Thursday, November 30, 2006

Loving Science

Among the things I love, and the list is long so it may be a while before you know all of them, is science. Told you I thought about becoming an astronomer. Majored in anthropology, intending to be an archeologist, my first swipe at college. After I dropped out and then returned as the single mother of two very young children, switched to psychology. Now, I know that the social sciences are not as developed as the hard sciences, but they are science. And, when I took psychology you had to have a semester of human anatomy. Among my anthro classes was one on comparative anatomy where we studied the teeth of various primates.

I got to thinking about this when I was over at A Natural Scientist and found this wonderful article Curiosity, Wires, Destruction

My other theory is that everyone would love science if they were only shown it the right way. I've sat through a lot of lectures where the teacher clearly didn't know the answer to "Why should my students care?" And you know what? Those lectures were boring. But there should always be a convincing answer. Sometimes the answer is, so you can understand something else. Sometimes it's, because it's cool. Occasionally, it's directly relevant to everyday life:
We had a microscope growing up. Pond scum, dog hairs, onion skins, dirt, leaves: you name it, we looked at it.
We took apart a washers, computers, blenders, and cars. "Why?" was always answered by "What do you think?"

All three of us are scientists.
I have taught people science all of my life, just about. I was a camp counselor the summer after my freshman year of college, and we studied the outdoors. The kids were out in it and they loved it. When I taught Montessori, we had a wonderful science section, where very sophisticated concepts were presented at the level a three or four year old could understand. It was a very popular section of the classroom.

I gave my own children a telescope, a microscope, a stethoscope, prisms, magnets, and gyroscopes and they played with them and learned.

Because I love science, I am always reading about it and adding new knowledge to my life. When I was teaching parenting classes, I added research about various things to help my students see the what and why of their children. I used research about wild ravens learning faster than tame ones to throw light on how their children needed to play outdoors and run and climb to learn easily. I brought in history to help them see that mistakes are to learn from rather than to be punished.

And the thing is, the thing that agrees with A Natural Scientist -- many of the parents in my class had dropped out of school. Some were illiterate. And yet, like all of the children that I taught, they loved the science that I taught them. Because I love it. Because I knew how it related to what they needed. And, because I taught it with respect for both my subject and my class. There is something that is amazing when you first see someone who the schools have always treated as stupid grasping science. Understanding that what she is learning is science. Knowing that she can understand it and that you know she can understand it.

Children are naturally curious about the world. They have to be slapped down, told that they are wrong for wanting to know the answers, to give up that curiosity. Children want to learn the way colts want to run and kittens want to pounce. What would you have to do to a colt to make it hate running? What would you have to do to a kitten to make it fear pouncing? We have to stop doing that to our children, whether it is happening at home or in school. Because it is their birthright to love learning, to love science, to be excited about new things. And too many of them are being robbed. Every adult you encounter who doesn't like science and learning has been robbed. It is unconscionable.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Limburger Cheese

My father loved limburger cheese. My mother hates the way it smells like dirty socks. As a child, it was always my goal to prove to my father that I loved him more than my mother did. (Yes, Sigmund, there is an Electra.)

In order to prove that I loved him more, since Mama wouldn't even allow him to bring limburger into the trailer, I learned to eat it and like it. Of course, part of the reason that I could even attempt this is that I don't have a very good sense of smell. Nor, apparently, taste.

Just last week there was a story in the local paper about how the more taste buds you have, the stronger/hotter/more bitter foods taste to you. People like this are called picky eaters and are generally skinny. It isn't very healthy because it leads to deficiencies, since these super tasters find most vegetables bitter tasting. On the other hand, are people like me. Not so many taste buds, not such a sharp sense of taste. Love hot. Love bitter. Love sour. Lover pungent. Because these foods give us some sensation of taste. We aren't skinny. We don't lack vital nutrients.

So, I wasn't really proving that I loved my father more than my mother did. Just that I had fewer taste buds. But, science aside, it served me well. I felt quite puffed up in my own esteem about it, and for a four year-old, that is what really counts.

Neither Julie nor Richard can stand the way limburger smells, so I learned to enclose it in a glass jar when I put it in the refrigerator and to eat it when they weren't home. Years later I discovered that Missy (my small, gray cat for 18 1/2 years) loved it. Missy wouldn't eat any other people food. You could eat salmon or crab or prawns or chicken in front of her and she wouldn't seem to notice. So, imagine my surprise the day I spread some limburger on a cracker and she came running downstairs and nabbed it out of my fingers as I was putting it into my mouth! I soon learned that if I wanted to eat limburger with Missy in the house, I needed to give her some on a saucer. She was much faster than I was, and that first time was the only time I managed to get it anywhere near my mouth before she nabbed it.

Ally Bean's Mission

I was visiting Ally Bean at Crazy Dust in my Coffee and she posted the mission statement of her zoo, which she has adopted as her own, plus one additional line.

Zoo Mission:

Creating Adventure,
Conveying Knowledge,
Conserving Nature,
Serving Community,
Ignoring Jackasses.

I could go for that. I think we would all be better off if we spent some time on each of those worthy goals. Particularly the last one.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


When Richard was little, when changing his diaper, I would tell him to hold still so I could wash his accoutrements. Of course, one of his earliest words was "cumins."

Which lends a certain cache to recipes that call for a pinch of cumin.

And, the day that I picked up a book and read the very first sentence, which said, "He threw his accoutrements over his shoulder" was the day that I couldn't get to the second sentence. Put my head down on my knees and laughed and laughed.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Junkfood Science

You may notice a new blog on my blogroll -- Junkfood Science. I only discovered on Tuesday that one of my favorite sane people has her own blog. I have read Sandy Szwarc, RN, BSN, CCP, for a couple of years now at Techcentral Station. (I was unable to give you a direct link to her series. If you are interested, use the link above, then under authors, look her up and it will take you to her archives.) She wrote a crackerjack series there on the moral panic (although, I'm not certain that she calls it that) about obesity and food that we are experiencing these days. Her writing is firmly rooted in science and she recognizes the misuse of research and pseudoscience in creating a false epidemic of obesity in order to sell products and services which, at best are useless, at worst are harmful and sometimes deadly. Hers is a voice of reason in the wilderness, and I can not recommend her too highly.

This quote from a recent post, Have your steak and enjoy it too! gives you an idea of the flavor of her writing and the solid, good sense of her information:
When it comes to food and health news, the saturation of media coverage is usually inversely proportional to the soundness of the research. Sensational claims sell a lot of newspapers, lure viewers and listeners, and create good buzz. The trouble is, most of us don't realize we're getting Hitchcock-like fiction when we turn on the news. With last week's scare du juor "red meat increases risk for breast cancer" no mainstream news reporter took a critical look at the study they were reporting, preferring to simply pass along the press release. No one except Steve Milloy, of course, who wrote an excellent review here.
Our first clue that there was something more afoot in this media blitz than brilliant science, is that this one study, out of the thousands of new studies released every single day, was reported in every media outlet, on the exact same day, all saying the exact same thing. This is evidence of brilliant marketing, but not much more. Like everything in media today, it deserves viewing with the same skepticism as you would any other commercial. The study wasn't nearly as well done as its marketing...
What more could I possibly say? Visit her. Visit her series on Techcentral Station.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Shit, Stars!

Have I told you that I love the stars? Considered going into astronomy, wanted to be an astronaut? When I was 12, checked to see how old I'd be when Haley's Comet returned? Really, really, really love the stars. And that I seldom get to see them, here in Juneau. First, from late spring through summer to early fall, the sun doesn't set far enough to get dark, so no stars for over half the year. The rest of the year, we have clouds that keep the stars hidden more than we have clear skies. And enough moisture in the air to make our starry nights less than the wonder that they are in the high desert. None-the-less, just about a block uphill from my place, the road curves and you are suddenly out of civilization. No more houses. No more light pollution. You are in a canyon, so you don't have much horizon. Actually, you have a small slit of sky. But, on clear winter nights the stars crowd into that small slit and are just breath taking.

I've mentioned that we've had a lot of snow. The newspaper tells me, 44.1 inches in recent storms. So, what I've mainly seen when I was outside or looked outside was white stuff -- falling from the sky, laying on the ground, clogging the roads, coating the trees. Pretty as a picture, but causing lots of problems. And, to go with it, cloudy skies -- when we could see them at all.

And then, the clouds cleared. Bright blue sky. Cheerful feeling to the air. Spring in the step, even the step of folks like me who walk with sticks. Ah, the world goes on, hope springs and all of that good stuff. So nice to see a sky that isn't gray. Of course, since we have all become accustomed to living in the semi-gloom, we squint our eyes and tilt our heads, not quite sure what that swatch of color overhead is about. Small children cry because the familiar sky seems to have broken. The rest of us, not unlike vampires, skuttle between buildings, hoping to escape this strange condition unscathed.

It is not an unmixed blessing -- we all know that without the mediating effect of the clouds, the heat will dissipate and the world will be colder. And, sure enough it is -- it dropped from 34 degrees to 15. The worst is night, when all the heat from the day escapes out into the sky, leaving us without our safety blanket. So, is it any wonder that as I walk up the stairs to my bedroom, I look out the skylight and mutter, "Shit. Stars."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Cats and children oft have found
My breast to be soft Granny mound.
And there they love to lay their heads
In lieu of going up to beds.
I love to hold them close and kiss
Each kitten mister, grandchild miss,
Each niece and nephew, I love them all,
And cuddle fondly as they grow tall.
I'm glad that I'm not spare and flat—
What child or cat would fancy that?

Monday, November 20, 2006

To All Things There is a Season

From the first of the month, for ten days straight,
It snowed and snowed, both early and late.
The city plowed and sanded each street,
But the sidewalks were left to the ice and sleet.

Jonathon William Anthony Jones,
Just 23, with strong young bones,
Ignores his elders' sage advice
And runs and slides on the sidewalk ice.

Lilith Joycelyn Ward, that's Granny,
With due regard for her bones and her fanny,
With a stick in her hand and studs on her feet,
Walks carefully down the well plowed street.

Each one comes down that steep old hill,
Depending for safety on care or skill,
And Granny remembers long ago days,
When she also used Jonathon's ways.
The passage of time and effects of age,
Will bring Jonathon one day to Granny's stage.

Friday, November 17, 2006


You may have noticed a blog mentioned on my blogroll, Molly Saves the Day. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the link no longer worked. It took me to a commercial site instead of where I wanted to go. Since I like Molly, I would try the link every once in a while, thinking that while obviously someone had managed to do something to her site, somehow she would fix it. Didn't happen. So, I did a blog search for Molly Saves the Day, which netted me the following links/articles.

Hear Me Roar


and Biting Beaver

I have no idea what to say. I had no idea such things could happen. Did happen.

I wish there were a way that I could express to Molly how outraged I am at what was done to her and how much I will miss her.

But, more than that, I wish there were a way that I could stop such cruelty. That such behavior were never thinkable to anyone. That all people felt secure enough and loved enough that hating others simply didn't happen.

My Computer

The part I need to fix my computer has to be shipped. Before we can order it, Richard has to take the computer apart and see which of the possible alternatives it is. Before that happens, Richard has to get enough over his cold to walk up to my apartment. (And, no, there isn't anyone else I would trust to take my computer apart.) Then we have to hope that the snow lets up enough for the plane to land and get it to us!

We've had school closed two days this week because of snow (we can go years without that, we have good snow removal provisions) and planes are only getting in at a scattered rate. So, until I get the part, you will only see me on days when I work. Unless something unexpected happens, that means not only not this weekend, but also not the four days over Thanksgiving. Bummer! I love blogging. I don't want to spend a day away from it, talk about four days!

This feels like the television plug, except that it wasn't caused by my misbehavior!

Too Many Books,
Not Enough Time

My friend Linda, over on Bugwalk has this to say about finishing books that we start. I don't think I've ever heard it said better!
If I’m going to live 40 years, give or take, and there are 52 weeks per year (that part is certain, anyway), and if it takes me, on average, what with one thing and another, three weeks to read a book, there are only 693 books left! If there are a hundred books on my library list, that’s one seventh of all the books I will ever read. That’s why I feel no obligation to finish a book or magazine article that does not immediately grab me.

Linda is younger than I am, so she has more years left. She reads slower than I do, so that factor is less. But, it doesn't matter what the numbers are, the fact is that we only have a finite number of books left to read in our lives. Why waste a moment of that precious time on one we don't like?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Great Snopes Hoax

One of the people in our office sent around an e-mail about a dying child and her wisdom and how she wanted it to reach as many people as possible before she dies and -- you know this one, right? My office mate, Jessica, asked if I had checked it on yet and I had and so then Jessica asked if I wanted to send the reply to all or should she and . . .

And that started us thinking about what if were a hoax? How would that work? Perhaps all the answers they give are false, and we are not believing our friends when we should be.

Or, perhaps everything so far has been on the up and up, and one day they are going to perpetrate some mammoth hoax and because they verify it as true we will all believe it.

Which reminded me of the time I was carrying two six packs of Pepsi from the car and fell off my shoes and broke the bottles and cut my hands and arm badly on the glass. Julie had to come home from work and drive me to the ER for 19 stitches in my forearm, which left a scar which looked like a parenth ). The family joke was that either it had happened when two men were so smitten with me that they had a sword fight for my favors and I threw myself between them and got cut, or I had been protecting the kids from a bear and got . . .

Richard suggested two bears had been dueling for my favors and I threw myself between them.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Were You Worried?

As I was getting ready to publish today's post, my computer stopped. Small popping sound, black monitor.

Have you ever tried to start a car when the battery has been stolen? No crank, crank -- just silence. That's what happened when I tried to restart my home computer. I don't know if it is totally dead or not, if I will be doing replacement or repairs, but it isn't working now.

And then . . . . . Ta Freeking Da . .

It has been snowing in Juneau since Friday. Lots and lots of snow. Monday and Tuesday the Care-A-Van couldn't get up my hill and I had to take cabs. Well, cab. There is only one in town that has four wheel drive and studded tires. Only one that can make it up my hill when the roads are like this. This morning that cab was out of service until after 10. So, I got to work at 10:30 and had to proof my program annual report and get it to my director before I could do anything else.

And now -- here I am. Alive and well. Until the home computer problem is solved, I will be publishing later in the day and not on the weekend. Not to worry.

Today's real post below.

Let's Go to a S H O W

I've told you that my parents loved books. They also loved movies. When my father was in high school, his parents used to let him take the car and drive the 77 miles from Modesto to San Francisco just to see movies. All of his life, he was a big movie fan and if he had done the movie meme he probably wouldn't have been able to list a single movie that he had been wanting to see for a long time, because he saw most of them. My mother loved them too, although perhaps not as much as he did. Mama and I are alike -- we can get our movie fix when they are on TV, but Forrest takes after our father -- there is hardly a movie that he wants to see that he doesn't see when it first comes out.

When I was little, we went to the movies every Friday night. When I was about three, my father started coming home and instead of talking about it, would spell "Let's go to a s...h...o...w". In those days, they spelled all sorts of things they didn't want me to know about. It took me, my mother says, exactly once to figure that one out. The second week he spelled it, I called out, "Yes. Let's go to the show!"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

And Now We're Going To . . .

I was visiting Julie at Thinking About the other day, and she was talking about the resiliency training she is giving at Maya's school, and she said:
For example, when discussing 'set & communicate high expectations', our instructor mentioned that she sometimes forgets with her own children to slow down and enjoy what they are doing now. Her children are grown, and her son recently completed his first triathlon. She was very proud of him, but the words that rushed to her lips, with him still exhausted from crossing the finish line, were, 'What's next? Are you going to train for XYZ?' Luckily, she remembered her training, and stopped herself. . . allowed herself, and him, to just enjoy the triumph of what he had worked so hard for, without always looking forward to the next goal. That's a good lesson, I think. I tend to be the type of person who has a mental list of things I want to get done, things that I want Maya to accomplish, and when one thing is finished, I'm ready to move on to the next thing.

And it reminded me of when Julie was four and in the Montessori class I taught. For those of you who don't know, in a Montessori preschool classroom, the materials are set out on shelves and children choose which thing they are going to work with. Julie had been working on subtraction non-stop. She was doing a great job and it was almost the only thing she had done for weeks, all day, every day, she was subtracting. I got all mother- of -the -genius, instead of all teacher -of -the -child, and decided that she would be doing multiplication soon. That she would be the youngest child to work on multiplication ever.

So, one day she finished with subtraction and the next day she went to the easel and started to paint. Totally forgetting that the way children learn is to take in a great gulp of information and then totally rest that part of the brain and review something else or create while that information becomes a part of them, I was only willing to allow this easel nonsense for a few days. I started suggesting to her that she might like to learn to multiply. (Montessori teachers are not supposed to do this.)

Julie resisted. I insisted. She resisted (and there never was a child who could resist better than Julie, by the way). Finally, I said, "I don't pay all this money so you can come to school and paint!" (Yes, Maya's Granny has her stupid side.)

Julie wouldn't speak to me at school for two weeks. When she needed anything from a teacher, she went to my team teacher -- a thing she had never done even once before. At home I was still in favor. I hadn't failed her as a mother. But, at school, I had ceased to exist. I had failed her as a teacher.

Monday, November 13, 2006

And Her Baby Brother . . .

When Julie was born, I had just gotten divorced and been accepted back in college. I was broke. So, Julie wore Richard's hand-me downs. For babies that age, pants that allow them to crawl around and not get their knees dirty or cold are a good thing, anyway. However, they didn't correctly identify her gender at all.

Added to the masculine look of her clothes, she was bald, bald, bald. She was born early and they had to feed her intravenously, and since babies move around a lot and can dislodge needles, that meant shaving her head, using a vein in the scalp to feed her, and tying her little hands down. It was the saddest thing to look at that I ever saw -- trapped in an isolet, tied down, with tubes in her head. And then, as her hair grew in, she rubbed it off, as babies often do. The upshot of this was that Richard had this lovely head of red hair and long lashes and Julie was this bald baby in boy's clothes.

People would stop me on the street and say, "What a lovely little girl you have! And her baby brother is cute, too!" I tried scotch taping bows on her head, but somehow that wasn't very satisfactory.

And so, I skipped my coffee on campus for a week, bought supplies at the bead shop, made a number of pair of bead ear rings which I put out on consignment in a Telegraph Avenue shop, and used the profit to buy Julie two real dresses.

And then I took her picture in them both, just for the satisfaction of it all. You can see how startled she was to be wearing dresses. This happened in the winter, as evidenced by her chapped cheeks.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Movie Meme

Since Jill at Brilliant At Breakfast has tagged me, I am going to have fun with this one.

1. Popcorn or candy?
Oh, popcorn. There is nothing on earth like movie theater popcorn.

2. Name a movie you've been meaning to see forever.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You did say forever.

3. You are given the power to recall one Oscar: Who loses theirs and to whom?
Tommy Lee Jones for The Fugitive and it goes to Harrison Ford. Not because Jones didn't do a good job, but because I think Ford is hunky. No one said it had to be for artistic reasons.

4. Steal one costume from a movie for your wardrobe. Which will it be?
I was going to say Scarlet O'Hara's gown made out of the drapes and then remembered the gown I was thinking of was Carol Burnett's with the curtain rod still in it and then decided that's the one I want, that's the one I'll steal.

5. Your favorite film franchise is...
The Lord of the Rings. Indiana Jones. The original Star Wars.

6. Invite five movie people over for dinner. Who are they? Why'd you invite them? What do you feed them?
Harrison Ford because he is just yummy. Alec Guiness because I loved his early British comedies. Humphrey Bogart. Because he was Bogart. Katherine Hepburn because she defined class and beauty and smart womanhood. Mae West because she was such a gutsy broad. I would make my famous curry and a green salad with all the crisp salad things in the world and Plato Cake (the ideal cake, of which all others are mere reflections on the cave wall).

7. What is the appropriate punishment for people who answer cell phones in the movie theater?
I would have to go with a good drawing and quartering.

8. Choose a female bodyguard: Ripley from Aliens. Mystique from X-Men. Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. The Bride from Kill Bill. Mace from Strange Days.
Ripley it is. She could handle anything.

9. What's the scariest thing you've ever seen in a movie?
I don't know the name of the movie, because I was about five when I saw it, and in 1947 they didn't get all graphic and gory. That may have been what made it so very scary, since I didn't even see it. A man was being chased by a guy driving a tractor and he tripped and the villain drove the discer over him. I saw the discer cutting into the earth, and then my father picked me up and hid my face in his shoulder. I remember that after the movie my parents were really upset that they hadn't known that scene was in there. And I have always remembered it. And, now that I think about it, probably nobody saw the discer get the man, since they only suggested things like that back then, which is what made it so very frightening.

10. Your favorite genre (excluding comedy and drama) is?
Good science fiction/fantasy. The Lord of The Rings. Harry Potter. Silent Running. Labyrinth. The Princess Bride. The Dark Crystal. In this genre, good is few and far between.

11. You are given the power to greenlight movies at a major studio for one year. How do you wield this power?
I choose some of my favorite books and, where they are still alive, have the authors do the screenplays. I'm not sure who would do the screenplays for Twain. Cast actors rather than stars.

12. Bonnie or Clyde?
I never saw this movie. Never wanted to see this movie. Don't like aggrandizing violent criminals.

13: Who are you tagging to answer this survey:
Tabor of One Day At A Time; Cuppa of Brown Betty Brew; Donna of Changing Places; Gawilli at Back in the Day; Joy at The Joy of Six; Ms Mama; and Kenju at Just Ask Judy.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mom In The Middle

Maya knows that when her Mama was a little girl she was called Julie, and her Uncle Richard was a little bit older than Julie, and called Richard and her Granny was just a young mother called Mom. They all three lived in California in those days, while Mom went to school, and they didn't have a car. Everywhere they went either they rode the bus, or they walked. Well, at first just Mom walked. Richard and Julie rode in a lovely two person stroller, Julie in front so she could see, and Richard in back where he could see over her head.

Eventually, Richard didn't want to ride in the stroller any more, and he started walking along with Mom. Now, Richard was always in a hurry. He was born early and he learned to talk early and he learned to walk early and once he was walking, he walked fast. Here he went to examine a rock; there he darted to explore a tree. He wanted to see everything, and he hurried to it all. That was ok with Mom, because he always stayed on the sidewalk (or, at least out of the street) where he was safe, and she could move as fast as he did. And Julie rode along.

Finally Julie got older and she didn't want to ride in the stroller any more, either. Julie started walking along with Richard and Mom. Now, Julie was never in a hurry (although she was born early, but that is really the last time she ever hurried about anything). She took her time when she learned to talk and she took her time when she learned to walk and once she was walking, she took her time. In fact, she took so much of her time that Mom used to call her Wait-a-Bit, because if you wanted to do anything with her you were going to have to wait a bit till she was ready. Like Richard, she wanted to explore the world, and she meandered over to the flowers and ambled over to the rocks and to follow a snail and moseyed over to look at a bird.

This wouldn't have too much of a problem for Mom if she had been walking with only Julie, since she could walk almost as slowly as Julie (no one in the world could walk absolutely as slowly as Julie). However, Mom was not only with Julie. They were with Richard. And Richard moved fast. And Julie took her time. And Mom spent her life in the middle, trying to keep the family together. It seemed to her that she was always in the middle of the block calling forward to Richard (who was racing towards the corner ahead of her), "slow down" and calling to Julie (who was just leaving the corner behind her) "hurry up"!

And so they made their way, down the streets of Berkeley, down the streets of Stockton, down the streets of Redwood City. Richard moving fast. Julie taking her time. And Mom in the middle.

And although Mom never took a picture of that, she did take this one of Richard heading off in the park while Julie stops to examine an acorn.

I'm Stunned. Just Stunned

In Thursday's paper, which I didn't read until Friday night, I found this:
"I feel liberated," said conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, one of the party's biggest cheerleaders. "I no longer am going to have to carry water for people who don't deserve having their water carried."
I had to read that twice. Somehow, my imagination had just been too poor for me to have ever pictured even Rush Limbaugh having the brass to say something like this. Even after watching his sorry performance mocking Michael J. Fox, it had simply never occurred to me that he would admit that he has been supporting people he doesn't approve of!

What kind of person does a thing like this? Launches vicious attacks at liberals in support of people he doesn't believe deserve to have their water carried? What poverty of soul does it take to believe that he had to do so? What unmitigated gall does it take to admit such a thing? Does he think that his dittoheads will forget this statement next week? Doesn't it occur to him at all that they might remember and wonder who else he is carrying undeserved water for?

Do you suppose that dittoheads are the some of the people you can fool all of the time? All of them?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Three Poems That Tickle My Fancy

Things That Fall From The Sky
In summer we get rain,
In winter we get snow.
This morning, there is snain
Dear God, don't send us roe.

Days That Rhyme
Some days I'm inspired; some days I'm not.
Some days I'm blocked; some days I'm hot.
I love the days when the words just flow
And images seem to shape and glow.
I feel more alive with a rhyme in mind,
I'm much more alert, I can be more kind.
When the rhymes and rhythm are easy to see,
Somehow, then, I feel more like me.

Prayer for a Winter Day
Mother Cabrini be really nice
And help me park on this patch of ice.
Make my wheels go steady and slow
And keep me out of that pile of snow

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My New Jacket
A Moral in the Mirror

Here is the new jacket that arrived in the mail on Friday. As you can see from the catalog picture (Making It Big, if you should wonder []), it is reversible. It is lovely! I am wearing it everywhere I go and feeling very snazzy indeed. If I lived further north, it would be an autumn jacket, but here in Juneau, it is a winter jacket. On really cold days, one of which we had Monday (14 degrees), I wear it over a sweater and I'm warm as toast. On other days, a cotton blouse will be good enough.

I love this catalog because it shows models my size. This one is smaller than I am, but she is the smallest one in the catalog. One of the sad things about catalog shopping, if you are large, is that mostly they show clothes that don't come in a size smaller than a 14 on a size 8 model. Even if you are a 14, that doesn't tell you how you are going to look. If, like me, you are substantially larger than a 14, it is brutal. I look at the garment and I know it won't look like that on me, but somewhere in my subconscious that is the image which is saved and counted on. Then, I try the thing on, it fits, it looks great, I look fine -- but when I look in the mirror, I compare the rotund, short, 64-year-old Granny with the lean, tall, 19-year-old model that I saved back there and feel dreadful disappointment. But, when I buy from Making It Big, when I look in the mirror, what I see is what I expect to see. I feel good about my new clothes. I feel attractive. I like seeing me.

To me, this catalog personifies truth in advertising. It speaks of the value of being who you really are, of not pretending to be anything else. I have never been disappointed with a garment from these people (who sell only clothes made in the US) in all the years I've been a customer. Because they tell me, right up front, the truth. They don't use skinny models.

I wish that other people, politicians among them, were as honest as these people. Wouldn't it be nice?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


The voters of South Dakota voted down the abortion ban, defeating not only the ban itself but also the attempt to force it up to the Supreme Court, giving Bush's new appointees an opportunity to reverse Roe v. Wade.

The Dems have taken the House.

They may have taken the Senate.

Although many House and Senate seats went from Republican to Democrat, not a one had gone in the other direction as of the time of this post. Ditto governorships.

Rumsfeld has been forced to resign.

Bush has been forced to change his rhetoric about "stay the course".

Arizona defeated the gay marriage ban.

Claire McGaskill won in Missouri, not only a wonderful win in and of itself, but a giant wet cow pie in the face for Rush and his mockery of Michael J. Fox.

Fine in Maine, Sherwood in Pennsylvania, and Sweeney in New York -- as Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast calls them, the women beaters, all lost!

Richard Pombo, one of the worst Representatives in the history of the universe, lost! Only those of us who come from the Central Valley of California can know how wonderful that is. Not as good as Rumsfeld' resignation only because he didn't have as much power.

Attorney General Phil Kline, famous for his extreme anti-choice stance, of Kansas lost his re-election bid.

Eliot Spitzer won the Governorship of New York.

Deval Patrick became the first African-American governor of Massachusetts.

In Ohio, Ken Blackwell, the Secretary of State who stole the 2004 election for Bush by sending too few voting machines into Democratic districts, among many other nefarious ploys, lost his bid to be governor!

We can dance in the streets, beloved.

The Television Plug

Because I was born in 1942, and then we moved to Puerto Rico in 1952, we didn't have TV (first because no one did, then because no one in PR did) until we returned to the States, when I was 11. So, when I was 14 and Forrest was nine and Colleen was four, it was still pretty new to us. Well, not to Colleen, who didn't remember not having it, but to Forry and me.

That year we were living in San Mateo, California while our Dad worked in San Francisco. He had a half hour commute each way, which meant he spent an hour a day just getting to and from work. He would get home, tired and hungry, and the three of us would sit, glued to the set, watching the Mickey Mouse Club. Daddy would say, "Hi, kids" and we would ignore him. Nary a word came out of our mouths. Eyes front, we didn't deign to notice his existance.

He carped. He complained. He nagged. Since he didn't believe in hitting, he never spanked us, but I think he may have been tempted. He acted mean (you are the most ungrateful kids . . ), he acted pathetic (I drive an hour a day just to put food on this table and you can't bother to say hi when I get home), he ranted and raved.

And then one day he came home, said "Hi, kids," waited a couple of minutes to give us a chance to respond, and when we didn't he walked over, unplugged the TV, and cut the plug off. Without a word. He then went into his bedroom to change his clothes.

We ran out to the kitchen and told Mama what had happened. She went into their room and talked to Daddy. When she came back out, she said that when we could get the TV fixed, we could watch it again.

As the oldest, it was my job to figure out how to do this. So, I called a TV repair shop listed in the yellow pages and explained our problem. Fully -- confessing how the plug happened to have been cut off the set. The gentleman I talked to told me that it would cost $.75 (yes, 75 cents) for the part and labor. Just to bring the set in and he would take care of it. I was elated! Saturday was allowance day, and I got $.75 a week, Forry got $.25, while Colleen got nothing. We could afford to do it that coming Saturday. But, when I asked Mama if she could take the set in before she went shopping, she looked at me in amazement. It was up to us to get it fixed. That meant, it was up to us to get it to the shop. But, even if he was a big nine year old, Forrest and I couldn't lift the TV and get it into the car. And I couldn't drive. How could we manage this?

When I called him back, the gentleman said he would gladly come out and do the work, but since he would not be able to do any other work while he drove to and from our house, it would cost $12.50.

We were stunned. $12.50! Do you know how long it takes to save $12.50 when you only have $1.00 a week? That's right. Thirteen weeks. And that's how long my parents didn't watch TV while Forry and I saved to get it repaired. For 13 weeks Mama missed Jack LaLane and her soaps. Daddy missed the Pabst Blue Ribbon Monday Night Fights. They both missed I Love Lucy. Because allowing children to be responsible for their own actions was more important than watching TV. In all that time, neither said a word to us about the TV. Didn't scold us. Didn't remind us we were missing Mickey Mouse Club and Disneyland and Captain Video and Hop Along Cassidy. Didn't tell us we could have avoided this. Didn't complain about not having it available. Not one word.

To this day, if someone comes in when I am watching TV, you can bet I look up and say "hi". Forry, too. And if Colleen were still alive, she would, too.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day 2006

We arose in hope, we retire in delight.

"You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time."
Abraham Lincoln

Election Day

Today's the day. We arise in hope, who knows how we will retire? If we don't take the House and the Senate, then we need to demand that the Dems refuse to concede and contest the results. Too many dirty tricks are already coming to light. The latest, as explained here in How to Stop the GOP'S Deceptive Robocalls from Depressing Election Turnout, on consists of the almost certainly illegal use of Robocalls to depress voter turnout in at least 50 congressional districts.

In Missouri, here in Missouri Elections Chief: My Voting Experience Was "Troubling"..., again on, the chief election official was asked for photo ID at the voting booth, despite the fact that it is not required.

We can expect further chicanery at the polls, as outlined in Tomorrow's Outcome Hinges on Our Vigilance at the Polls by Bob Fitrakis/Harvey Wasserman on Common Dreams.

Read the articles. When you go to the polls, watch what is happening. Report any deception you observe.

Monday, November 06, 2006


There is a strong temptation to list the latest discoveries of malfeasance, to talk about Haggard being outed; to decry Cheney's declaration that he won't respond to a Congressional subpoena should one be issued; to speculate about whether the Hussein verdict was timed to aid the GOP in the midterm elections; to express horror at the discovery that the administration has posted instructions, with graphics and diagrams and in Arabic, on how to build a nuclear bomb on the internet; to remind you that the electronic machines have already been "vote flipping".

However, I don't have to do that. If you are reading this, you know these things already. I don't have a readership of either conservatives or the politically naive. You know what has been happening. You care about it.

So, what I'm going to do instead is say, tomorrow is election day. It is probably the most important election we have ever held, because it could be the last chance we have to rein in Bush and his croney capitalism pals.

Vote. Vote with the clearest mind you have ever taken to the polls. Vote for the good guys. And, if you don't know for sure who the good guys are, take today to find out.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Forry Gets His Own Back

I've told you about how I tormented Forrest. But, you have to know, it was not one sided. First of all, he dared to exist. To knock me off of my oney-oney childhood throne! Probably nothing he ever did afterwards was as reprehensible as that. (Photo -- front row:Forrest, Great-Grandpa Herndon, me; back row: Mama, Grandpa Herndon. 1948)

Forrest and I only went to the same school for one year. I was in sixth grade; he was in first. I was a traffic monitor, and he refused to obey me -- crossing anywhere and time he wanted. With his thumbs in his ears, he would stick out his tongue and call out, "You can't make me!" Well, for a day or two he did that, but teachers had seen and reported and the principal became involved, which didn't slow him down. However, when Daddy became involved, Forrest suddenly became the most cautious of pedestrians, responsive to my every command.

That same year he ran out on the baseball field in the middle of a game and gave the pitcher (on whom I had such a crush) a kiss, telling him it was from me. I wonder now how he lived a day longer. (Photo: Forrest, Colleen, me, 1955. Notice how times are already changing -- Colleen gets to wear pants instead of skirts!)

That was the Christmas that I received a toy walkee talkee that worked over wires. My friend Linda (of the Great El Paso Piss Off) and I strung them from my bedroom to hers. Forrest watched us and then, when we had gone roller skating, took a pair of scissors and cut the wire into lengths of about six inches.

That year there were two television programs on at the same time vying for family viewing: Walt Disney Presents, and General Electric Theater. Because we lived so close to Linda and her parents, we solved this by having her parents come to our house and watch General Electric Theater with my parents and Forrest and me go to her house and watch Disney with her. Forrest used to delight in teasing us when he wasn't interested in the show. Yelling so we couldn't hear, making stupid remarks, pounding away at the keys of her piano, and listening to our conversation so that he could regale his friends with it later on.

I'm sure that the only reason he didn't read our diaries was that he didn't read yet.

Later he would take advantage of his greater size by simply lifting me by the waist and moving me from where I wanted to be to where he wanted me to be.

And you know, just as I can still zing him with the clever line, he can still give me the little brother tease. He remembers anything I ever said, and will come at me with it decades later to prove his point. Last summer, to prove a point in a political discussion, he reminded me of a remark I made about Ted Kennedy in the 70s!

And through it all, we love each other. I know that he would (and has) do anything I needed him to do. I know that it is ok that I am 1500 miles away from our mother, because he is there with his good sense and love to take care of the things she needs. I fostered Colleen's kids for 18 months, he cares for Mama. It is all part of a family that loves each other.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Setting Him Up

I've told you that I am five years older than my brother, Forrest. That isn't so much now that he is 59 and I am 64, but when we were children it was a lot. It meant that I was bigger than he was -- although, it you look at that picture of the two of us in Joy, Forry, & The Big Hunk, not so very much bigger, considering that I was five years older! And it meant that I was more experienced in the world, so smarter in that way than he was. For a long time I was faster and more coordinated than he was.

So far I have confessed to cheating Forrest out of the bigger piece of the Big Hunk and hitting him over the head with a croquet mallet when his seven-year-old skills couldn't win the game against my 12-year-old skills and so he cheated. I also, just about that same time, used to hold him up on the see-saw until he told me how beautiful I was.

We moved to Puerto Rico, when I was nine and he was four, and our mother was pregnant with Colleen. One day while she was taking a nap, I first set him up by telling him the story of Saint Stanislaus, who ran away from his life as a Polish nobleman and became a Jesuit priest against the will of his family. Then, ever so cleverly, I suggested that Forrest might also like to become a saint, packed up some clean underwear, a slice of bread, his favorite doll, and a nickel in a napkin, tied it to a stick, and sent him on his way. Then it began to occur to me what I had done -- sent a four-year-old out with his belongs on a stick in a place where he didn't even know the language. When I couldn't find him, I had to wake my mother up and tell her that "I think Forry ran away" -- but as soon as she saw the napkin, I was busted.

I didn't stay bigger than he was for long. The summer that he was 13 we ran into his teacher while on vacation and she remarked, "Oh! Now I know what Forrest meant when he said his little sister goes to college!" I didn't stay faster and more agile, either. He had longer legs and was involved in sports.

By the time he was 18, he was a very handsome young man, I was the mother of two, and he became Richard's and Julie's ever helpful Uncle Forrest.

But although I am no smarter than he is now, I have the psychological advantage of that life history of out thinking him. So, he finds himself in exchanges like the one on my 50th birthday:
Forrest, "So, how does it feel to have all that gray hair?"
Me, "Sweetie, it is just glorious to have hair."

As Forrest himself remarked, after all these years he still hasn't figured out how to avoid setting himself up.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Joy & Forry & The Big Hunk

Now, Maya will remember, that once upon a time, in the ever so long ago, Granny was a little girl, and her name was Joy. And Great-uncle Forrest was a little boy, and he was called Forry. Now, when Joy was nine and Forry was four, they lived out in the country near Stockton, with their Little Mama and Daddy. Maya knows that now, Granny is as old as old and as wise as wise, but in those days she wasn't as old as old, she was just older than Forry, and she wasn't as wise as wise, she was just a wisenheimer. It so happens, that in those days, because she was still just Joy, and not yet Granny, Joy didn't always use her powers for good. Indeed, sometimes rather than wise, she was just more clever.

So, it happened in those days that Daddy would bring home treats for Joy and Forry to share. The way sharing was done in their family was that one child would divide the treat, and the other child would get to choose which part to have. That way, the idea was, everything would be fair, because if the treat was divided into unequal parts, the other child would choose the bigger piece. That would keep the one who did the dividing honest. And since Joy was five years older than Forry, everyone thought she would be more able to divide a treat into exact halves, and so she was always the one to do the dividing. However, Little Mama and Daddy had figured without Joy's dishonest cleverness.

Now, usually being five years older didn't help with treats, and usually being dishonestly clever did her no good either. However, very often, Daddy brought home as a treat Big Hunk candy bars. When Joy would divide a Big Hunk, she would break it right between the words. Maya may have noticed that Big has three letters, and Hunk has four. So, the piece that said Big was really the little piece. That mattered, because after Joy had divided the candy bar, she would say to Forry "Do you want the big piece or the other one?" Now, if Forry said he wanted the big piece, Joy gave him the one that said Big, but was really smaller. And if he said he wanted the other one, she gave him the smaller one (which said Big) and kept the one that was big, but said Hunk. If Forry complained to Little Mama and Daddy, they told him that as long as Joy divided and he chose, he was getting a fair deal (because they didn't know that she was dividing between the words). So, no matter what Forry said, he always got the same piece, and it was always the little one. And, since he was only four years old, and no one explained it to him, he couldn't figure out how to get the bigger piece and he couldn't figure out how to explain to Little Mama and Daddy what was happening. And although Granny is a little bit ashamed of herself about it now, then she was still only Joy and pretty set up in her own regard about how clever she was.

However, when Joy was 63 and had become Maya's Granny, on Forry's 58th birthday, she gave him a whole bag of mini-Big Hunks to settle her debt and he laughed and said that they were even.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Building A World For Our Grandkids

I always thought that once I became a grandmother I would have the time, money, knowledge, contacts, and skills to help build a better world for my grandchildren. When my own children were young, I was learning how the world worked, broke most of the time, and tied up as a single parent just raising the kids. We all were, even two-parent households. But, all that time I was not just raising my kids. I was gaining experience. I was making a reputation and friends. I was working for some kind of retirement and free time. And I was going to use all of that in the service of my grandchild, and yours. So were you.

And then the world changed. Instead of building a better world, we have been jamming our fingers in the dike trying to hold off the flood, trying to hold on to existing freedoms. Instead of making the world a better place for Maya, I have all I can do to try to slow its descent into a much worse place. I see what is happening to our country and the world, and I fear for Maya and for all of her generation.

I was visiting Ronnie at Time Goes By and found myself, yet again, agreeing with her so very much.
So I urge you grandmothers - and grandfathers too -– to think carefully, when you vote on 7 November, about the future you want for your grandchildren. Do you think any of your incumbents -– Democratic or Republican -– care about the next generations? Have they done anything while in office to ensure a better place for your grandchildren?

Elders vote in much larger numbers than any other age group. We can make those votes count even more by voting first, against those in Congress who can't see beyond their next free vacation trip from a lobbyist (which is all of them) and second, for new candidates who will then be on notice that if they don't work in the next two years with the common good in mind, we can vote them out too.

We need to pay attention to how candidates have voted on family issues. On family leave, on education, on clean air and water, on keeping jobs in the country, on the minimum wage. Yes, we do need to take control of Congress away from the GOP, but there are many candidates running for other offices and we need to ignore their party affiliation and look at their record on children's issues. We need to make this an election that begins to focus on our future, our grandchildren.

For those of us who are grandparents or of an age to be grandparents, we are never likely to have much more influence, moxy, money, or spare time than we do now. We need to invest it wisely. Prove that we have earned the white hair and shining domes that mark us from the rest of the herd as the wise ones, the ones to turn to when answers are needed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Getting Around the Rules

We all grew up with rules. Some of them, look both ways before crossing, made sense and I still obey them. Some of them, chew each bite of your food 32 times, didn't make sense (that one was based on the notion that since you have 32 teeth, you should chew once for each tooth and was originally invented by Horace Fletcher as a means of losing weight, the idea being that you would absorb nutrients while chewing and then spit out the rest; like so many things, this evolved into something not intended, in this case chewing 32 times before swallowing). I never managed to do it; I hadn't the patience to not swallow much sooner than that.

I spent a good deal of my childhood figuring out ways around these rules. The first one that I remember out-thinking was not being allowed to count on my fingers when I was adding in school. But, it was easier if I counted on my fingers! And, indeed, now children are given objects to count so that they will understand the concept. Since I was forbidden to use my fingers, I used my tongue to count on my teeth. If I ran out of teeth, I could flex the toes in my shoes. And, by the time we got above the number of teeth and toes I had, I no longer needed to "cheat".

Another rule that I circumvented was reading after bedtime. It was hardly fair of my parents to make a rule like that, because if you will remember, when we lived in the trailer I would hear them reading aloud to each other as I fell asleep and so having a story for as long as I was awake had become part of my bedtime routine. When I was older and had a real bedroom with a real door, my parents could see under the door if I had the light on, so I got a flashlight and read under the covers. It wasn't long before my mother found the flashlight hidden under my pillow, which she has explained since that she would have ignored if it hadn't been so hard to get me out of bed in the morning. However, it was so she took it away from me and I knew that she would just find another. However, in much the spirit of counting on my teeth, I found a way around it. I had a large, cabinet radio with the huge vacuum tubes that such things contained. If I turned it around to face the wall, turned it on with the volume at zero, and tented the spread over my head and the radio, I could read by that light just fine.

And we already know that when Daddy took my library card away from me for getting home late, I got (and hid) a replacement by claiming I had lost it and paying a quarter. And that when my high school counselor wouldn't agree to let me take German and Latin at the same time, I got her signature by coming back when she was in a hurry to go home for the weekend and offering to drop French.

November Rabbit

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.
May your month be full of luck and fun and love.