Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Signposts to Sanity

An occasional feature where your lovin' Granny points you at somebody else's really good stuff and where the twisty path behind this signposts signals that it is about politics.

Over at Anything They Say,
Iraq Oil, The Long Game THBCH talks about the Iraq Oil Law.
The Long Game

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
-- Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler,
War is a Racket

If it has not already done so [Ed. to date, it has not], the Iraqi parliament is expected to pass a new National Oil Law. This is probably not something many Americans have heard much about and generally most US media outlets have portrayed the law as a good and necessary thing. The law appears designed to reinvigorate the dilapidated oil industry in a country with vast oil wealth but which has been punished by wars and sanctions for decades. I say "appears" because, while the law is designed to spur Iraq's oil production, there are also other purposes for which it is designed: enrich western oil companies to new and lofty heights and, more importantly, to secure Middle Eastern oil deposits for American interests and against those of competing world powers. Twenty years of "realist" foreign policy, which has overseen the deaths of millions, along with the current mayhem, has finally culminated in Western interests citing those very policies as the rationale for taking control of Iraqi oil fields for the first time since 1972. This is what is known as "the long game."
To understand the magnitude of potential profits, it is important to know that only 17 of 80 potential oil fields in Iraq have ever been touched and it is estimated that pumping light sweet crude out of Iraq's oil fields could cost as little as one dollar per barrel. Up to 3 million barrels per day are the expected output and, at $50/bbl, this amounts to a profit potential of $100 million per day for participating oil companies.
If the shifting sands of justification demonstrated one thing it was that none of the reasons proffered bore any resemblance to the actual reasons for the invasion of Iraq. While many people raised the issue of oil both before and after the invasion, administration officials insisted and continue to insist that the industrialized world's most important resource was of no interest to this White House, a White House piled high with former oil industry executives. Though Colin Powell explicitly said that, "we did not do it for oil," the new Oil Law casts a very long, very dark shadow across those words.

Despite the common refrain that errors in "intelligence" resulted in the invasion of Iraq, the invasion was not a mistake. Mistake implies some level of accident or inadvertence, something that might have been avoided if only other things were known. But it obvious now that the invasion of Iraq was an orchestrated, deliberate action and merely the last of many policy prescriptions that have been exacted upon that country for the last twenty five years.
On Barbara's Blog, Barbara Ehrenreich looks into obtaining insurance for her three year old niece (who is not poor and who has insurance) to compare the health care/insurance being provided to America's poor children to the insured health care being provided to America's rich pets. In Children Deserve Veternary Care, Too
This year, Americans will spend about $9.8 billion on health care for their pets, up from $7.2 billion five years ago. According to the New York Times, New York’s leading pet hospitals offer CT scans, MRI’s, dialysis units, and even a rehab clinic featuring an underwater treadmill, perhaps for the amphibians in one’s household. A professor who consults to pet health facilities on communication issues justified these huge investments in pet health to me by pointing out that pets are, after all, “part of the family.”

Well, there’s another category that might reasonably be considered “part of the family.” True, they are not the ideal companions for the busy young professional: It can take two to three years to housebreak them; their standards of personal hygiene are lamentably low, at least compared to cats; and large numbers of them cannot learn to “sit” without the aid of Ritalin.

I’m talking about children, of course, and while I can understand why many people would not one of these hairless and often incontinent bipeds in their homes, it is important to point out that they can provide considerable gratification.
So I went to the website of VPI Pet Insurance, one of the nation’s largest animal companion health insurers, to see what kind of a policy I could get for her.
When I completed the form and clicked to get a quote I was amazed to see that I get her a “premium” policy for a mere $33 a month.
It may seem callous to focus on children when so many pets go uninsured and without access to CT-scans or underwater treadmills. But in many ways, children stack up well compared to common pets. They can shed real tears, like Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs. They can talk as well as many of the larger birds, or at least mimic human speech. And if you invest enough time in their care and feeding, they will jump all over you when you arrive at the door, yipping and covering your face with drool.

The Senate Finance Committee has approved a bill that would expand state health insurance cover for children (S-CHIP) to include 3.2 million kids who are not now covered (but leaving about 6 million still uncovered.) Bush has promised to veto this bill, on the grounds that government should not be involved in health coverage. If he does veto the bill, the fallback demand should be: Open up pet health insurance to all American children now! Though even as I say this, I worry that the president will counter by proposing to extend euthanasia services to children who happen to fall ill.
With the latest information coming out about Pat Tillman, at Brilliant At Breakfast, Jill has posted Was Pat Tillman the victim of a deliberate hit?.
We know that Tillman believed the war in Iraq was "f***ing illegal" and we also know that he was a devot´ of the writings of Noam Chomsky. It only took three years for the rest of America to catch up with what Tillman knew when he was killed in 2004.

But as horrific as the details of Tillman's death have been up to now, it appears that his death bears all the earmarks of a deliberate murder -- dare I say it? A hit on a soldier deemed insufficiently loyal to "the Family":

Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The doctors - whose names were blacked out - said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.
Among other information contained in the documents:

_ In his last words moments before he was killed, Tillman snapped at a panicky comrade under fire to shut up and stop "sniveling."

_ Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.

_ The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman's death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn't recall details of his actions.

_ No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene - no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.
With questions lingering about how high in the Bush administration the deception reached, Congress is preparing for yet another hearing next week.

Now why should the truth about what happened to Pat Tillman fall under "executive privilege"? Unless said privileged executive decided that a high-profile soldier opposed to his Iraq policy was just too risky to keep around?
I was sent by Short Woman to Hot Air and A Pilot On Airline Security an e-mail from Dave Mackett, President, Airline Pilots Security Alliance, www.secure-skies.org is printed in total. This is a very sobering post, where Mackett says, among other things,
What is TSA’s fault is their abject failure to embrace more robust approaches than high visibility inspections, and their accommodations to the Air Transport Association’s revenue interests at the expense of true security, while largely ignoring the recommendations of the front-line airline crews and air marshals who have no direct revenue agenda and are much more familiar with airline operations than are the bureaucrats (remember government ignoring the front-line FBI agents who tried to warn them about 9/11?). Deplorable amounts of money have been wasted on incomprehensible security strategies, while KISS [Keep It Simple, Stupid] methods proven to work have been ignored.
It has taken six years, but TSA is now finally flirting with behavioral assessment training for screeners and random (but not mandatory) ground employee inspections. The airlines complain screening all ground employees would significantly hinder airline operations. They’re right — it would.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Missy Takes The Cheese

Missy and her dear friend, Abe. Do click and enlarge.
I wrote this for Maya when she was about five and Missy was still alive. How different little, four and a half pound Missy was from these ten and twelve pound Hooligans who live with me now. They would do this with almost anything I eat.

Now, Maya knows that Granny lives in a little apartment in Juneau, Alaska, with Missy. And Missy is a very sweet little grey cat, who is polite and loving and usually well behaved. Once upon a time, Missy had the best manners in the world. She knew that cat food was for her and people food was for Granny and she seldom asked for people food. Oh, when Granny opened a can of tuna, Missy would meow politely and Granny would drain the juice into a bowl for her. And when Granny ate ice cream, Missy would wait patiently and Granny would let her lick the bowl. And when Granny ate chicken, Missy would wait patiently and Granny would give her a bite or two — particularly, if it was Kentucky Fried Chicken, Granny would feed her some of the skin. But, Missy was always polite about it and waited patiently.

Then, one day Granny was in Carr's hunting for food and what did she find, but Limburger cheese. Now, Granny loves Limburger cheese and she hadn't had any in a long time, so she made sure she had the ripest one in the cheese case and scooped it right up and put it in her cart. When she got home she put it in a jar, because Limburger cheese has a very strong smell (or, as Maya would say, it stinks). And if she just put it in the refrigerator like it was, all the food in the refrigerator would smell of Limburger cheese. And whereas that is a good smell for cheese, it isn't very appetizing for strawberries. And she kept the jar in the refrigerator.

A couple of days later, Granny decided to eat some of that wonderful Limburger cheese so she got the jar out and put it on the counter so that the cheese would warm up — because all cheese tastes better warm than cold but particularly Limburger. And about an hour later Granny took the bread knife and a table knife and a plate and the sourdough bread and the jar of cheese to the table. She sliced herself a slice of sourdough. Then she opened the jar.

Whang! There was Missy, on the table! "Meow, meow, meow-ow-ow!!!!!" exclaimed Missy, which in cat means "Out of the way, where's mine?" Granny was astonished. Missy was putting her little nose right on the package of cheese! What made Granny's Little Mama and Maya's Mama and Uncle Richard turn pale (the smell of Limburger) made Missy totally lose all idea of what manners were. She smelled it — to a cat, just like to Granny and Granny's Papa, it smelled like heaven. She wanted it.

Granny picked Missy up and put her on the floor. Missy jumped right back up. Granny put her down. Missy jumped right back up. Granny put her down. Missy jumped right back up. Granny put a little Limburger in Missy's dish, and Missy stayed in the kitchen to eat it. Granny went back to the table and spread some Limburger on her sourdough. Suddenly, there was Missy again! "Meow, meow, meow-ow-ow" she cried pitifully. Granny put her on the floor and picked up her bread and Limburger to take a bite and Missy jumped back on the table and took a bite of Granny's bread and Limburger! Right there, while Granny was biting into it. Well, Granny was convinced after that. She understood that Missy loves Limburger cheese. She understood that there was only one way Granny was going to be able to eat it. So, now when Granny has Limburger cheese, she brings a saucer for Missy to the table, and she makes sure that Missy has some for as long as Granny is eating it. Because, Granny understands that Missy can't resist Limburger cheese. And Granny says, "If you can't change it, learn to live with it."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Firehouses In Southeast Alaska

I have a friend named Linda, who I have known since I was 12 and living in El Paso. I have mentioned her in a number of posts: The Great El Paso Piss Off of 1955, Natural Beauty, In A Nutshell 32, A Particularly Dangerous Thing I Did As A Kid, Forry Gets His Own Back, The Nesting Box, and Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit

Anyway, she lives in Fairbanks with her husband, a retired Fairbanks Fire Department Battalion Chief named Bobby, and until a few years ago, their dog, Alex.

In 1995 I did a tour of small communities in Southeast Alaska, making sure that child care providers and foster parents had the training necessary for their licenses. I did a lot of the training, and also brought tapes with quizzes they could use after I left.* About half way through the tour, I was in Skagway and shot this picture of their original fire house. When I went to visit Linda, Bobby, and Alex that summer I showed it to Bobby, who I hadn't realized previously is interested in historical Alaskan fire houses. I took pictures during the last two stops on my tour and sent them to him.

And so, when I went to Sitka, I got this shot. This fire house is still in use. On the other side of the garage, is the police department -- not an unusual combination in Alaska. Actually, Bobby worked in a combined police and fire department in Fairbanks, and Fairbanks is the second largest city in the state. Fairbanks Department of Safety always has a Police Chief as head. Which isn't as odd as the city of Escalon, in California, where City Hall houses the police and fire departments as well as the City Council offices, etc. and the City Manager is the head of the entire shebang.***

These last two photos are from Haines. This is the old Port Chilkoot Volunteer Fire Department. Fire hoses are dried up here by hanging in a drying tower, and if you click on the photo and enlarge it, you can see that it has a small one. Of course, with a one truck garage, it probably didn't need anything larger. I don't think anyone slept there, the fort itself was very small, one circle of about 40 buildings, all facing inward. The volunteers could run across the commons pretty rapidly.

In many places, the towers attached to fire houses are bell towers. Apparently that hasn't ever been the case here. The Skagway drying tower is the tallest, although I don't know why.

Again in Haines, the Police Department is attached to the Fire Department.

* These days the visiting trainer and tapes have been augmented by on-line training. How fast things have changed; the Internet was so new when I did this tour that it wasn't being used for long-distance training, and now that is a major component of professional development in our smaller communities.**

** Smaller communities, that's all of them except Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. And Fairbanks and Juneau are only large by Alaskan standards.

*** And I know all of this because when I had my own training firm in Stockton, I had a contract to train all of the clerical and supervisory staff in the smaller San Joaquin County communities, and so I've spent a few pleasant hours drinking coffee with the Escalon City Manager and assessing the needs of his people.

All of the pictures here were taken with a disposable camera, which is why there is so much street in them. And the only thing I know how to do about scanning pictures in is scanning them in, so I'm not yet up to trimming it out.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Signposts to Sanity

An occasional feature where your ever lovin' Granny points you to other people's really good stuff. And, as you can tell from our fat little signpost, today we are dealing with weight.

I wasn't going to say any more about this study, having posted If You Can Catch It, giving a light hearted take at the nonsense involved (because when I tried to address it seriously I couldn't keep my language decent and Maya reads this blog on occasion and has excellent reading skills), and linking you to Shark-fu's equally light hearted take on it. However, like Sandy Szwarc, below, I find that this study is turning up everywhere. The fact that it should be laughed out the door doesn't seem to be occurring to anyone who isn't a fat-activist. I'm finding that the more I think about it, the hotter I get. I don't like being the target of bias, and the fact that for so many years I bought into it myself just makes it that much worse. It isn't enough that I'm fat, unhealthy, gluttonous, slothful, and a bad person, now I'm also responsible for both a collapsing health-care system and the weight gain of my friends. If I bought into this stuff (or as much of it as was around at the time) when I was younger, how are fat children going to react? Are they going to be shunned even more than they are today? Will they stop getting invitations to birthday parties because their little friends and the parents of their little friends don't want fat being spread to them? Will their parents, in the hope of helping them to have a social life, be even more driven to put them on the diets that science says will eventually make them fatter? Too much. So, I am linking you here to three recent posts which really examine it in depth.

Kate at Shapely Prose has looked at it in two posts. The first, Fat Is Contagious
2) Obesity, according to this study, is more socially transmissible from one man to another than one woman to another.

Does this jibe with other research that suggests women are much more invested in social networks, more communicative with their friends about personal issues and, not for nuthin’, more susceptible to mirroring their friends’ eating behaviors when they do eat together?

4) As I understand it, spouses did not “affect” each other as strongly as even geographically distant friends.

This goes back to point 1. Are we really meant to believe that people in one of the most intimate possible relationships, who communicate daily, eat together, and share umpteen “lifestyle” factors, are less likely to “transmit” obesity to one another than friends who live on opposite coasts? What is it that makes you fat, then? If we believe it’s diet and exercise, how is it conceivable that people who live together do not affect each other’s diet and exercise habits as strongly as pals who rarely see each other? And regardless of what they’re claiming the direct cause of obesity is here, do we really believe that people are more susceptible to the opinions of distant friends than their own spouses?


So the whole premise that justified this review of another study’s data — that we, as a country, are SO MUCH FATTER than we used to be — is basically horseshit. There’s that.

Finally, it sounds like what they’re really afraid of is people telling their friends it’s okay not to diet. If that’s what’s actually happening here? I hope it becomes a goddamned epidemic.

The second post of Kate's I want to direct you to is Warning: If You Read This, You Might Get Fat
Now, I do stand by what I wrote, which was that we don’t know how to make a naturally thin person fat. I was thinking specifically of the prisoner study, where a bunch of men ate ridiculous amounts of food and stopped exercising in order to deliberately gain weight, but the weight gain didn’t last; as soon as they went back to eating normally, they went back to right around their original weights.
What that study does point to is the existence of a stubborn natural weight range in every individual. Anyone who’s dieted and gained it back (i.e., pretty much everyone more than 5 years out from the last diet) will recognize an incredibly familiar pattern in the prisoner study — it’s the reverse of what we’ve lived out, but the elements are all the same. They tried to push their bodies beyond their natural weight ranges, and their bodies resisted mightily. Their metabolisms changed to account for the changes in diet and exercise and try to force them back into their natural weight ranges. And as soon as they stopped the unnatural diet, their bodies returned to what was normal for them.

That’s exactly what happens to dieters.

But because it’s a weight range we’re talking about, and because dieting is akin to starvation as far as the body’s concerned, when dieters go back to normal, they often end up fatter than they were — presumably at the top of their natural weight ranges. Dieting, as a rule, not only doesn’t make you permanently thin — it makes you fatter.

Now back to the important point here: this fact that I overlooked offers one simple, plausible explanation for the “fat is contagious” findings: friends recommend diets to each other. And diets ultimately make people fatter. And if those people started out at the top of the “overweight” BMI category, dieting could very easily have pushed them into the “obese” one.

It’s unlikely that that fully explains the correlation they found — but frankly, it’s a much more plausible theory than the one that has fat people calling each other up and saying, “Hey, you know what? I overeat and never exercise, and I feel great! You should try it!”

Sandy Szwarc, at Junkfood Science has also addressed this "study" in her post Oh, What A Tangled Web We Weave.
I wasn’t even going to write on this “study” because it elicited nothing more than thinly veiled hate speech and was such junk science I was certain no one would take it seriously.

I was wrong.

Within hours of the press releases, a massive, well-orchestrated marketing campaign was off and running. By dinnertime yesterday, Google noted 300 nearly identical articles had been published about it and there were 500 by this morning. Television and radio reporters have been gushing over it, with MSNBC reporting that having a fat friend can make you fat and be downright dangerous for your health.

Let’s not beat around the bush. The key message of this study was to justify and promote the social shunning and discrimination of fat people.

Not one health or medical writer, even at the most prestigious consumer or medical publications, has critically reported on this study or even appears to have read it. Not one has made a critical examination and pointed out its unorthodox methods, its findings that conflict with known science and known biological mechanisms, or the flawed and contradictory findings within the study itself. Not one.

We are to believe, it seems, the media images that we’ve all gained gargantuan amounts of weight, rather than the average 7 - 10 pounds actually evidenced over recent decades among our increasingly diverse population, as reported by Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at Rockefeller University in New York.

Medical writers at publications such as MedPageToday were equally credulous, giving physicians the action point: “Explain to patients who ask that this observational study found that the likelihood of a person becoming obese is heavily influenced by obesity in their friends, siblings, and spouse.”
No need to go on, as you’ve heard all of this, too. But what you haven’t heard was that this paper wasn’t actually a study, researching people using recognized, proven sound medical research methodology.
They made no efforts to give any physiological explanations for these implausible findings or how long-distance relationships might be more associated with obesity than genetics. Nor, did they have any data on the closeness of the friendships or how often people were in contact with their supposedly fattening friends

Forgetting that their study was a data dredge looking for correlations, which is unable to ever demonstrate causation,

This study illustrates the difference between politics and good science. The reporting and responses from media and medical professionals have illustrated the difference between prejudice versus knowledge, understanding and compassion. There is absolutely no credible science to support stigma against any group. You cannot “catch” fat from associating with a fat person anymore than you can catch “black” from a black person.

What the science knows about obesity “should be sufficient to end the opprobrium of the obese,” said Dr. Friedman. “To end the stigma of obesity, the scientific community must communicate more effectively a growing body of compelling evidence indicating that morbid obesity is the result of differences in biology and not a personal choice.”

The public trusts medical and journalism professionals to give them reliable information to help them. Over the past 24 hours, that trust has proven to be undeserved.

Since Kate and Sandy have said this so well, I hope I won't feel driven to say any more about it myself. I do have to say, though, that this study reminds me of nothing so much as The Bell Curve.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Why I Could Never Live In Wrangell

So, check out Wrangell if you wish. As of the census of 2000, there were 2,308 people and 907 households in the "city". When I visited in 1995 I was charmed by it. Until I saw this.

Do click and enlarge this picture. Then, notice the scale of the Wrangell Book Store to the Wrangell Auto Parts store. And realize that the blue building also holds art objects and supplies.

What more do I need to say? I have more books on my humor book case than are contained in that entire "store".

Other than that, you can find one rack of mysteries in the grocery, one rack of science fiction in the pharmacy, and one rack of general fiction in the Ben Franklin. There is a fourth book rack, I don't remember what store it was in, but it held cowboy and romance novels.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Alaska Hits The Trifecta

Alaska has exactly three people in Congress. Senator Ted Stevens, the senior Republican in the Senate. Representative Don Young, also a Republican, our one and only representative, because of our small population. And Senator Lisa Murkowski, again, a Republican, the daughter of our prior senator, Frank Murkowski, who became governor and appointed his daughter to take his place. Oh, that's ok, he appointed his other daughter's husband to high office in Alaska, so you can't say he played favorites. Since congress people get a lifetime pension even if they only served part of a term, here in Juneau we figured Ol' Frank was just taking care of Lisa's old age, like a good daddy should.

You may have heard that the FBI is investigating Ol' Ted for accepting a bribe from an oil company. He may be in a wee bit of trouble. And then, recently, we heard that Ol' Don is being investigated for taking bribes. And, just today, the word is out that L'il Lisa is also under investigation. How about that. I'll bet we are the only state in the union that currently has its entire congressional delegation under investigation for accepting bribes. What a distinction.

Ain't that just peachy keen? And isn't it interesting that they are all Republicans? Do you suppose that Lisa learned it from Frank? I mean, we kicked him out as governor after one term -- once he wasn't the entire continent away and we could see how he acted, out he went.

If You Can Catch It. . .

By now you probably have all heard of the newest study that shows that fat is contagious? That if your friends gain weight, you gain some too -- not as much, but some?

When I read this, the first thing that occurred to me was, "Well, now I'll see who my real friends are. Anybody who stays my friend after this is really my true friend." I mean, would I have the courage to stick with someone who could give me the 21st century equivalent of leprosy? If I had known that the way to be comparatively slender was to avoid fat people, would I have been friends with some of the people I know and love? Hell, would I even hang out with myself, had I only known?

Which led to fantasies of masses of fatties, walking the highways with bells to warn the thin that they should not approach. Having to beg because no one would allow us to get close enough to the thin people to work.

But, Shark-fu, at Angry Black Bitch had an entirely different take on it. In Upon Discovery of Skinny Ass Robustus, she states
Well, that changes everything about my approach to the size of my ass. Out with the “sometimes foods” and in with manipulating frightfully thin people into friendship so this bitch can catch a good case of Skinny Ass Robustus!
Happy, happy, happy…and joy times three!

Okay, so I need to locate frightfully thin people for my party. But wait! Some of my friends are frightfully thin. If thin is a virus…and you catch it from friends who are infected with thin…then why the hell is a bitch not frightfully thin?

Oh, I get it. I must not have been properly exposed to Skinny Ass Robustus!

Mayhap I should throw a Skinny Ass Robustus party the way parents throw a Chicken Pox party?

In A Nutshell

OK, you know what we're doing here. And today, we are down to

65. This is the profession that I often mentioned when people asked me what I was going to be when I grew up:

I wanted to be a number of things when I was younger, even at one point, a priest.* In junior high, it was an astronaut. That was out. Somewhere in there was the lighthouse keeper** and the reporter*** and the famous author.

But, since they don't have a college major called famous author, I decided to be an archaeologist. Had I known at the time about Indiana Jones, that would have added a definite level of spice to it. From my freshman year of high school, I read piles of books about lost cities and expeditions into the deepest jungles.**** It was only after I quit college in the end of my sophomore year and then returned with two small children that I gave up that dream.

* Now there's a hoot for you. However, at the ripe age of six I didn't know that I was going to wander away from religion, and that girls didn't get to be priests. Of course, when I was growing up, I mostly wanted to be things that girls didn't get to be. The fact that we weren't Catholic didn't even deter me. And something of it must have held on there somewhere, because I took Latin and always said it was so I could talk to God. Then the Church (that I didn't belong to) gave up Latin and started doing Mass in the vernacular, and it was all for naught! Who knew that God spoke the vernacular? However, I really liked Latin, where I met Jack Hairston's brother Tom.

** The thought of anyone as gregarious as I am in such a solitary profession beggars the imagination! I would have died of loneliness or gone stark staring bonkers. There is an Eric Frank Russell science fiction story called "Tie Line" about an interstellar lighthouse keeper, who is the only human being on a small island on a water planet. And how the lighthouse service keeps dropping him things that are supposed to keep him sane -- records of city traffic, but since he is from a small island city sounds don't seem like home to him. Then they get the idea that it needs to be something alive, and since the island is so small a dog or cat won't do so they drop him a preying mantis, but that creeps him out. And then one morning, he wakes to the sound of sea gulls. Read that in 1956, remember it still. Love it. But, I do know it would have taken more than sea gulls to keep me sane in the much less solitary conditions of Earthly lighthouses. And, now, they aren't even used any longer.

*** That would have been a good choice. I could talk to people, find out things, and write. I'd like that a lot. I loved being on the college paper.

**** As a matter of fact, it was because of reading those books about archaeology that I met Kate, who was also reading them from the same library.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My Candidate

So, I keep visiting other people and copying the good YouTubes they have found. Because it is important that as many people as possible see good stuff. I found this at Anything They Say. . ., and you should read the entire post, A Brief and Shining Message , by theBhc.

I supported Dennis Kucinch last election; I support him this election. It saddens me greatly that the likelihood of his getting the nomination is nonexistent. However, he is the most honest man in Washington and has no fear of speaking truth to power. The likelihood of a man who the press has decided to relegate to the sidelines and who spent parts of his childhood sleeping in the family car, with the rest of the family, ever becoming president is extremely low. But, if this were the country we were told it is, where anyone could grow up to be president, this is the man who would do it.

Sadly, they meant that a man with poverty of brains and grit could do it, but a man from a poor background could not.

Signposts to Sanity

An occasional feature where your lovin' Granny directs you to other people's really good stuff.

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast, He Gassed His Own People is a must read. as she talks about the 120,000 formaldehyde infected trailers that were set up by FEMA for Hurricane Katrina victims.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) said FEMA obstructed the 10-month committee investigation and "mischaracterized the scope and purpose" of the agency's actions.

"FEMA's reaction to the problem was deliberately stunted to bolster the agency's litigation position," Davis said. The documents "make it appear FEMA's primary concerns were legal liability and public relations, not human health and safety."

About 60,000 households affected by Katrina remain in trailers.
On Alternet is an excellent column, Five Ways Bush's Era of Repression Has Stolen Your Liberties Since 9/11 by Matthew Rothschild. He discusses the actions that the current administration has curtailed liberty under the guise of security.
What the Bush administration did after 9/11 was not to engage in precise police work to find any would-be terrorists in our midst. Instead, it issued edicts and enacted laws that curtailed all of our freedoms. And it cast a gigantic dragnet over Arabs and Muslims in this country, treating many of them with a de facto presumption of guilt. To put those experiences in context we need to examine how the Bush administration constructed the edifice of repression.

It got the job done, in part, by blasting those who dared to dissent. When the president's former press secretary Ari Fleischer told people they should "watch what they say" after comedian Bill Maher on ABC's Politically Incorrect dared to question the label of "cowards" that Bush had slapped on the suicide bombers, it sent a message. As did the canceling of Maher's show. As did Bush's repeated assertion that "you're either with us or against us."
The entire article is a very sobering read.

Also on Alternet is Alberto Gonzales' Pants Are On Fire, an examination of our fearless Attorney General's propensity for lying with a straight face.
If Gonzales' testimony is accurate today, then he is confirming the existence of a new administration spying program.

SPECTER: Let me move quickly through a series of questions there's a lot to cover. Starting with the issue Mr. Comey raises, you said "there has not been any disagreement about the program." Mr. Comey's testimony was that "Mrs. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there to seek approval" and he then says "I was very upset, I was angry, I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man."

GONZALES: The disagreement that occurred was about other intelligence activities and the reason for the visit to the hospital was about other intelligence activities. It was not about the terrorist surveillance program that the president announced to the American people.

SPECTER: Mr. Attorney General, do you expect us to believe that?
At nobody asked. . . , in the post Patriotic Opposition. Winston quotes in total a concise letter to the editor of The Tennessean, about which Winston remarks,
What a great couple of concepts! (1) Spend on real security here at home to replace the joke and hassle that beefed up border patrols have become. So far these efforts have created problems primarily for law abiding U.S., Canadian, and Mexican citizens — families on vacation and people engaged in legitimate business. (2) And why didn’t somebody think of this before? Attack the enemy where he is. Wow! Quick, somebody tell the generals at the Pentagon…
The letter, by Steve Entman of Nashville, is well worth reading in its entirety.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I saw this at Brilliant at Breakfast and had to run it too, for all of my readers who don't visit Jill. Although, I am here to tell you that you absolutely should. I mean, I can't continue to copy her for you, after all.

I think he should make it his campaign theme song. Every time it was played, people would remember this! Genius, absolute genius.

Peanut Butter Soup

Kay Dennison asked for the recipe, and so here it is. This recipe comes from West Africa, where it is made with yams and sometimes as a stew.

Olive oil, to barely cover bottom of soup pot
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 - 2 cups cubed red potatoes, depending on how thick you like your soup
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 leek, sliced (white part only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1/3 to 1/2 cup peanut butter - the recipe usually calls for smooth, but I like Super Chunk
1/2 tsp curry powder
2 to 3 tsp lemon juice
1 to 2 dashes hot pepper sauce - I use 4, but I think it isn't hot enough if your ear drums don't burn and your eyes tear
Salt, cayenne and black pepper, to taste
Thinly sliced green onion, as garnish

Sauté garlic in oil over medium heat, 5 minutes, remove and sauté onion and leek, over high heat, an additional 5 minutes*. Add broth, carrot, celery, garlic, and potatoes and heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Process soup in food processor or blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan; stir
in peanut butter and curry powder. Stir until peanut butter is evenly blended.

Heat over medium heat until hot. Season to taste with lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, salt, cayenne, and black pepper.

Pour soup into bowls; sprinkle with green onion.

Some people substitute sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin, or white beans for the red potatoes. I once tried Yukon gold - not a good idea. I have seen recipes that call for a can of diced tomatoes or cream. One time I took refrigerator biscuits and wrapped them around hot pepper jelly and added them, so that it was peanut butter soup with jelly dumplings. This would also be a good idea with chutney.

* Many recipes call for you to sauté garlic and onions together, but they require different temperatures for the best taste.

If you would rather have a stew, add a cup of cubed chicken or pork and run only the potatoes and broth through the blender.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Peanut Butter Soup

One of the books that the Elves', Gnomes', Leprechauns', & Little Men's Chowder and Marching Society members really loved was John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row", set in Monterey, California in the early 40s. Characters in the book were based on people who Steinbeck had known when he was spending time there. The main character, Doc, based on his friend Ed Rickets, was a personal favorite of ours. And Doc, a marine biologist, liked beer. One of the other characters commented to him once that he liked beer so much that no doubt he would drink a beer milkshake.

No matter how Doc tried to get this bizarre idea out of his head, it wouldn't leave. Finally, one day when he was out of town (he somehow couldn't do this where he was known), he drove into a drive-in and ordered a beer milkshake.

Years after I read this I was living in Cupertino and I used to go to this little restaurant for lunch a lot. I generally ordered their soup and salad special, except for on Thursdays. On Thursdays the soup was peanut butter, and that was just too odd for me.

Except that, every time I would see that sign, "Soup - Peanut Butter" I would wonder why on earth anyone would try such a thing and shudder at the thought. And wonder what it would taste like.

I couldn't get it out of my mind. Like a beer milkshake, it haunted me. I would wake up on Thursday and wonder what I would have for lunch that day, since I wasn't having the soup special. Until, finally, one day I ordered it. Oh. My. Soooooo good. Peanuts. Chili. Smooth and yummy.*

When I told friends about it, I would say, "it was my beer milk shake" and they would not understand at all. They would look at me like I was crazy and begin to wonder if I weren't a secret drinker.

About eight years later, Michael, an old EGL&LMCMS friend from high school, came to visit and I fixed peanut butter soup and he raved about it and so I told him about trying it and as I was telling him about it preying on my mind, he said, "Right. A beer milk shake."

Ah, to be understood.

* The next Thursday I was so excited, all set for another bowl. But when lunch came, the sign read, "Soup - Split Pea". "What," I asked, "happened?" And it turned out that I was one of the few people who tried the soup, so they discontinued it. I had to find a recipe and learn to make it myself. And a very good job I do of it, too. The recipe calls for smooth peanut butter, but I find that extra chunk is much better. And I can add extra chili powder. Heaven. It tastes like Heaven.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Blood Pressure Medicine II

So, I'm sitting at my computer at 11 p.m., with the window open and the neighborhood quiet and peaceful. There is a light, comfortable breeze and a man walking his dog past my place. I click over to Joy of Six and read
When I die, I want to die like my grandfather - who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car." ~Author Unknown
I laugh out loud and the dog walker looks up and asks if I mind sharing the joke. So I do, and now he is walking down the hill chuckling.

Moaning Meme

Julie at Thinking About tagged me for this meme, one for complaining a bit. Nice idea, huh?

5 people who will be annoyed you tagged them.

• Gawilli at Back in The Day
• Naomi at Little Red Hen
• Kate at Hugging Aspens
• Ginnie at Goldendaze Ginnie
• Joy at Joy of Six

4 things that should go into room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth.

• George W. Bush
• Dick Cheney
• Saying cruel things to people because "they need to know"
• Crony capitalism

3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently.

• Mistreat children in any way.
• Believe that they earned all of their good fortune and people without their advantages are lazy.
• People who have been insulated from problems by their race and/or social class, giving out prescriptions for social ills that attribute them to individuals and start with "all you have to do to solve this problem is. . ." (Like "Just say no")

2 things you find yourself moaning about.

• How long it is taking me to recover from the combination of unrelated surgery and injury that knocked me for a loop these last couple of years.
• The destructive path of the Cheney/Bush administration, which seems bound to send our Constitution down the shredder and turn the republic created by our founders into the Evil Empire.

1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself.

• Although there are a lot of things I don't know, I'm confident I sure as hell know more than the idiots running the asylum.

• Link to the original meme at freelancecynic.com so people know what it’s all about!
• Be as honest as possible. This is about letting people get to know the real you!
• Try not to insult anyone - unless they really deserve it or are very, very ugly!
• Post these rules at the end of every meme

Saturday, July 21, 2007


So, why can't people get along this well? If a tomcat can adopt a guinea pig, why can't the GOP get along with the Dems? It seems to me that it should be possible. And I also know that part of what makes this work is that the cat doesn't think of the guinea pig as prey. The cat was most likely raised with some kind of rodent in order to not consider them dinner. So, maybe we should see about getting baby democrats and republicans together for play dates?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Preventing Youth Violence
Thoughts on Boys and Elephants

At Down With Tyranny kininny discusses an op-ed piece by Bob Herbert on Senator Barack Obama's recent speech in Chicago concerning violence among and against school children -- 32 children have been murdered in Chicago in the last school year. After discussing various means that the government can use to address this, Obama is quoted,
"There is only so much government can do." There is also a need, he said, "for a change in attitude."

The senator talked about the young men and boys who have gone down "the wrong path." And he said one of the main reasons they are wreaking havoc and shooting one another is that they had not received enough attention while growing up from responsible adults.
I attended a training in the development of the adolescent brain recently. And the trainer discussed just this issue.

When young men grow up with strong men in their community and family, they have a confidence that the community is a relatively safe place. No matter the poverty or crime level or danger, these young men know that there are older men who will defend the community. It is not up to the young men to lead in this defense, although they are willing to join in. This is illustrated beautifully in the TV show "Everybody Hates Chris." Chris's father is one of only three fathers living with their children in the neighborhood, but the presence of these three men, as well as the shop owners and other responsible men serves to keep the violence at bay, although there is certainly enough crime.

When there are no protective older men around, the young men know that it is up to them to be the defenders, and they do not have the maturity or experience to handle it correctly. This premature responsibility that has no decent role models to fall back on results in extreme violence. The young men become hypervigilant and defensive. They tend to see threats where none exist, to over react to the beginnings of a threat that more experienced men would be able to negotiate, to take as their pattern the idea that the best defense is a very violent offense.

The adolescent brain matures from back to front, with the sensory and then the action centers becoming proficient early in adolescence, and the pre-frontal cortex, center of mature judgment, not attaining full development until the early to mid-twenties. The tendency is to concentrate on the part which has most recently matured and which can now be used efficiently and effectively. Which explains why most teens are more interested in computer games and skate boards than in politics. It also explains why young men without the influence of older men around tend to become aggressive.*

This is why some armies recruit young child soldiers -- they will be very violent. This is why neighborhoods without fathers become gang battle grounds. This is why 32 children have been murdered in Chicago in the last school year.

* It was when the presenter reached this point that I leaped pulled myself out of my seat, waved my hand in the air with that "Oh, Teacher, call on me!! Call on me!!! I know! I know!" fervor and when called on, cried out in a joyous voice, "That explains the elephants!" A few years before, Richard told me about this, where a group of adolescent male elephants were introduced to the Pilaneserg reserve in South Africa, where they became an unexpectedly aggressive menace. They began by killing a tourist and then a tour guide. Then they turned to rhinos, killing over 40 in under two years. First adult female elephants were released in the park, with no results in the behavior of the young males. So then adult males were introduced. As soon as each of the adult males had encountered each of the adolescents, the aggressive behavior stopped.
"A possible scenario," says elephant behaviourist Robert Slotow, "is that it's the older males disciplining the younger ones."
But that had never felt like a satisfactory explanation to me. Why, I wondered, would adult male elephants care what happened to the rhinos? It's not like they had a treaty.

How much more satisfying to look at it from the violent boys model. The original attacks had happened because first people and then rhinos had approached the young males too closely. The attacks on people stopped, because we communicate with each other and the word went out that these elephants were dangerous to approach. However, rhinos don't communicate at a distance, and so they continued to cross the hypervigilant boundaries that set off the adolescents. Since elephants live in herds of females and young males, introducing adult females would not affect the aggression -- neither would expect that the females would protect males old enough to be living outside the herd. When the males were introduced, the young males were surely aware of them and uncertain of their safety from them. Once each adolescent had met all of the adult males, they knew that they were in no danger from them, and also that these elephants knew what to do about rhinos. They knew they were no longer the defenders.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Living in the Rain:
With An Aside
On Comfortable Shoes

I posted this picture last July 23, but I thought that those of you who have found me since then might like to know what I look like on rainy days.

This is actually a winter photo, as you can see by the bare branches on the trees, but it is one of my favorites. On a rainy day I believe in dressing in bright colors to cheer myself up. With the weather we have around here, I wear bright colors a lot.

I always feel particularly regional in this hat; it is a fisher hat and commercial fishing is a big part of the local economy.

The other way you can tell it is an old photo is the shoes. In those days I wore white walking shoes; these days I have discovered that men's walking shoes fit my feet better than women's and am wearing some in black leather. Should you be, or know, a woman with wide feet, let me recommend men's shoes. I haven't had such comfortable feet since 1960 when I moved to Berkeley, and had several pair of sandals custom made and discovered that it was not necessary for my feet to hurt all the time. They don't make women's shoes wide enough for my feet, so I have to get them too long, and before they are wide enough, they are so long they slide up and down my heels and cause blisters. Blisters and corns both. What joy. I kept those sandals, wore them all the time except when I couldn't, got them repaired again and again, but eventually they were done for and I had to throw them away.Let me tell you, I hated giving them up.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Poison Oak

On July 19th, Karen at Author Mom With Dogs posted about her experience with poison ivy. And it reminded me of my adventure with poison oak.

After Mama married Daddy, when I was nine, I left St. Mary of the Palms School for Girls and went to live with them and Forrest.

And there were some adjustment problems. Some learning how to understand what was going on, because Daddy had a very different discipline style than I had ever encountered before. So, I wasn't always very happy. Considering that I had been away from my mother and brother for two years and disciplined by nuns in the late 40s and was so excited to be home, I sort of doubt that I was totally at fault here.

Anyway, that summer I went to the Santa Cruz Mountains to the St. Mary's camp for two weeks of reconnecting with all my friends. And the first day I was there one of the girls who was supposed to go home from the prior session had to stay there in the infirmary because she had such bad poison oak. Of course, the nuns took all of us out and identified the plant for us, so we could avoid it. But, remember I'm the child who ate watermelon seeds and cherry pits in the hope that they would grow out of my ears; I am as apt to have my own view of the dangers I'm warned against as not*. And I saw an opportunity to not have to go home for awhile, to stay in a place where I knew how to stay out of trouble. So, I went out every day and rubbed poison oak all over my body.

Damn. Wouldn't you know. I was immune.

* When I was told that if I didn't stop using such big words I would never get a boyfriend I started using my vocabulary as a screening device. I knew I didn't want a boyfriend who was afraid of a smart woman, so any guy who acted interested in dating would get my biggest words trotted out and flung at him. If he didn't back off, he was a keeper. That, and my great-aunt told me to notice if a man liked cats. Because any man who didn't like independence in an animal certainly wasn't going to be good for me.

Honours Abound

So, I've won a prize.
Contest Winner: Dubious Claim of Most Humiliating Child for
Best Retro Entry: Maya's Granny, because this one could have gotten her fired back in the day:

At 6 [my daughter] shouted out from our front door to her best friend across the street, just as the mothers of every child I taught that year were coming out of the library we lived next to, "No, you don't either have to be a virgin to get married. My mother says she wasn't."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

End of the Trail

This statue is extremely well known; End of the Trail, by James Earle Fraser. It is an incredible study in lines. Every line, from the braids to the spear to the horse's tail to the posture of horse and rider points in one direction. Down and west.

I read once that when Fraser was growing up, his father was an Indian agent who really liked Indians. They often stopped at his home, talking late into the night. Fraser was fascinated with them, listening, and later talking to his father about them. He said in later years that he remembered one night when his father said, "The Indian was here first, and now the white man is driving him further and further west, until he is going to have no choice but to ride into the Pacific Ocean." And that is what this statue is meant to depict. It is a heart breaking piece. Which is one of the things that art is so good at and for -- showing us the concept in the image.

After all, when Colin Powell addressed the U.N. prior to the Iraq War, they covered Guernica, which Picasso painted after the bombing of that city. The horror of war from the air, to people and animals, is depicted with a strength that reaches inside and twists our hearts. This was the first piece of non-representational art that I totally understood and felt could not have been improved in any way.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Stranger Lad

This is one of my favorite pictures of Richard when he was very young. He is so pensive looking, so uncharacteristically quiet for the moment.

A few minutes after I shot this picture, I called him to come along and he answered that I had his name wrong.

"What? Well, then who are you?" I asked.

"A stranger lad." And so for about a week, he was the Stranger Lad. It was the only thing he would answer to. He was really into it. He wanted different books read and different foods and to wear his shirts with different pants than he usually did. Since I was in school at the time, not only did I have to call him Stranger Lad, but so did his child care provider* and all of the other children at day care. Even Julie had to try to say Stranger Lad.

And then, one day, he was back to being him again. When I asked him where the Stranger Lad was, he said he had missed his own toys and so gone home. I told him that I had really missed him, but the Stranger Lad was nice. And he told me I was a better mom than the Stranger Lad had.

*Which was fine by her, since her name was Yolanda, and he called her My Landa.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Palm Trees and Airports

Do click to enlarge picture.

So I was over at Rambling and Roving, Cuppa and Anvil Cloud's travel blog, and she had posted some pictures of palm trees they had seen in British Columbia. That's pretty far north for palm trees, and it reminded me of when I lived in Fairbanks and a group of friends and I decided that we wanted to plant palms out at the airport. We would put them on elevators so that during the winter they would be under ground and protected under sunlamps. And then, when planes landed, the elevators could raise them and surprise all of the folks flying into the frigid, snowy land.

I have since seen snow on palm trees, one year when I was living in central California. So, here is a picture I found on Google Image. I still think it would have been a hoot to line the runway at Fairbanks International with them, but I suppose it would cost too much. Oh, the fun I could have and the joy I could spread if only I won a lot of money!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

And After That It Rained

Heavy rain. Rain in the morning, rain in the evening, rain at suppertime. When the rain stops, the fog raises. Everything is growing and growing and growing. And I had planned to get a photo of the front of my place, the vacant lot next door (where the house slid down the hill about 20 years ago), and the retaining wall, because they were sweet rocket and butter cups all over the place, but the rain has knocked a great deal of the sweet rocket flat. And that was a disappointment, because it is the most in bloom that section has ever been, with sweet rocket growing between the cracks of the retaining wall. So, I will just have to hope that it gets that pretty again next year.

Yahoo is predicting rain through the 23rd, which is as far out as they predict. Ugh.

Here is a quote from Terry Pratchett's "The Last Continent" which aptly describes what our weather has been like lately.
It rained. After that, it rained. Then it rained some more. The clouds were stacked like impatient charter flights over the coast, low on fuel, jockeying for position, and raining. Above all, raining.
It went on raining.
And then it rained some more.
After that it rained.
I love the image of the clouds as impatient charter flights. I would love to claim it as my own. And if Pratchett weren't such a very well known author, and if I weren't such a goody-two-shoes, I just might. But he is and I am, so I give credit where credit is due.

Should This Concern Me?

I have seen a number of blogs with ratings recently, and decided to see what mine is.

Online Dating
This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

* bitch (2x)
* piss (1x)

Amazing. I have Angry Black Bitch and Bitch PhD in my blogroll, and list The Great El Paso Piss Off of 1955 in my best personal writings list, and they show up in my blog rating.

Do you suppose people go looking for blogs by their rating? That having a PG rating I will attract or repel readers? Does it mean anything at all?

Should I write a few more moderate potty words somewhere and start attracting a more jaded crowd? Should I try for a G rating and somehow use euphemisms more often?

Should I care? Or, should I take the track that feels right today and be amused?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Parent & Child Wall

Do click the top two photos to enlarge.

You may have noticed that I really like parents and children . I have posted a number of YouTubes with the parent/child theme.

When I worked as a parenting coach, I made home visits three days a week, and then the rest of the week clients who worked downtown would take an odd lunch hour once a week and come to my office. Over the years I ended up with pictures of various parents and children (most of them animals) on the wall behind me.

I called it my parent and child wall. Here you see two of my pride pictures. In the top photo, we were in Safeway, and Maya threw her little arms around Julie's neck and planted a smackeroo on her cheek. In the picture to the right, Ted and Maya are laughing at something and the mirroring of their posture is so perfect! The same angle of the head, the same laugh. The focus on each other with such love.

And, if you look behind Maya, you see me with my camera reflected in the mirror -- how my hair has whitened in the last ten years!

Here we have a mother Panda and cub, in a pose that is remarkably like the Yu'pik mother and child below.

There were a lot of other animal pictures on the wall -- horses, cats, wolves, ducks, polar bears. It rather startled me, about four years into this wall when I saw an old Fugitive tv show and a boy who had been deserted by his parents had a wall of animal parents and young in his room. It was so clearly what he needed so badly.

Since I watched that show when it was first broadcast, I wouldn't be the least surprised if the idea hadn't been knocking around in the back of my head somewhere.

A Yu'pik mother doesn't use a cradle board; she sticks the baby down the back of her parka and cinches a strong belt around her waist. Usually they carry the very young baby nude and when they feel her start to make the movements that mean she is about to wet, they hold her out so she doesn't wet either of them. Since they wear their parkas fur side in (for warmth) this is important. These mothers are very sensitive to what their babies are doing. When the child is old enough to be let down indoors, they are dressed.

This is actually the picture that started the wall; a client gave it to me before Julie was even pregnant with Maya.

The Yu'pik baby has an advantage on the Panda -- she doesn't have to stay awake and hang on.

And this is the second picture that went up on the wall. I really love this. Giraffes are such lovely animals, and the affection here is so touching. Well, I'm a sucker for mothers and babies, so of course it is touching to me.

And, if anyone tells you that silly misinformation about giraffes not being able to bend their knees, please note that they do that just fine.

Most of my clients were women, but not all. I not only worked with some couples (and once a mother, father, and step-father), but also with fathers alone. Some of them were single fathers and some non-custodial.

With most animals, it is the mother who raises the young. And with the wolves, dad helps but you can't tell by looking at a photo that it is the dad.

Which is what made the picture of Ted and Maya and this one so really good. No way to not know that this is the father lion. Fathers are important and they need to be encouraged and acknowledged. As with all of these pictures, you can see that this father is besotted on his child, who approaches him with utter confidence.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

There Are Never Enough Deviled Eggs

A couple of weeks ago we had a potluck at work. Although the original announcement had been made the week before, like many, I had forgotten about it over the weekend. Then I was out Wednesday and Thursday, so when I came in Friday morning and read the e-mail that had been sent on Wednesday and the follow-up that had been sent Thursday, it was too late. No disaster, our office is right across from Rainbow Foods, and there is always something there to add to a potluck. I had just made this decision when my office mate, Jessica, came in and asked me if I had brought her dish. I thought she meant that she, also, had forgotten and had I remembered? But, it turns out that what she meant was that she had brought in her signature wasabi deviled eggs, and when she put them in the refrigerator, someone else had already brought a tray of deviled eggs.

Which reminded me of the church potluck I had attended in the early 80s where the minister, who really loved the things, commented casually that there were never enough deviled eggs at these events. And (you've guessed it already, haven't you?) at the very next potluck, there was nothing but deviled eggs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


The fireweed blooms are already half way up the stalk.

It is twilight when I go up the stairs at 10:00

Summer is half over.

We are on the wrong side of the solstice. Heading towards fall.


Click to enlarge.

Should I Laugh?

This man, John Pinette, poses a moral conundrum for me. I have two of his DVDs and two of his CDs. (I like to listen to to comedy CDs and play Mah Jong on the computer right before I go to bed. It sends me to bed calm and laughing, no matter what else has happened in the world that day.) I love him. But, should I? Is he inviting people to laugh at him rather than with him? Is he making fun of fat people? Or, is he finding the humor in fat and playing with it? Almost all of his humor is aimed at himself, and since his most salient characteristic is his size, he does a lot of jokes about eating and the predicaments his size gets him into. Is this different than the jokes Chris Rock makes about growing up poor and black? Is John's routine about his friends taking him places (skiing, water skiing, white water rafting, water parks) to see what will happen to him because of his size different than Chris telling us he could guarantee an A in school by writing about Martin Luther King?

I don't know, and I would like to. Having battled fat-hatred most of my life, I wouldn't want to add to it. And yet, he is soooo funny. And part of the reason he is so funny is that he is talking about things, in the extreme, that any person who is or has ever been fat expeiences, if only to a lesser degree. He brings laughter to some of the moments that we would otherwise have to cry about. Things used to be easier before we all became so enlightened, you know?


We've been having nothing but this for the last five or six days.

Not our usual misty rain, but the pour down and soak rain.

Which is ok, except that Yahoo weather says.

It's never gonna stop!!!!

As far out as Yahoo predicts, this is going to be going on.

A good ten more days, at least.

We're just a touch tired of it.

Feeling down about it.

Ready for almost anything else.

And the thought of over sixteen days of rain, even here in this rain forest, is pretty heavy.

Which may be why my neighbor has started building this.

Somebody had better.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Signposts to Sanity

An occasional feature where your lovin' Granny points you at somebody else's really good stuff, and today it's about size.

Sandy Szwarc at Junkfood Science, tells us that "An article in New Scientist magazine accuses fat people of causing global warming and killing polar bears:" in Blame Fat People.
In fact, among the many disconnects in the reasoning in the New Scientist piece, one comes from Roberts' own research! He and colleagues in London previously published a study on inner-city children in the UK, for example, that found most children (69%) walked to school and only 26% travelled by car, but it was the poorer children who walked more than the richer kids. “Attendance at a private school, family car ownership and longer distances to travel to school were the principal determinants of car travel,” he and colleagues said. In another 2003 report on pedestrian safety and overcrowded roads, he also said: “Poor kids walk much more than rich kids, who tend to spend a lot of time in the car.”

Yet it’s poorer children who tend to be fatter.
And speaking of size, AlterNet.org's, Joshua Holland looks at Are You One of The Shrinking Americans? It seems that we are no longer the tallest industrialized country in the world, indeed we are now shorter than the residence of all Western European countries.
The United States also has far more concentrated wealth than any of its European allies. That means that while we are, on average, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we also lead all the advanced economies in poverty. Poverty limits access to both healthcare and good nutrition.

More importantly in terms of average height is childhood poverty. Here, the United States stands alone among the advanced economies with a stunning figure: eighteen percent of American children -- almost one in five -- live in poverty. No other industrialized country comes close -- it's about five times the child poverty rate in Northern Europe. Again, nutrition and access to healthcare both vary with family income for children just as they do in adults.
The key finding of the study is is not that we are shrinking in absolute terms, it's that we're falling behind relative to our wealthy cousins. Europeans have grown in height as much as the rise in their average incomes during the 20th century would predict; Americans have not.

And it's not just height. Among the 20 most developed countries in the world, the United States is now dead last in life expectancy at birth, but leads the pack in infant mortality -- forty percent higher than the runner-up -- and in the percentage of the population that will die before reaching 60.
"those countries with higher social expenditures -- as a percentage of gross domestic product, or GDP -- have dramatically lower poverty rates among children."
"[T]he political economy of the health-care system, education, transfers to the poor, and government policy toward equality (hence taxation policy) all matter" in determining average height, say the researchers.

These are policy matters that are usually understood as ideological, as left-right issues. In one sense they certainly are, but they're also questions of gearing public policy to the long- or the short-term, and we seem to prefer short-term approaches. Investing in our children's health and well-being may not pay off in terms of lower taxes next quarter or next year, but it might allow them to walk a bit taller a generation or two down the line.
Over at Big Fat Blog, there is an article looking at size and public policy from a different angle, New Zealand Doctors to Fat Immigrants: Stay Out
In a stunning display of discrimination, doctors in New Zealand are promoting the idea of screening immigrants for their weight and smoking habits. The reason? Lots of unhealthy people are putting a burden on the healthcare system there and since a lot of people there are also fat, they're getting a bad rep.

And let us end with this wonderful production of Joy Nash -- Fat Rant. How I wish that I had known what she knows when I was her age. I could have saved myself so much grief.

I have to say, that when she found the double 0 in the dress rack, I was amazed. I thought a 0 was as small as they could go. And, she has a blog of her own these days, called, oddly enough, Fat Rant. And meantime, "choose two thin parents."

Monday, July 09, 2007

The End of The Universe

I have about six posts in process, but nothing finished, so here you are. Something to laugh at.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Best Buddies

Julie and Richard have always been best buddies. From the very beginning, they liked each other and got along well. Not that they didn't have conflict, all human beings have conflict, times when what one wants is what the other doesn't want. But their good times always way out weighed their not-so-good times; I don't think they ever had bad times.

I read once that a good candid picture of people shows their relationship. And you can tell how they feel about each other according to where they are looking. In the six candid shots here, Julie is always looking at Richard or where he is indicating she should look, and in most of them he is looking at her or showing her where to look.

Here they are again. Gazing fondly at each other. The world is full of interesting things, and they share them with each other.

We spent so many days in Berkeley with them in this stroller. At first Richard rode in the back; when he walked beside or ran ahead, he was always circling back to check in with Julie. Before she could talk, she made motions and he told me what she wanted. He was always right.

As long as Julie had Richard, there was someone on her side, someone who made sure she got what she needed, that she wasn't ever overlooked. I can remember giving him a treat and him asking, "What about Julie?"

Here they are, with him leading the way to the Christmas stockings. And how, you may ask, do children who are brought up to understand that Santa is a story, deal with stockings? Well, Christmas Eve, Richard and I filled Julie's stocking, and Julie and I filled Richard's, and they filled mine. Same with hiding Easter eggs.

The pajamas Richard is wearing here were a gift from Daddy, with cowboys on them. My favorite part of these pjs was that they were so close to the color of his hair.

Looking at Julie stepping up the hearth, I marvel at how children manage to get around in a world obviously designed for adults.

This is in our Fairbanks garden. Richard is pointing to the plant and Julie is listening to what he has to say, because of course he knows. He always knows. He is two years older and so much more experienced.

They both helped with this garden. Putting up the chicken wire fence that kept Samantha out, re-digging after Samantha had rolled the rototilled earth flat (obviously before we got the chicken wire up), measuring the space between rows, planting, weeding, watering, harvesting. I was out in the garden, there they were with their tools. The two of them using the tape measure to show me the correct distance between rows, with Richard consulting the plans and reading, "tomatoes next, so we need 24 inches."

This was taken one summer when we spent a month in California. We were staying with Aunt Flo for this week, and Aunt Flo lived in Aptos in an apartment on the cliffs above the beach. In the morning we would sit on the patio and drink coffee and watch the pelicans teach their young to fish. The kids, of course, had cocoa or orange juice. They both had a lovely time.

Aunt Flo and my parents had paid our way, since it was cheaper to bring the three of us to the family than the entire family to us. It is nice to know you're loved.

And, finally, they grew up. Notice that Richard has no idea what to do with a baby, and Julie still wants to share her every treasure with him. Luckily Maya is a very calm and accepting child.

One of Richard's friends once asked him if he was jealous of all the attention that I gave Julie's baby, and he answered, "Of course not. Maya is the future of our family."

So, even if he didn't quite know what to do with her at first, she is his treasure, too.

And this is the last picture I have of the two of them. Richard lives eight blocks from my place, and Julie lives 1,476 miles from us. When they get together, it is because Richard and Kathy have gone to California, and I'm not there with a camera.

They are endlessly proud of each other and pleased with each other. Alike in some ways, totally different in others.