeted organizations. The misnamed "Center of Excellence," which would function after the commission is disbanded in 18 months, gives the semblance of intellectual research to what is otherwise the suppression of dissent."

Please do follow the link and read the whole article. In addition, the Daily Kos has also picked up the story. However, other than the piece in the Baltimore Sun, no other MSM has publicized it that I can find.

Today's Haiku:

Save the Bill of Rights
Let's fight for freedom of speech
Write your senators.


The beautiful thing about having declared that haikus would be my theme for NaBloPoMo (no matter how sporadically I have actually included them in my posts) is, that when I have no time or energy to write a real post, I can resort to haiku! So here we are. Haiku Monday!

Back to work again
Meetings and e-mails galore;
It's all just a drag.

No time for the Times
Not even the Star Ledger
No paper - no news.

Book club was tonight
The book was "The Double Bind"
Good twist at the end.

Leftover turkey
Potatoes, yams and gravy
And still more is left.

I could still go on
But it's time to go to sleep
The dog is snoring.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I'd like to think that if only I didn't have to work, keep house (as little as possible but still, laundry has to be done and dishes have to be washed occasionally), and generally live life, that I might actually go out and do something constructive. Like join Greenpeace and get out there on the ocean.

I read today that the Japanese are going out and hunting the endangered humpback whales. The humpback whales that we've seen cavorting in the sheltered waters between Maui and Lanai when visiting Hawaii. The ones that came up by our boat and leaped in the water nearby.

Supposedly it is for "scientific" purposes but we all know they're going to eat the meat. This makes me so angry I feel as if I could personally go sink a Japanese whaling boat. Just give me a torpedo.

Luckily, Greenpeace is out there disrupting the hunt. And since I can't go sink a boat personally, I guess I'll need to send a donation to Greenpeace for standing up for the whales. But I still feel sick inside thinking about the whales the Japanese will probably kill despite Greenpeace's best efforts.

According to The New York Times, the Japan Whaling Association claimed:

“Asking Japan to abandon this part of its culture,” the association says, “would compare to Australians being asked to stop eating meat pies, Americans being asked to stop eating hamburgers and the English being asked to go without fish and chips.”

First of all, if these whales are being killed for "scientific purposes," why compare them to meat pies? Obviously something else is going on here.

And if killing humpbacks is so important to the Japanese culture, why, then, did they forego this essential part of their "culture" for 20 years? True, they've been killing other types of whales, but not the humpback. What made them suddenly decide that humpback whales are now fair game? I think it's because they think nobody's paying attention.

Let's hope Greenpeace and other environmental groups make sure they know someone IS paying attention. Please visit their website and see what you can do to help.

(Photo credit to National Geographic.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Old House

DH and I have been spending part of this day cleaning up the house and putting things away for the winter. The screens have come out of the storm doors and been replaced by glass; the air conditioners have been removed from the windows. And I finally went through a pile of stuff I'd brought over when my aunt moved out of her house.

In the pile were various family heirlooms, including an old painting of my great-great-grandfather's house in Benson, Vermont, circa 1839, an assortment of daguerreotypes of ancient family members (two of my great-great-grandmother as a child and a teen, probably from about 1842-45, and some of unknown relatives), my great-great-grandmother's embroidered cap, an apron, and her black shawl, and more.

When I was helping my aunt clean out her house, I also had asked her to let me have a 3-ring binder that contained stories she had written for a writing class she had taken back in the late 1970's. She had taken a correspondence course to teach would-be writers how to write stories for young people and I thought it would be interesting to read her stories. So today I sat down and read what she had written, and found her writing was quite good. (In fact, I called her up and told her she should go back to it!).

One of the earlier assignments was apparently to write a descriptive essay, and she had chosen to describe the house she and my mother grew up in, in West Medway, Massachusetts. She had also written another essay describing a typical morning in the garden behind the house. The essays made me realize how much simpler, and probably happier, children's lives were back in those days, in the early 20th century.

DH and I have driven through West Medway and seen the house she describes (which is now missing its porch and veranda, apparently in an effort to make the house more historically accurate in its architecture). As of 15 years or so ago, West Medway was still a pristine New England town, and still had its white-steepled church and central green.

I thought I'd share my aunt's essays with you so you can imagine what it might have been like to grow up in that town, and in that house.

The Old House
by Frances Knowlton

When I was a child, I lived in a big old house in a small New England town. The house was built in the early part of the 19th century, and so was much more interesting than ordinary houses. There was a fireplace in every room, except for two that had been boarded over, probably because of drafts; but my sister and I each had a fireplace in our bedrooms, and there was one in the little back room upstairs, and two more downstairs.

Some early owners of the house didn't care about keeping the architecture exactly as it was intended, so they added a latticework porch to the front, and a side veranda with wooden pillars. The front porch was covered with rambler roses, and inside were two stone seats, one on either side of the porch, and there were small uneven violet glass panes on each side of the door, with a fanlight on top. My sister and I played dolls and "house" there when we were quite little.

The side veranda had trumpet vine climbing up all of its pillars, and they were not only beautiful in bloom, but if we were lucky, we could catch sight of a hummingbird coming to drink nectar from the trumpet flowers.

These porches were not the only attraction of the house, however; there was also, attached to the side end, a woodshed and a barn. And that barn was really a wonderful place for playing hide-and-seek and many other games.

The barn had a large chopping block downstairs in the middle, a long work bench and revolving whetstone on one side, and the remains of three horse stalls toward the back, as of course in early days people had only horses and carriages to get around in. There were piles of wood and branches pruned from the fruit trees in the back orchard, and Father would chop some up for the fireplaces as needed.

Then there was the barn loft - oh, that was a wonderful place! There was a large raised platform originally meant for storing hay, which was just like a real stage, and we dressed up in clothes from the old trunks and put on plays with the neighborhood children.

There was also a hay chute that we could slide down, and last, but not least, an honest-to-goodness pigeon loft, which could only be reached by a ladder. It was an exciting day when we were old enough to climb the ladder to the loft, and look out way, way down through the holes made for the pigeons to fly in and out. Chickie, our cat, looked small, like a little kitten, from way up there. It was pleasantly scary, and we often went up there to play.

I was a bit of a tomboy, and climbed all over the roofs of the house, woodshed and barn. Some mothers would have been afraid, but my mother was more daring even than that, when she was young, so I guess she understood.

It has been many, many years since I was a child in the old house, but I know we were very lucky to have grown up in such a home.

Another essay my aunt wrote about her childhood home was equally appealing:

The early morning dew still sparkled on the grass, and the "fairy tents" were strewn on the lawn as though for a convention. I closed my eyes and pictured tiny joyous creatures with irridescent wings swooping down to sip dew drops, or up into the trees visiting the birds. I could almost hear their tinkling laughter among the bird songs.

Suddenly I felt a petal soft touch on my leg. I started, and my eyes flew open. There at my feet was Chickie, our cat, meowing hello. I giggled as I reached down to scratch her head. "Oh Chickie, I exclaimed, "You almost made me think my daydream was real!"

We strolled over to the hawthorne tree which stood in impressive grandeur in the exact center of the far side lawn, against the forsythia hedge. How beautiful it was! Almost in full bloom, the clusters of deep red flowers, which singly almost resembled tiny roses, made a striking sight against the distinctively shaped leaves.

Chickie and I ran along the path beside the barn which led to the fruit orchard, and soon the delightful fragrance of the cinnamon bush tingled my nostrils. The tiny yellow flowers were almost too small to make an impressive indoor bouquet, but the delicious aroma all around gave it equal importance with the deutsia, flowering almond, and bridal wreath.

At the back of the barn were many gnarled old great-grandfather lilacs, together with their progeny, and the air was filled with their fragrant perfume. This cool and secluded lilac grove was a perfect retreat on a hot summer's day. Two of the oldest trees were completely bent over, forming ideal "seats," and I sank down on one of them to meditate a while in this scented "summer house."

Many birds filled the air with joyful melodies. I could make out the oriole's song, the robin's and the virtuoso performance of the song sparrow. Even the blue jay refrained from his raucous cry, and just called "wheedle, wheedle, wheedle," which musically was as far as he could go, no matter how long he might practice.

Chickie undoubtedly had mixed feelings about all this, but she seemed content to call a truce for the present, and rolled over to have her tummy scratched.

Soom we got up and went off to inspect the garden. The long coarse orchard grass tickled my bare legs as I left the path and took a short cut. In those days, without a power mower, keeping the grass cut would not only have been an impossible task, but it wasn't really necessary anyway. We had two plots of ground in the midst of cherry, apple and pear trees, my father's vegetable garden, and my flower garden. The rows of vegetables which were sprouting seemed healthy, but in my flower garden only the zinnias were poking up through the rich earth.

On the way to my favorite climbing tree, we passed an uneven moss-covered high pile of rocks, broad at the base, and tapering somewhat at the summit, which my sister and I had always called the "fairy castle." I have no idea why it was there, but when we were younger we really enjoyed the make-believe games we played there. The uneven flat rocks which jutted out made perfect balconies, and underneath, the moss-covered stones became porches. Some of the moss was "fairy moss," that lovely spring willow green moss with delicate orangey-red "trees" growing all over it. These were the fairy picnic groves. Various openings and crevices for doorways and passageways led into the castle where our created playmates lived.

I raced Chickie to the tree, and of course she won. She lay down on a branch about half an arm's length higher than mine. Her serene yellow eyes closed in contentment, and light and shadow through the leaves highlighted first her soft watered-silk gray, then the pure white markings which she worked so hard to keep snowy. As I reached up to scratch behind her ears, the ecstatic vibrations from her throat became louder and louder, almost musical in their intensity, and I wished I could join her in a duet. It seemed like such a perfect tribute to a beautiful morning.


One of the things that struck me about my aunt's (and my mother's) childhood was how much closer to nature they were than children are today. My mom and aunt often reminisce about their father going out to pick "a mess of beans" for the evening meal, or how my grandmother put up canned fruit from the orchard every fall. The birds apparently sang in the garden and the children learned their names, and the names of all the flowers.

The other thing that is obvious is that these children did not have a lot of toys. My aunt and mother grew up during the Depression and they made up their own games and used their imaginations to entertain themselves.

I just read an article in the Friday New York Times about how parents who buy second homes in the country end up battling their teenage children because they find spending time in the country away from their friends "boring." And some of these parents actually have to bribe their kids to go away with them by buying them their own boat or paying for seven of their friends to go along with them. I couldn't help but think how spoiled these children of privilege are, that they don't appreciate what they have. My mother used to always decry how today's children "have no inner resources." After reading my aunt's essays and the article in the Times, I understand exactly what she meant.

Today's Haiku (as promised)

Long ago children
Used their imaginations
Why can't they today?

Now I realize there are many, many mothers out there who are ready to write and tell me how imaginative their children are. And I think all children are imaginative at heart. What we need to do is to make sure they have the opportunities to use that imagination. Children nowadays have so many toys and electronic games, and have such tightly-scheduled lives, that they no longer have those long summer days to daydream or imagine fairies in the garden. I don't have children myself, but I remember enjoying days much as my aunt describes when I was growing up. And I don't see a lot of kids nowadays having those kinds of days. And that is a loss.

Or maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon.

Mayor Mike - Still in the Picture

(Picture courtesy of Time, Inc., credit to Sacha Waldman / Levine and Levitt)

According to the Huffington Post, New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been receiving foreign policy briefings from "Nancy Soderberg, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and a Clinton Administration foreign policy adviser."

This is very interesting. Despite the Mayor's frequent denials that he plans to run for President, it seems he is continuing to prepare for just that. Why else would he need foreign policy briefings?

I wrote about this before when Mayor Mike first switched from Republican to Independent. Apparently since then, he has quietly been making more preparations.

If he runs, it will throw the 2008 election into a free-for-all. It is hard to say which side a Bloomberg candidacy would pull from the most. As an ex-Republican, you might think it would be the Republican side. But he is also an ex-Democrat and has liberal views on many issues. It would also depend on who he picked as a running mate.

I am not at all sure we won't end up with a Republican president in 2009. If Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, it is likely the GOP would mobilize its base with their hatred of all things Clinton. Rove (or should I say, his replacement) would have a field day digging up old dirt on Hillary and Bill. In the meantime, a Bloomberg candidacy would just confuse things further and, in the ensuing chaos, we might end up with President Romney or President Guiliani. It is a scary thought.

As I've said before, Bloomberg as a candidate is rather appealing. But under our current system, it is impossible for a third-party candidate to win. I often think it would be better if the national election process provided for the possibility of a runoff if no one candidate received a majority of the votes. To me, that would be a fairer way to decide the election. But of course it would require a Constitutional amendment and no one would ever propose it.

In the meantime, we watch and wait to see what is going to happen in 2008.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

They Don't Make Them Like This Anymore

Thanks to BAC for posting this today and reminding me that of course there was a reason November 22 sounded so familiar to me. It is the 44th anniversary of JFK's assassination.

Please be sure to listen to the whole speech. It is amazing to me that there once was a president who said these words. I guess they didn't call that all-too-short era "Camelot" for nothing...

Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
As Camelot.


The Whole Foods turkey experience was a success. Everything hit the spot and we have lots of yummy leftovers. The apple pie was great, and my mother also brought a mince pie because her family "always had mince pie on Thanksgiving."

That is the thing about these holidays - the traditions. You have to have what was traditional in your family. Of course, each family has different traditions and sometimes compromises must be made. We didn't have the baked acorn squash this year (Whole Foods didn't offer that) but we did have the mince pie.

And at Christmas we have to have the plum pudding with hard sauce that you light on fire with 100 proof rum. (We used to use brandy but it didn't light up easily enough, not being 100 proof).

One of the traditions in our family is, my mother always has to tell the story of how, back in her childhood, her mother used to have 20+ people at their house for Thanksgiving. And one year her grandmother made the mistake of picking my mother's Uncle Bob to say grace before the meal.

Uncle Bob was my grandmother's youngest brother and he was somewhat of a card - the family mischief-maker. So, imagine the reaction of this group of 20 pious New England Congregationalists, heads all bowed in prayer, when Uncle Bob came out with:

"Good bread, good meat!
Good God, let's eat!"

Since my mother has told this story so many times I enjoy saying this particular prayer before dinner myself. It kind of sums it up, don't you think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Be Afraid: "Thought Crime Bill" Passes

I was wandering around in Blogdom and came across an interesting blog called Time Goes By, and found a post about HR 1955, which recently passed the House of Representatives while no one was watching.

This bill, called the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007," would establish a commission to:

"(1) Examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States, including United States connections to non-United States persons and networks, violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in prison, individual or `lone wolf' violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence, and other faces of the phenomena of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence that the Commission considers important.

`(2) Build upon and bring together the work of other entities and avoid unnecessary duplication, by reviewing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of--

`(A) the Center of Excellence established or designated under section 899D, and other academic work, as appropriate;

`(B) Federal, State, local, or tribal studies of, reviews of, and experiences with violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence; and

`(C) foreign government studies of, reviews of, and experiences with violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence."

(quote is from GovTrack website, linked above).

Go check out "Time Goes By" for more information. There are two (at least) really scary things about this bill:

1) First of all, it passed while no one was watching, during the middle of the California wildfires, and I have not been able to find a single link to a mainstream media news source about this bill. Why is no one writing about this? Where is the New York Times? The Washington Post?

2) The second thing is that the vagueness of the wording would mean the commission could define "homegrown terror" any way they want. If this bill passes, it's going to give the administration (or any administration to follow) the right to decide what is terrorism, what is free speech and what isn't.

Ronni of "Time Goes By" explains it well:

"This is the first terrorism-related legislation that specifically targets U.S. citizens and the vagueness of the wording is a dangerous threat to the First Amendment and to each of us in ways that have not been attempted before in the United States. The definitions in the bill hold the frightening keys to the undermining of our most basic liberty - to speak freely: (blue color indicates quote from "Time Goes By.")

'VIOLENT RADICALIZATION - The term ‘violent radicalization' means process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.' (red color indicates quote from the HR 1955 bill).

The difficulties here are that “extremist belief system” means anything the government wants it to mean as does the word “facilitating.”

'HOMEGROWN TERRORISM - The term 'homegrown terrorism' means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.'

Again, this refers not just to violence, but to thought and speech for any undefined “political or social objectives”. In other words, it could mean universal healthcare, equal rights, abortion or anything at all about which you or I might want to make our views known that the government objects to. And, it establishes U.S. citizens as the targets of this legislation.

'IDEOLOGICALLY BASED VIOLENCE- The term ‘ideologically based violence' means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual's political, religious, or social beliefs.'

This repeats legislative intolerance of speech and thought.

If you find this as alarming as I do, write to your representatives and senators to protest this legislation. I was very disappointed to find out that here in New Jersey our representatives all voted for this bill. In fact, only 6 House representatives voted against it.

You can find more information at Ronni's site. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Food for Thought

No, actually real food. I wanted to tell you about my excellent dinner in Boston last night.

After a busy day visiting the Fogg Art Museum and the Paul Revere House, we returned to our room and had a nap. We finally got our act together and wandered off to the North End for our dinner at The Daily Catch.

The Daily Catch, on Hanover Street, is a hole-in-the-wall Sicilian restaurant that specializes in seafood, specifically squid. We first discovered it when wandering around with our friends (the ones whose daughter's Bat Mitzvah we just attended) when they met us in Boston to do the Freedom Trail with us. At the time, their two daughters were little children, ages 3 and 6. We had eaten at Ristorante Villa Francesca, which is still there, and were strolling the streets, when we smelled garlic. We looked for its source, and there was this tiny storefront restaurant, full to the brim with happy diners, with a line out the door. DH and I memorized the name - The Daily Catch - and vowed to go eat there on our next visit to Boston.

Since that time we've eaten there every time we've been in Boston and it's been great every time. One of their signature dishes is homemade black pasta (dyed with squid ink) with olive oil, garlic, and chopped calamari. So of course we have to have it every time we go. Last night we had the black pasta with chopped squid as an appetizer, and then I had a main course of scallops in white wine sauce with linguini and DH had tuna steak with tomato and basil sauce with sundried tomatoes and mushrooms.

We waddled out of The Daily Catch and then landed at a little cafe' for espresso and gelato - chocolate gelato. Very good.

Then we went over to The Black Rose and finished off the evening listening to some good Irish music. The perfect end to a perfect day.

Now we're back home and I'm ready to face my one day of work before the 4-day weekend!

Today's Haiku:

Black pasta and squid
Gelato and espresso
North End ecstacy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Religion of Profit

In one of the more recent Star Trek series, there was a race called the Ferengi, whose claim to fame was that they worshipped profit. In fact, their "bible" was a list called The Rules of Acquisition, which may very well be the creed of the Republican Party. It includes rules such as:

- Anything worth doing is worth doing for money.
- Greed is eternal.
- Morality is always defined by those in power.
- When someone says "It's not the money," they're lying.
- Friendship is temporary, profit is forever.
- Never admit a mistake if there's someone else to blame.

But in a larger sense, these rules could apply to most of those currently in power. In fact, all of America seems to worship profit these days. Politicians argue about their beliefs in various religions, but most agree on the worship of Capitalism.

But unfettered capitalism can bring down a country. Rules and regulations are needed to keep the greed at bay. Otherwise the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the owners of the businesses line their pockets while everyday people barely scrape by. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act can only help so much; sooner or later, if we don't change our priorities, there will be more corruption.

And it's not just corruption; it's the diminishing of the quality of the products we produce. Anyone who works for a large corporation knows that more effort is put into cutting corners to increase profit than in increasing value or quality. But it is a short-sighted philosophy, since eventually people want quality. This is why people began buying foreign cars back in the 70's and 80's when the American cars became so poor they were an embarrassment. (My husband had a 1980 Chevrolet Citation that literally rusted away with only 50,000 miles on it. It had no floor; it was like the Flintstones' car.)

Unfortunately America has not learned that lesson yet. We are still trying to cut the corners to make more profit, and it will come back to bite us in the end.

Another aspect of the worship of Capitalism is that it permeates everything we do, including politics and foreign affairs. It isn't Democracy Bush is trying to spread in the Middle East; it's Capitalism.

Dashiell recently wrote an excellent post about how modern communication is basically all advertising:

"An ad could be considered merely another spice of capitalist life when it was just the local grocer hawking his wares, or a few lines in the back of a penny weekly. But with commercials plastered on almost every available surface and blaring from radio and television, the spice has become a deadly narcotic."

This emphasis on advertising, persuasiveness, and selling sends the wrong message. It assumes that everyone agrees that buying is the only thing that matters. As Dashiell says so well,

"The voice of the ad—which we can take literally as a voice in the case of radio and TV—is the voice of self-satisfied capitalism. "Everything is fine the way it is," the voice says. "There are no real problems other than what to buy, what objects to acquire, and how to acquire them." The commercial's persuasive appeal, the need to buy the product, is always set against the background of an essential acceptance of this situation as the only reality, the only happiness."

When the "War on Terror" began, Bush told everyone that the way to fight the terrorists was - not to make sacrifices or give up anything - but to go BUY MORE. So Americans continue in their oblivious pursuit of possessions while young men and women die in Iraq.

The problem is even bigger than the worship of Capitalism. The problem is a reflection of the lack of American values overall. There are an awful lot of people, particularly right-wing politicians, who use the word "values." They are usually using it as a code word for being anti-gay and anti-abortion. But true values mean believing in something other than selfishness. True values mean believing in helping others, in kindness, in empathy. Where are our values today?

Dashiell sums up the problem and the solution very neatly:

"The problem is really a new way of thinking and perceiving, a way exemplified by advertising but now influencing all aspects of society. It’s delusional because it filters everything through a paradigm of persuasion for profit, persuasion without reference to standards of truth and without a relationship to notions of the public good, the welfare of the individual or society. The principle that opposes this new force is simple honesty. With the loss of this principle comes the inevitable destruction of culture and the end of freedom.

To expose this way of thinking as false, then, is one of the goals of a progressive movement. It implies the recognition that capitalism does not constitute a way of life, but only a single aspect of society. This aspect needs to be kept within bounds by an informed citizenry and a government that represents all of the people, not just the salesman."

If you haven't already read his whole post, please do - it will really make you think.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Apparently it has happened. I am a blog addict. We arrived here in Boston for the next two nights and the first thing I did when we entered our room was to whip out the laptop and try to hook up to the Internet.

Well, it was complicated. Something with an ethernet cable that's supposed to plug into the phone and who knows what. And it didn't work. So I actually read the instructions and started over again. Still no connection. So I tried wireless. Plenty of networks in range, but couldn't get in.

So I gave in and called the 800 number the hotel provided and after walking me through a number of things the nice man who was helping me decided the connection in the room is faulty. I could feel the panic welling up inside me. "But I have to BLOG tonight!" And then he said the most beautiful words: "Don't worry, you can access free wireless internet in the main lobby."

So here I am sitting in the main lobby in front of a nice gas fireplace blogging away.

But what does this say about my mental state? All I could think was "But it's NaBloPoMo! I MUST BLOG TONIGHT!" Here I am in Boston, steps from the Faneuil Hall area and all the bars and restaurants, and the only thing I'm concerned about is blogging!

I think it's time I participated in my life. So I'm going to end this quickly with a haiku and get on out there to The Black Rose!

Today's Haiku:

Arrived in Boston
Ethernet isn't working
How can I get on?

Saturday, November 17, 2007


The Bat Mitzvah celebration went off without a hitch. The ceremony was held in the same temple we were in three years ago for my friend's older daughter's Bat Mitzvah. It's a beautiful space - modern, with skylights and huge windows that flood the sanctuary with light. And since it was a beautiful fall day, the bright blue sky and colorful leaves were lovely to look at. I'm sure when they scheduled this for November 17 no one would have expected the leaves to still be on the trees on that day.

I had a moment of panic before we left the hotel - I had a Wardrobe Malfunction. I had brought a plain black dress to wear, and had packed two pair of pantyhose in case one of them was too small or had a run in the leg. So when it was time to get ready, I started to attempt to don the first pair. Mind you, I don't wear pantyhose often. I probably hadn't had any on since last December for DH's company holiday party. Plus I have gained, perhaps, a few pounds...

So I struggled and tugged and pulled as I tried to yank the offending garment onto my body. I finally got to the top part and as I was tugging on the waistband I realized the things were disintegrating in my hands. The rubbery part of the stretch fabric was detaching in little sticky pills onto my fingers! Apparently the elastic part doesn't last forever.

So I ripped them off and said to myself "Thank goodness I brought another pair!" I started putting them on, and after the first leg was on I was feeling confident. Not only were they not falling apart but they fit better too. Then I started pulling on the other leg. Uh-oh. A small run was starting in the foot. I kept pulling them on. That was when I realized there were four or five small holes in the left leg! I was obviously not meant to wear pantyhose to this affair. I was out of options! Unless I wanted to go bare-legged in 35-degree November weather, the dress was out.

Luckily I had also brought a dressy pant suit with me, so, in a last-minute wardrobe switch, I put that on instead. I still wore the uncomfortable dressy shoes. As it turned out, I fit right in, as there were a number of other women similarly attired.

The party itself was a lot of fun. The girls were arrayed in a rainbow of party dresses, all teetering on their newly acquired high heels. The dresses ranged from taffeta with ruffles to black cocktail dresses worthy of a 30-year-old. But whichever style they were, most of them sported spaghetti straps or were strapless altogether. The boys, gawky and uncomfortable in their dress suits, soon ripped off their ties and untucked their shirttails to party in comfort.

The DJ got all the kids up on the dance floor for a hula-hoop contest, followed by various other games and dances. The high heels came off and the little sophisticates were soon running around like the 12 and 13-year-old children they are.

Toward the end of the afternoon, two of the Bat Mitzvah girl's best friends presented a skillfully done PowerPoint photo collage, accompanied by music, that they had put together themselves. All of these kids have grown up together, living next door to one another, and it was a lot of fun to see these children's pictures over the past 13 years, and watch how they had grown and matured.

It's strange to think how 13 years ago for us is such a short time; 13 years ago I was living where I live now, working where I work now. Yes, there have been some new developments in my life since then, but basically I was a grown-up then and I'm a grown-up now. But 13 years is my friend's daughter's whole lifetime.

It was especially poignant to contemplate this as I looked around the room. I've felt a part of this family ever since my friend and I met in freshman year chemistry lab in college, so I knew a lot of the people in the room. I've been seeing some of them off and on for 35 years. So I've seen the children grow up, the middle-aged grow elderly...and of course we too have gotten older, hard as it is to realize that!

We never know what life will bring us, so it is so important to enjoy the time we have when happy events like this bring us together. And it's times like this that we realize the everyday things we spend our time and energy on are often not what are important in life - it's the people we love that matter.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Road

It beckons to me. It is calling me. In fact, I must get on it. Because we are going to a Bat Mitzvah in Andover, Massachusetts, for the daughter of a very good friend of mine from college. Then we are spending two nights in Boston, just for the heck of it!

I am bringing my laptop so am not giving up on NaBloPoMo, but don't expect any deeply insightful posts on the political situation or the meaning of life.

However, I'll let you know if our favorite Italian restaurant (The Daily Catch) in the North End is as good as ever! And I'll tell you whether there is a good Irish band playing at The Black Rose. There usually is!

So on that note, I'm out of here!

Today's Haiku:

On the road again
Heading up Andover way
To see my good friends.

Aging Baby Boomers and Other Amusements

A friend of mine at work forwarded me a link to a very funny animation about "Aging Baby Boomers" by cartoonist Walt Handelsman today (for a hint as to the contents, there is music involved: "Born to be Wild" with new, more appropriate lyrics for our generation). I received the link at work and, because I was in a mood not to care whether people heard me goofing off in my cube, I played it, and got a good laugh out of it. So be warned, it has music, rather loud music, so be careful where you play it, but it's very funny...and yet sadly true.

I happen to be one of the "Aging Baby Boomers" everyone keeps talking and writing about. And I find it kind of depressing that our generation has gone from being the youth of America, the hope of the being the "Aging Baby Boomers" who are about to land with a thud in the retirement years and bankrupt Social Security. Maybe I'm just oversensitive, being in the market research field, where demographics are something that come up often in my daily job.

There are so many articles cropping up everywhere about the Boomers, either saying we're going to "reinvent old age" because we are refusing to give in to it, or, conversely, saying that the country is about to be overwhelmed with the unhealthy Aging Boomers who are not taking care of their health, are obese and developing all the age-related health problems that every older generation gets, and more, and that we're not saving enough for a) retirement, and/or b) our health expenses in old age.

I kind of like the "reinventing old age" idea better than the "Your decrepitness is going to bankrupt the country" idea.

Now that we're getting older, there is apparently resentment growing on the part of the younger generations. Rhea over at The Boomer Chronicles had a post awhile back on how hostile these groups are to my beloved generation. There are actually blogs out there with titles like "Die Boomer Die" and "The Worst Generation Ever." I guess they're tired of hearing about the Aging Baby Boomers too. They should be careful what they wish for: once we're gone, the media will focus on THEM!

I discovered some other very entertaining animations on the Walt Handelsman site. For instance, here is an entertaining little ditty about Hillary and Obama. I'm sure she probably does feel this way.

The last one I'll leave you with is this one, "The Political Reality Show," where America's top contenders fight for a chance to live in the White House.

Sorry I can't actually post the animations directly in the blog but please follow the links, they're worth following!


Today's Haiku:

Tonight was Thai food
Spicy and delectable
No diet tonight.

Dietwise my week has been very poor. Companywise, very good!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Is the word of the day. I have been trying to make my blog load more quickly as several people have told me it takes forever, which I have noticed myself.

In the beginning when I first started blogging, I signed up for a zillion different blog directories thinking it would drive more traffic to my blog. All of them had little java script badges to put on my blog, which I dutifully did.

I've heard that these things slow down your blog, so I looked into whether any of these directories were giving me any traffic, by checking my sitemeter. I found there were only a few that actually drove traffic to my blog so I took off the rest. I'm hoping this will help!

If anyone has any other suggestions I'm all ears! I am still quite new at this (and not a little technically challenged) and I have seen that some blogs with lots of "bling" take a long time to load, but others don't. Perhaps it depends on whether the blog is hosted by Blogger, Wordpress or Typepad, or is a personal website.

Today's Haiku:

Blog loads so slowly
Watching paint dry is faster
I may fall asleep.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Haiku Tuesday

This will give you an idea of what my day has been like:

Waiting for toplines
Makes my clients impatient
Work cannot be rushed

Ate too much junk food
While waiting for the day's end
How can I diet?

Late for a meeting
I rush my dog round the block
Diva wants to play

Three friends and sushi
And of course green tea ice cream
Life is but a dream

Sitting in my bed
Blogging on my computer
Diva at my feet.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Last of His Kind

It is ironic that my post on Veterans Day happened to focus on World War I; today's New York Times has an Op-Ed piece by Richard Rubin, about the man who is the last living American veteran of World War I who actually served in France. We sent two million men over there, and he is the only one left.

The surviving man's name is Frank Buckles, and he is 106 years old. A native of Missouri, he is still living on the farm in West Virginia that he has had since the 1940's; he drove a tractor until he was 104.

Mr. Rubin points out what I had remarked upon yesterday: that World War I gets short shrift compared to later wars.

"Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Almost from the moment the armistice took effect, the United States has worked hard, it seems, to forget World War I; maybe that’s because more than 100,000 Americans never returned from it, lost for a cause that few can explain even now. The first few who did come home were given ticker-tape parades, but most returned only to silence and a good bit of indifference.

There was no G.I. Bill of Rights to see that they got a college education or vocational training, a mortgage or small-business loan. There was nothing but what remained of the lives they had left behind a year or two earlier, and the hope that they might eventually be able to return to what President Warren Harding, Wilson’s successor, would call “normalcy.” Prohibition, isolationism, the stock market bubble and the crisis in farming made that hard; the Great Depression, harder still."

He goes on to say that, four years ago, he witnessed a 106-year-old World War I veteran in a Veterans Day parade in Orleans, Massachusetts, and realized he had probably seen the last small-town Veterans Day parade featuring a World War I veteran.

A few years ago, when DH and I were at Cape Cod for Memorial Day weekend, we went to the Brewster Memorial Day parade. We were astonished to see a black car driving along in the parade with a sign proclaiming the occupant to be a World War I veteran. Brewster is only a few miles from Orleans; it's likely it was the same veteran Mr. Rubin is remembering, named J. Laurence Moffit. How many World War I veterans can there be on Cape Cod? I'm glad I had the opportunity to see Mr. Moffit in the parade.

Mr. Rubin concludes the article:

"It’s hard for anyone, I imagine, to say for certain what it is that we will lose when Frank Buckles dies. It’s not that World War I will then become history; it’s been history for a long time now. But it will become a different kind of history, the kind we can’t quite touch anymore, the kind that will, from that point on, always be just beyond our grasp somehow. We can’t stop that from happening. But we should, at least, take notice of it."

Now the veterans of World War II are rapidly passing on as well. According to Ken Burns, at the end of his documentary, The War, 1,000 are dying each day. While there is still time, we should talk to them, get them to tell their stories; ask them questions, write down the answers; have them talk to our children about the war. Try to understand the wisdom they gained from their experiences. Learn what they felt, and why. Try to understand what the world was like then.

Because someday we'll be down to the last one, the last World War II veteran, the last of his kind, and we'll never be able to ask those questions again of a living person who remembers what happened. And we need to understand, so we can prevent it from ever happening again, so there won't need to be veterans of endless wars, marching in endless parades.

Today's quote is from "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda," an anti-war song by Eric Bogle, which commemorates the battle of Gallipoli during World War I, where 50,000 Australians died. Go to this link to hear it sung on YouTube. This is just a piece of the lyrics:

They collected the wounded, the crippled, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind and the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And when the ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where me legs used to be
And thank Christ there was no one there waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity

And the Band played Waltzing Matilda
When they carried us down the gangway
Oh nobody cheered, they just stood there and stared
Then they turned all their faces away

Now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
I see my old comrades, how proudly they march
Renewing their dreams of past glories
I see the old men all tired, stiff and worn
Those weary old heroes of a forgotten war
And the young people ask "What are they marching for?"
And I ask myself the same question

And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men still answer the call
But year after year, their numbers get fewer
Someday, no one will march there at all...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest We Forget

"...They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them."

-Lawrence Binyon

Today is Armistice Day, as it was once called. Nowadays we call it Veterans Day. But originally it was created to celebrate the end of World War I. Of course, back then they didn't know it was World War I.

World War I tends to be the forgotten war, the one that happened so long ago that we don't think about it much anymore. At the time, "The Great War" had been called "The War to End All Wars." But only a generation later, the horrors of World War II eclipsed the memories of that war. Then came Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and now the War on Terror, as George Bush refers to our invasion of Iraq.

Armistice Day was originally created to commemorate the end of The Great War. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" of 1918,with the German signing of the Armistice.) Later, here in the United States, it was changed to Veterans Day to honor all veterans. World War I ended nearly 100 years ago; the last veterans are dying and soon there will be no one alive that personally remembers the war at all.

Today Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day, since people were supposed to go decorate the graves of veterans on this day) has largely outshone Veterans' Day as a holiday. It is more conveniently situated at the end of May, during nice weather, at a time of the year that traditionally kicks off the summer season with barbecues and outdoor revelry. Like Veterans' Day, it was originally started to commemorate those who served in a specific war - the Union army during the Civil War - and then expanded to honor all veterans.

Veterans' Day largely loses out, being in the somber month of November, when people are deep into their work or school years, are starting to think about the upcoming holidays, and not really focusing on remembering the veterans. Many businesses no longer even honor this day as a holiday.

So today, let's take a moment to remember all veterans, and in particular, those long-ago, long-lost veterans of World War I. In honor of them, here is Lt. Col. John D. McCrae's poem:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands, we throw
The torch - Be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

(Thanks to Kim, whose post on Remembrance Day, as it is known in Australia, reminded me that today is indeed November 11! Check out her blog and see her wonderful portrait of her family members who died in World War I).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The 10 Random Things Meme

Fran over at FranIam tagged me for the "10 Random Things About Me" meme. And I am so grateful to her, since of course during NaBloPoMo it is always good to have fuel for a post!

So, here goes - here are 10 things you may not know about me:

  1. I collect trolls. Yes, the little dolls with the hair. It started back in 1964 when they were at one of their popularity peaks. My first troll was an orange-haired troll whom I named Thomasina. She was quickly followed by her husband, William (black hair), and then Homer and Yolanda (green, yellow). I admit it, I name them all. I have various types of trolls, from the kind with painted eyes, to the ones with the brand name Wish-Nik, the "True Trolls" (they were really nice ones with pretty colors for the hair and glass eyes of various colors) and the original "Dam Dolls." They always have brown glass eyes and the distinctive "DAM" somewhere on their little plastic bodies. I have trolls from Scotland, from England, from Germany, and of course the United States. My collection waned for awhile when the fad passed, but then about 10 or 15 years ago their popularity revived, and I started up a whole new phase of collection. People started giving me trolls of all sizes and types, and then they started appearing at garage sales. I've even bought some of the 1960 vintage ones at antique stores. My collection is now above 150. I still have names for all of them, and keep them on a typed-up list so I won't forget them. The original 60 I can name by heart; the later ones are more difficult. My father was the official "namer" of new trolls up until the time he went into the nursing home with dementia and a broken leg. Now my friend's daughter is the one who helps me name new trolls. Every holiday season I put them all out on the piano, the end tables, and anywhere else I can find a spot, so that they form a cheerful array of color in the dark winter days. Here are just a few of them on top of the piano last December:
  2. I had a pet squirrel for nine years. Back in the late 70's I worked at the Associated Humane Societies in Newark, NJ, for a little over a year. My duties consisted of answering letters, working on their monthly magazine, opening the office in the morning (which included sticking a pole through a monkey cage to turn on the air conditioner in the summer - which the monkey did not appreciate one bit), and doing anything else the Assistant Director or Director thought I could do. I even went to a meeting organized by the State to find out how to apply for grants for workers from a program called CETA (from the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973). Another task that all of us in the office had to perform was to raise baby squirrels. At certain times of the year, the Society was inundated with baby squirrels people discovered in their attics or chimneys or that were orphaned when their mother was hit by a car. And these babies needed to be fed until they were old enough to be released into the wild. At one time I had eleven of them that I had to get up and feed with an eyedropper every two hours. We fed them with a milk substitute for animals, called Esbilac. We mixed it up along with Polyvisol children's liquid vitamins and sometimes a little Gerber's rice cereal and fed it to the baby squirrels. They weren't fussy, they lapped it up. Not all of them made it; sometimes they drank too fast and aspirated the formula, causing pneumonia. But I think I lost only one squirrel among the many I raised. However, not all could be released into the wild; one squirrel among the babies I raised was crippled from a birth defect; her front paws were not long enough and she had to hop around more like a kangaroo than a squirrel. She was great at jumping but not so good at climbing. She was a tough squirrel; she almost died of pneumonia once but I nursed her back to health with Robitussin and by steaming her in a little tent. After I left the Humane Society (you can only make $3.00 an hour for so long) she went home with me and she was a pet for nine years. I used to let her have the run of my room (to the detriment of some of my books, whose corners she loved to chew). I had named her Phoenix, since she rose from the ashes, so to speak, twice - first by being rescued at all, and second from surviving pneumonia. Phoenix was a great pet. She would jump on my bed in the morning to wake me up and we would play. She played a lot like a kitten; you could tickle her stomach and she'd kick and bite you gently. She liked to jump on my shoulder, and went crazy for walnuts, pecans and cucumbers. She finally died of old age (a rare event for a squirrel - did you know they get wrinkled?). Later on my husband and I got another squirrel from the Humane Society - a blind one named Felix - and had him for about 6 months but he died suddenly because of a back injury. We think he may have had a congenital defect in his spine just as he did in his eyes. He too was a great pet - he knew his way around our apartment and could find the package of nuts we kept for him in the kitchen. His favorite food was strawberries. I would love to have another squirrel someday. This one looks a little like my Phoenix:
  3. In my youth, I loved to climb trees. No matter where I was, if there was a tree with the proper alignment of branches, I was up in it. One time we were at my father's company picnic, and I found an excellent pine tree that was begging to be climbed. I started up and kept going until I heard my father's voice down below yelling at me to come down. Apparently one of his colleagues had gone to get him and told him, "You know, your daughter is about 60 feet up in a tree over there!" To this day, no matter how middle-aged and decrepit I am, I can't look at a good climbing tree without noting its attributes. In fact, at Cape Cod recently, there was one that was so good that I had to at least try to clamber up into it. I got up to a branch about 4 feet off the ground and DH took a picture of me in it from an angle that made it look as if I was much farther up than I actually was!
  4. I was a voracious reader when I was little. From the time I learned to read I was never without a book. To this day, I love to read, but I find my attention span is not what it was when I was young. I used to read books for fun that other people moan and groan over having to read for school. I devoured books such as Lorna Doone, by R.D. Blackmore, The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, and Scaramouche by Sabatini, when I was only 12 or 13 years old. In fact, I was probably so young when I read The Scarlet Letter that I wasn't quite positive of the nature of Hester Prynne's sin. Then when I was older I read things like Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and others. In college I took an English Novel course and read even more long-winded and difficult books; I read the 900-page tome, Middlemarch, by George Eliot, over spring break (we didn't go to Ft. Lauderdale or Mexico in those days). And I loved these books! Now I find my attention span is ruined by our sound byte lifestyle. I once tried to re-read Lorna Doone and couldn't get past the first chapter. It's really kind of sad, and I hope I can regain some of that perseverance after I retire and have more time to read.

  5. I used to consider myself more of a cat person than a dog person. When I was little our first pet was a combination calico-tiger cat named Boots. She was a beautiful mixture of gray and orange tiger, with a white shirtfront and white paws - all four of them, hence the name Boots. Later we got Silly (short for Silver-Grey - I named him at age 6). When I was nine years old, we got a Pekingese puppy whom we named Suki, but I was still more attached to the cats. My family always had multiple cats; the most we ever had at one time was four. We had our dog until he died of old age at about 14 years old; we did get another Pekingese after that, named Tango. But it wasn't until DH and I got Alice that I really became a "dog person." She was a dog that was virtually human; she had moods and worries and concerns. She had enthusiasms, joys and love. She didn't love everybody, but those she did, she loved with endless loyalty, and she would have defended us to the death. Her loss from cancer in 2005 was devastating. Luckily Diva came into our lives and filled a new space in our hearts. Here is Alice in her last weeks:

  6. Our family moved twice when I was growing up: from New Jersey to the suburbs of Rochester, NY, when I was almost 9; and from Rochester back to New Jersey when I was 14. The first move was painless - I made friends immediately and had a wonderful time up there. It was a great place to be when you're still a kid and can enjoy the outdoors. My friends and I went off in the woods for hours and played or went fishing; in the winter we sledded down a hill we dubbed "Suicide Hill" in someone's back yard. (Needless to say, its danger was somewhat exaggerated). The move at age 14 was much more difficult, because it entailed me entering freshman year of high school two weeks later than the beginning of the school year due to the timing of our move. By that time all of the new freshmen had learned their way around the school, so I was the only oddball asking for directions to different classrooms. And many of the other kids had gone to grade school together so they already knew one another. It took me about two years to get my own little group of friends, most of whom were a year younger than I was, and I do not look back on high school fondly. My advice to parents? If you can possibly avoid moving when your kid or kids are at, or near, high school age, don't.
  7. When I was about 23 I got involved, through an old boyfriend, in the evangelical Christian religion. I was brought up as a mainstream, liberal Protestant (United Church of Christ); my father, who was Jewish, had converted, so although I did hear Yiddish spoken in my home occasionally, the Jewish religion did not really come into my upbringing. Later on I considered myself an agnostic, until in 1979 I became a "born-again" Baptist and attended two different churches until I became totally disillusioned with the whole thing. I guess I was looking for some kind of meaning in my life at the time. I was able to rationalize a lot of things (I told myself maybe evolution was just the way God managed to create everything), but what I could not abide was the deep-seated bigotry I heard against gays. The second church I went to prayed one day for "Anita Bryant's success in her mission" and that was the last service I attended. From the link on Bryant: " 1977, Bryant became obsessed when Miami-Dade County added an amendment to its human rights ordinance, making it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment, loans, and public accommodations based on "affectional or sexual preference." Announcing, "I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before," she founded Save Our Children. As the group's name implies, Bryant's central -- and ludicrous -- argument was her fear that children would be molested or converted by gay perverts. "As a mother," she famously explained, "I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children."

    Bryant's Old Testament activism drew many followers, and within a year the law was repealed, making it legal again to fire workers, deny people housing, or refuse their business based on how and with whom consenting adults have sex. Celebrating her victory in a sound bite that aired nationwide, Bryant promised she would "seek help and change for homosexuals, whose sick and sad values belie the word 'gay' which they pathetically use to cover their unhappy lives." Even after the local amendment was repealed, Bryant fanned the flames with speaking tours that made her a national spokesperson against "homosexual rights." She was the star attraction at rallies that led to the repeal of gay rights in numerous cities, and she came to California to support the Briggs Initiative in 1978, which failed, but would have banned homosexuals or anyone advocating the 'gay lifestyle" from teaching in public schools. "I don't hate the homosexuals," she wrote in a fundraising letter. "But as a mother, I must protect my children from their evil influence." Not surprisingly, Bryant's outspoken activism inspired the gay rights movement like nothing since Stonewall. The response included pickets, petitions, and a boycott of Florida orange juice, which led the Citrus Commission to let her endorsement contract lapse. She was one of the first political figures to be 'pied' when she was banana-creamed in Des Moines, Iowa, and National Lampoon published a parody ad for 'Anita Bryant's Homo No Mo Macho-Building Course'. Her record and book sales declined, she eventually sold her 33-room mansion, and her marriage ended in divorce -- which left Bryant "shunned as a sinner" by many of the judgmental people who had joined her campaign against equal rights for gays." (My thoughts: Serves her right). I do have something to be grateful to her for, however - she drove me away from the clutches of the evangelical "Christian" movement. As I've said many times before, the Christian religion is not what these people are practicing. Another thing I'm grateful for: The Bible classes I attended gave me an appreciation of the book and of the teachings of Jesus, which I am able to use in my life. I also find it helpful to know the scriptures when refuting the claims some so-called Christians make on behalf of the Good Book. If there is a God, He (or She) would not be happy with some of the beliefs they claim they base on His book.

  8. I am addicted to green tea ice cream. We recently started going to a great Japanese restaurant, called Aki, and I tried their green tea ice cream. Now, I may have had this in the past and maybe it wasn't as good as theirs. I don't remember why I had never gotten into it before. But theirs is wonderful, and now I can't resist finishing off a wonderful meal of miso soup, innovative sushi and perfectly sesame-seasoned seaweed salad, with a dish of wonderful, creamy, not-too-sweet green tea ice cream.
  9. Speaking of ice cream, another of my favorites is mango ice cream. I became a mango ice cream fan in Maui the last time we were there. The brand we had was a local brand called Roselani, and it is creamy and refreshing. Here in New Jersey, Pandan Restaurant has a very similar version, imported from the Philippines. The food is an eclectic mix of Thai, Vietnamese and Filipino specialties, and well worth a visit if you're in the area.

  10. Despite being totally non-athletic, I have ridden a horse into the crater of the Haleakala volcano on Maui. DH and I did this on our honeymoon. Below is a picture of a similar group, ascending out of the crater. If you want more information you can check out my travel blog, Marvelous Meanderings. I started that blog back in March with a thorough tour of Maui, and haven't written another post since. Someday when I have time!

It occurs to me that I am supposed to tag others for this meme. I won't be specific, but will send it out there to anyone who is doing NaBloPoMo. I'm sure you may need some inspiration!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Going to Heck in a Handbasket

We don't know yet whether it's heck or hell; guess we'll find out soon enough - but Mukasey was confirmed by the Senate. Although six Democrats voted to confirm, the majority of them did not, because of his equivocal position on the torture issue.

"Democrats said Mr. Mukasey’s refusal to characterize waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning, as illegal torture disqualified him from taking over as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

'I am not going to aid and abet the confirmation contortions of this administration,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “I do not vote to allow torture.'"

The article in the New York Times goes on to say that NONE of the Democratic candidates for President who are currently serving in the Senate cast a vote on this issue. According to the Times, "The four Democrats had said they would not support Mr. Mukasey because of his equivocation during the confirmation hearings over whether waterboarding is torture." So why did they somehow manage to avoid casting the votes? I'd like to hear an explanation.

John McCain, who had denounced waterboarding as torture, did not vote either, although he had said last week that he would support the Mukasey nomination. I guess he didn't have the heart to support it enough to vote for it, however.

Moving on...

The New York Times has an excellent editorial about the Employment Nondiscrimination Act that just passed in the House of Representatives, protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in the workplace.

First of all, I'd like to say that the ideal solution would be that NO type of discrimination against any person for any reason should be allowed by our Constitution. That is, or should be, the promise of our country.

Personally I think that promise is in there already; but obviously no one is paying attention to it, and perhaps it isn't specific enough, so an amendment would be needed to enshrine it properly in the Constitution. But given that an Equal Rights Amendment for women has still never been able to pass, it is unlikely that a more all-encompassing amendment would pass either. So the only solution is to ensure these important civil rights by legislation.

Some may ask why we need this law? But according to the Times, "there remain 30 states that have not acted to prevent gay men, lesbians and bisexuals from being denied jobs or promotions simply because of who they are."

Sadly, even the House legislation that passed this week had a group of people removed before passage was ensured: Transgender people. I find this disgraceful, and it is a sad commentary on our elected officials that they can't manage to pass a bill that protects this group as well as gays and lesbians.

However, I always say "The best is the enemy of the good," so, although some gay advocacy groups opposed the final bill because of this omission, I still feel it is important to get this version passed despite this defect. Hopefully, one step at a time, these rights will continue to expand.

It is amazing to me that this country is, at heart, so ignorant and so bigoted, that so many can feel threatened by giving people rights they themselves have without having to even think about them.

Tellingly, only 35 Republicans voted for the House bill. Senator Edward Kennedy is going to introduce the bill in the Senate as the next step.

Naturally, Dubya is threatening to veto the bill. According to the Times editorial, the reasons given are "that it would be too burdensome on businesses and that it would lead to too much litigation" - pitiful excuses for outright bigotry.

Let's hope if he does veto the bill, that the Congress will override the veto. And Bush can go down in history as the Anti-Civil-Rights President.

Today's haiku, entitled "Democratic Candidate Lament"

I do hate torture
And can't stand waterboarding
Voting is risky.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Work, School and Blogging

Today was one of those hectic days where I had no opportunity to break up my work day with personal e-mails or phone calls, let alone blogging, as I had back-to-back meetings most of the day. Then this evening I had a class to attend.

I've been taking continuing education courses in historic preservation at Drew University over the past seven years. I received my Certificate in Historic Preservation back in May of 2004 but continue to take additional courses if they offer new ones that interest me. My main purpose in taking these courses is to use the information to help me in preserving historic buildings in my area. However, I sometimes daydream about getting involved in this field full time when I stop working for the Big Corporation.

This particular course was in grant writing, which could come in very handy for a certain project I've been working on. Tonight was the last class, but my project, which is to actually prepare a grant application, isn't due until the 17th. Being a polychrone, I have procrastinated grievously and have not yet actually started working on the project. I hope to get most of it done this weekend.

That said, it is now 11:30 and time is running out to post on November 8th. So I will leave you with another pitiful haiku:

Too many meetings
No time for NaBloPoMo
November is long.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dona Nobis Pacem

"Give us peace."

Today's the day - it's November 7th, the day of the Blog Blast for Peace, started by Mimi Lenox of Mimi Writes. Be sure to go to her site and read the touching story she has written about her Papa - and read last year's too. Both are wonderful and poignant.

Here is my Peace Globe (on which Mimi kindly inscribed my blog's name as I wasn't able to figure out how to add anything to it!).

Mimi has assembled an amazing number of blogs to participate in this Blog Blast, and it is so encouraging to realize how many people believe in the possibility of peace.

With all of the strife in the world; the selfishness, the greed, the hatred, that exist...we sometimes feel that we can never have peace. But if enough people still believe in it, there is always hope.

Thank you, Mimi, for reminding us of that hope!


Instead of a haiku today, I thought I'd post this. It is a song we used to sing in Girl Scouts:

Peace I ask of thee, O river -- peace, peace, peace.
When I learn to live serenely cares will cease.
From the hills I gather courage,
Vision of the day to be,
Strength to lead and faith to follow,
All are given unto me.
Peace I ask of thee, O river -- peace, peace, peace.

Election Day!

Election days are always exciting for me. Since I was a small child, my parents kept me involved in the political process. I remember when I was only 6, my mother woke me up in what seemed to me to be the middle of the night - and perhaps it was - so I could hear the election returns coming in on this, the first election that she knew I would remember. To this day I distinctly remember hearing the voice on the radio saying that Kennedy was leading by just 100,000 votes.

I remember having an argument with my friend Sally, whose family were Republicans, during the 1964 election, and telling her that Barry Goldwater "would start World War Three." Mind you, I am sure I did no research of my own to hold this political opinion and was no doubt repeating something I heard my parents say. But my feelings were sincere and my opinion was strong!

Then in 1968 came the tumultuous year that Lyndon Johnson decided not to run, and left the Democratic field wide open. It was the year of McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy, and ultimately, Hubert Humphrey. I was devastated when Kennedy was shot (I found a whole folder of clippings about his death that I'd compiled back then, when I was cleaning out my mother's house last year). Once the candidate was Humphrey, however, I was a strong supporter. I still was too young to vote, but I did distribute flyers. And I remember how uncertain everything was even the next day. We still weren't sure who had won, until finally the bad news was clear: It was Nixon.

In 1972, the first year I could vote, I was in college in Boston, and cast my first vote for McGovern. Massachusetts was the one state that went for him, so I appreciated the bumper stickers that popped up on Massachusetts cars after Watergate broke, saying "Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts."

Since then there have been many more elections; and in the past 10 years I've become involved in local politics; not as a candidate, but as a supporter. I've stuffed envelopes, walked the neighborhood with candidates occasionally, made donations, and made phone calls.

This evening our town's Democratic slate once again swept the election. It is very interesting; when we first moved to this town it was a mainly Republican town. But over the past decade or so, the demographics have changed markedly, and the town has become much more diverse. The population has become younger, and there are many transplanted New Yorkers here now, who all tend to vote Democratic.

So, in celebration of the Democrats, here is today's haiku:

Democratic sweep
All politics is local
We are glad they won.

OK, that was lame. But it's almost midnight and I have to get this posted! NaBloPoMo is becoming stressful!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Using the Internet to Search on Health Issues?

Be careful out there!

Go to my Medicana blog to read more.

Also, in case you didn't already notice, I have a recent post over there on the subject of the latest media frenzy: MRSA.

Oh, and you know what? I am totally counting this toward NaBloPoMo! This is a post, however short!

Today's Haiku:

Today is Monday
I blogged on Medicana
It's all I could do.

Tomorrow is another day!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Now For Something Completely Different

Since DH has uploaded the pictures we took when we were on our recent trip, I thought I'd lighten things up a bit and show you some of the peaceful, picturesque scenery we enjoyed.

Here is the view from in front of our cabin:

This is the cabin we stayed in:

Views of the lake where we stayed:

Foliage in mountains:

Diva chasing her toy into the lake:

...And bringing it back to "Mommy."

Today's Haiku:

Blue sky and blue lake
Fiery leaves in the mountains
Bring peace to my soul.

P.S. I have just discovered that when you start a post, even if you save it as a draft and don't publish it, the date that shows up when you do publish it is the date it was started. So it looks as if I had two posts on Saturday but the Ann Coulter post was actually published on Sunday! Now I just did this post for Monday and instead it's going to look like Sunday so I might as well publish it now. Darn, now I have to write another one for tomorrow! ;-) This NaBloPoMo thing is more complicated than I thought!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Speaking Up

In view of the discussion on the return of Imus to the radio and the many valid comparisons of his brand of hatefulness to the hatefulness of other radio personalities (Limbaugh, Hannity, et al), I thought I'd write today about why it is so important to continue to speak out against these people.

Free speech should never be curtailed. But we must speak out against those whose free speech is akin to shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. They are making intolerant, hateful speech part of our culture. As Tomcat said in his comment on the Imus post, "Bush, the GOP, the neocons and the theocons have made hate mainstream." And this is the real danger of this type of free speech. It makes hate acceptable in our culture.

While we were in the Adirondacks two weekends ago, Leonard Pitts, who writes a syndicated column for the Miami Herald, had a very interesting op-ed piece that was published in the local town newspaper near where we were staying.

His article concerned the remarks Ann Coulter had made about Jews on a recent program:

"Last week, Coulter said that in her perfect America, everyone would be a Christian. She said this to Donny Deutsch, who was hosting her on his CNBC program, The Big Idea. Deutsch, who is Jewish, expressed alarm. Whereupon Coulter told him that Jews simply needed to be ''perfected'' -- i.e., made to accept Jesus as savior. Which is, of course, one of the pillars (along with the slander of Christ's murder) supporting 2,000 years of pogroms, abuse and Holocaust."

Pitts said that many people would be telling him he shouldn't be wasting his time condemning Ann Coulter, and that it would be better to ignore her. But he refuted this idea, saying:

"I suspect the reason some people believe that kind of ignorance is best ignored is that they find it difficult to take it seriously, or to accept that Coulter -- or those who embrace her -- really believes what she says. After all, this is not 1933, not 1948, not 1966. It is two-thousand-by-God-oh-seven, post-Seinfeld, post-Gore-Lieberman, post-Schindler's List. We no longer live in the era when open anti-Semitism could find wide traction. This is a different time.

But time, Martin Luther King once observed, is neutral. Time alone changes nothing. It is people who make change in time. Or not. So you have to wonder if this determined sanguinity in the face of intolerance is not ultimately an act of monumental self-delusion."

Pitts went on to say that in fact, letting remarks like Coulter's pass without protesting them, without shouting out that they are wrong, will just give the impression that this type of hatefulness is acceptable in society.

"While some of us are cheerfully assuring one another that They Don't Really Mean It, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the number of hate groups in this country has risen by a whopping 40 percent in just the last seven years. If you had spent those years, as I have, jousting in print the agents of intolerance, you would not be surprised. It would be all but impossible to quantify, but I've noted a definite spike, not simply in the hatefulness of some people, but in the willingness to speak that hatefulness openly and without shame. What used to be anonymous now comes with a name and address.

Like Coulter, many of those people find intellectual cover under the cloak of conservatism. It is a development that thoughtful conservatives (the very need to use that qualifier makes the case) ought to view with alarm. For all that Colin Powell, J.C. Watts, ...and others have done to posit a friendly new ''big tent'' conservatism, Coulter and others have done even more to drag the movement back toward open intolerance.

That will be read as criticism of conservatism, but I intend a larger point. After all, liberalism has had its own unfortunate extremes -- the drug use of the '60s, the Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army and the like. The difference is, say what you will about Michael Moore or Jesse Jackson, they are not pushing back toward that which has been discredited. Coulter is.

And if some of us are laughing that off, not everybody is.

So this is not about bashing conservatives. It is, rather, about challenging them, and all of us. Within living memory, we have seen Jews in boxcars and blacks in trees and silence from those who should have been shouting. They pretended it wasn't happening until it already had.

So, what about Ann Coulter? What about the push-back against diversity, pluralism and tolerance, that she represents? I keep hearing that we should just ignore it.

My point is, that's been tried before. It didn't work."

(emphasis added)

So we must keep protesting when we hear hateful commentary on the air waves. We have to keep pointing out that this type of speech is wrong and is not to be tolerated. We must urge people not to listen to these voices. Our country has free speech. But we are also free to protest what is said.

I'm going to skip the haiku today and instead quote this, by Pastor Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.