Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Historical Halloween

Until this year, Maya attended Montessori schools. When she was six, and other years as well for all I know, they had historical Halloween. Children were to come dressed as real people and explain who that person was and what they had done.

Maya's first choice was to be "Mary, mother of God*". Julie and Ted explained to her that she couldn't do that. "But," she asked, "you said that Jesus was a real person. So Mary must be a real person."

"Yes, she was a real person. But it might seem less than respectful for an atheist child to dress as Mary for Halloween.**"

Maya considered that gravely, and decided to be Pocohontas. When Maya practiced her presentation for her parents, she explained that "Pocohontas was a princess who was born in India."

And here we have a picture of Maya as Pocohontas and her friend Chanel.

* Which would have made me God's great-grandmother. An odd thought.
** Although, it obviously is ok for someone to dress as Mary, since they sell this costume.

Halloween: From Sublime to Silly

The Ghost Head Nebula.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater: In Bismark, N.D., some pumpkins are known to devour their young.


And one year, Maya went as Spiderman.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tuesday Morning Visitor

Look who's hangin' around the harbor. A harbor seal.

There was a time when they were as thick as thieves in every harbor in the north, but now we are thrilled to see one occasionally.

The bears are getting ready for their winter nap, packing on the pounds to the best of their ability. A group of ten swans flew through last week. And every time the clouds lift, there is snow further down the mountain sides.

Darling Clementine

One Saturday when I was in college, my roommate Gail Jennings and I took the bus from Berkeley to San Francisco and then walked across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. The wind was howling away and we were having a great time. We sang this song, particularly getting into the verse that goes:

Clementine, can't you tell from the howls of me
This love of mine comes to you from the bowels of me.

Monday, October 29, 2007

There Is Hope, Yet

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast has posted And yet another reason to love John Edwards, which includes his recent speech at St. Anselm's College, Manchester, New Hampshire. If you do not already read Jill, do follow the link. This is an impressive speech, and one that speaks to many of my concerns. He mostly talks about the corruption that follows taking campaign contributions from "powerful special interests" and also mentions political dynasties.

Kucinich is still my man, but I am liking Edwards more and more the more I read and hear of him. With this and Governor Bill Richardson referring to our troops in Iraq as "our kids" and demanding that they be brought home, I am seeing more hope in the candidates than I did at first.

The Fruits of Autumn

As many of you will remember from I Always Wore White, when I was a little girl in the early 40s, I used to crawl under the pomegranate trees in my Grandmother Hunt's back yard and eat the fruit, leaving my pretty white dresses with stains that all the energy my mother put into the scrub board could not take out of the cotton.

As you can see from this picture, a small child would be well hidden under a tree like this. It was such a magical place to be -- cozy, cool, and full of my favorite food.

And the pomegranates themselves! Such full balls of deep red fruit, filled with glowing seeds. When they were very ripe, the skin would crack and the seeds would peek through and tempt me beyond resistance. When I heard the story of Adam and Eve I could fully comprehend Eve's inability to leave that apple alone. If it had been just a tenth as lovely as a pomegranate, the world would have been well lost for all of me. And might still be.

In the late 50s, when I was in high school, we read local California authors one semester. John Steinbeck and William Saroyan were my personal favorites. In 1940, Saroyan published "My Name is Aram," a collection of short stories about growing up in the Armenian community of Fresno. So, the events of "The Pomegranate Trees" must have happened in the late 20s or the 30s. This was the story of Saroyan's uncle who planted a pomegranate orchard before people in California knew what this wonderful fruit was, and so went broke. And yet, by 1945, the time of my story, my grandmother had a line of these lovely trees as a back fence. How quickly things change.

Persimmons are the other delight of autumn. They hang on the tree after all the leaves have fallen, and look like a Japanese variant of a Christmas tree. My dentist in Stockton had a persimmon tree right outside the window of his office and I used to purposely make my appointments in the fall just so I could look at that tree.

This variety of persimmon, the Hachiya, is deceptive. It must be very ripe before it is eaten, because in its unripe state it is full of tannin and if you bite into it your head will turn inside out and you will bite your shoulder blades in agony. Dry! Land, child, the Mojave should be as dry as your tender mouth!

When I worked as a parenting coach, since I worked for a non-profit, what they couldn't pay us in money they tried to make up in other ways. One was more vacation. The longer I worked there, the more vacation days I earned. So, for a number of years I spent the entire month of November in California. I would start with a week with Julie, go to my mother's for a week or so, to Kate's for a week, and end up with Julie. I would buy Hachiya persimmons my first day there and put them in Julie's window to ripen, knowing that by the time I got back they would be just ready to eat. The first year I did this, Ted thought they had gone rotten long before they were ripe and threw them away. You have to let them get soft and jelly like. And then they are heaven.

Since the Hachiyas are a problem for some people, and don't ship well, a more popular persimmon is the Fuyu. This is the one that we can get in Juneau. It is rounder than the Hachiya and can be eaten while it is still crisp like a Braeburn apple. It isn't quite as sweet, but is a real treat none-the-less.

And this matters becauase right now there are pomegranates and Fuyu persimmons in my kitchen and I am in heaven.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

From The Big Book*

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then -- just to loosen up. Inevitably, though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker

I began to think alone -- "to relax," I told myself -- but I knew it wasn't true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time.

That was when things began to sour at home. One evening I turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't help myself.

I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau, Muir, Confucius and Kafka. I would return to the office dazed and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here?"

One day the boss called me in. He said, "Listen, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job."

This gave me a lot to think about. I came home early after my conversation with the boss. "Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking..."

"I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!"

"But honey, surely it's not that serious."

"It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver. "You think as much as college professors and college professors don't make any money, so if you keep on thinking, we won't have any money!"

"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently.

She exploded in tears of rage and frustration, but I was in no mood to deal with the emotional drama.

"I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door. I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche. I roared into the parking lot with NPR on the radio and ran up to the big glass doors. They didn't open. The library was closed.

To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night. Leaning on the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye, "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked.

You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinkers Anonymous poster.

This is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss an AT meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's." Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting.

I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. Life just seemed...easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.

I think the road to recovery is nearly complete for me.

Today I took the final step... I joined the Republican Party.

* Thanks to my dear friend, Deja Pseu

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Richard doesn't like tuna and noodle casserole. Julie and I love it, but he just simply hates it. Since he was in most respects a far from picky eater, my solution to this was to let him fix something for himself when we had it. Eventually, I just stopped making it.

So, when Richard was 16 he went to Silver Lake Family Camp to work for the summer. While he was gone, Julie and I had tuna and noodles once in a while. After all, it had been eight years since I'd served it, and we were using Richard's absence as an excuse to scarf it down.

I expected him to return home on a Sunday. However, he got a ride home a day early, so he walked in as we were sitting down to dinner, took one look at the table, and said in the most offended voice imaginable, "Tuna and noodles?? Again!!!???"

Julie commented:
That was so funny! Poor Richard. I remember it a bit differently...He was so hungry he ate a huge serving, and only when he was going back for seconds did he focus on what he was eating, and then he said, "tuna and noodles...AGAIN???" Funny either way.
And you know, I think she has it right.

New Math

My sister Colleen had New Math and she was confused her entire life. I took a class in grad school on how to teach it, and there were students in the class who had been teaching it for five years and from their questions it was obvious why the kids were so confused. Teachers who don't understand something have no ability to teach it.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Know any people like this? Folks who focus on the world through the lens of weight? I used to be one. For most of my adult life I weighed every morning. Felt guilty and incomplete if I hadn't. And I had all these insane rules about that. Had to do it nude. Had to put my contacts in so the glasses wouldn't add anything. Had to use the bathroom before so I'd be as light as possible. Didn't put my hand lotion on until I had weighed. Now, how much do you suppose hand lotion could weigh? Is there a scale in the world sensitive enough to register it? If there is, could a person stand on it without breaking it?

The other side of that coin, is figuring out how much exercise I'd done for the day. Pedometers. Stop watches. The little meter on the exercise machine. Figuring out if I had exercised enough to allow me to have a few calories more.

Oh, and the third side -- counting those calories or points or carbs or whatever when they went in. Adding fiber to things so that they would fill me up sooner and transit the system faster, taking some extra calories along with them. Fat blockers. Starch blockers. Let's not talk about having Milk of Magnesia before I ate -- that did make me limit the number of times I ate because I hated the taste, but it just increased the volume at each meal, since I wasn't going to get out that bottle again any time soon, so it balanced out.

Do you have any idea how good it feels to be sane at last? To have a healthy relationship with food? To have time and energy to think about other things?

The Toddler Laws of Property

1. If I like it, it's mine.

2. If it's in my hand, it's mine.

3. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.

4. If it looks just like mine, it's mine.

5. If I think it's mine, it's mine.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Elephant's Trunk

The Elephant's Trunk in IC 1396
Credit & Copyright: Brian Lula

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Having lived much of my life in California, I'm familiar with the typical weather patterns. Because California is west of the Rockies, the average annual rainfall is 21". Twenty-one inches is not a lot of rain, which is why California relies so heavily on irrigation, taking much of its water from the Colorado River. Of course, that's an average and most years are not average. Rainfall in California, for most of my life, has been like a punch drunk pendulum, varying between drought and flood, with more years of drought than of flood. Drought years bring forest fires, and they always have.

But this year's fires in Southern California are something absolutely amazing. As of midnight Tuesday, there were at least 14 wildfires burning between Santa Barbara and Mexico. This is already being referred to as the greatest natural disaster in the nation's history. As of Tuesday afternoon, more people had been displaced by this fire than by any event since the Civil War. That's more in a few days than in four years.

One fire expert on the news said that it is because of global warming. The earlier that summer comes, the longer the forests have to dry out; the hotter the temperatures, the drier they get each day. Early summers, hot days, add Santa Ana winds and what you get is a disaster.

I have been complaining about rain up here. Now, Juneau is in a temperate rain forest, and so we expect a lot of rain. We even have a joke about the Juneau Rain Festival running from January 1st through December 31st.

But, most summers we have about 21 straight days in late June or early July with no rain at all. No clouds. Blue skies. This summer the longest break in the rain has been four days, and there were clouds on one of those days. Record snow fall this past winter, I wouldn't be surprised if it's record rain as well.

So, now we know where all of this water is coming from. I, personally, would gladly send it back where it belongs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ice Fog Parking Lot

When I lived in Fairbanks in the late 60s, I came out of the supermarket one very, very, very cold day to a parking lot full of ghost cars because of the ice fog. Went to where I remembered parking my car, got in, put in the key and drove away. Got about three blocks and realized that the heater was working much better than usual and recognized that this wasn't my car. Drove back to the parking lot, where a puzzled man was looking at my car, parked right next to where his had been, and was very relieved to see me.

People who subscribe to my feed have received a large number of posts the last couple of days. This is because I have been doing some work on my archives. Labeling all of the YouTubes as such and replacing pictures that had disappeared. When you use a stock photo from a Google Image search, sometimes the photo is removed from where ever it was, and it leaves a hole in the post. I have recently discovered that if I save the image to my hard disk and upload it to Blogger from there, that won't happen. And, I can then delete it from my hard disk. So, I'm in the process of doing that where I think a picture is important. Sorry to inconvenience my faithful readers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Two-State, Three-Generation
Sunday Morning Hoo Ha*

Our table, without, as it happens, us.
The Saturday Morning Breakfast Club goes to Sandpiper for breakfast, and then I go to A & P and shop for the week and the Care-A-Van picks me up and takes me home with my groceries and I put them away. This week, it was the second sunny day in a row** and so as soon as I'd put away the things that needed to be refrigerated and the Hooligan bait, I left the rest of it, grabbed my current book,*** hied myself outdoors****, sat on the bench in the pocket park across the street, and spent two hours reading and watching eagles and ravens. An innocent enough start, one would think. Well, in my family, one would be wrong.

It seems that, as I was quietly reading and enjoying my first opportunity to sit in the sunshine in weeks and weeks, my mother called. A couple of times. When I came in, the answering machine was blinking but she had only left one message and it said she would call me back. By 8 p.m. Alaska time, I knew that it was 9 p.m. California time and she was going to bed so she wouldn't be calling on Saturday. Figured she would call Sunday.

Saturday night I had trouble falling asleep. Once I did, at about 3:30, I slept like a child. But, of course, I slept in. At 10:30 Mama called but I didn't wake up. So then, being Mama, she got worried and called Richard, who called at about 10:34. I still didn't wake up, but the phone must have made some impression on me because I pulled myself out of the best dream***** I've had in a lo-o-o-o-ong time and got up.

I was getting dressed when I heard Richard's voice on the staircase, "Mom? Are you up there?"
"Yes, I'm up here in my underwear."
"Grandma's been trying to get you for two days and she's panicking." He called from his stationary spot on the staircase," And you didn't answer when I called, either."
"Had a hard night. I was sleeping in."
"Well, call Grandma and tell her you aren't laying on the floor with a broken hip unable to get to the phone," and out he went.

So, I called my mother. I figure Richard must have called her from his cell phone because by the time I got to the phone and called she was calm. After Richard had called her to tell her I hadn't answered his call either, she had called him right back to suggest that he come over and see if I was okay, and he had told her that he already had his jacket on and was on his way out the door at that very moment. Into, he didn't tell her, a rain storm.* (again) On foot, since he doesn't have a car and doesn't drive, at any rate.

Sunday night, I called Julie for our regular chat and she told me that while she, Ted, and Maya were out to breakfast, Richard had called and left a message on her voice mail asking if she had talked to me lately. When they returned, since their voice mail doesn't have a blinking light and she wasn't expecting a call, she knew nothing of it until Richard called to reassure her that I was ok. She told him that although she hadn't turned on her computer yet, she knew I'd posted here the day before, so I'd been ok then.

Mama suggested to me that I should call Richard everyday and check in so everyone would know I'm alright, because as she said, "You have lovely cats, dear, and they are very smart I'm sure, but they refuse to answer the phone and reassure your mother." I'm not going to do that; had we been going by that system already, when Mama called Richard he wouldn't have had a call Sunday yet and would have had to go out in the rain in any case.

So, Julie and I have worked a deal. I will post here every single day, which I mostly do, and if I don't have anything else to say it can be YouTube or a picture or a cartoon, and the whole family can know I was alive that morning.

* And isn't it wonderful to know you're loved?
** A rare and wonderful occurence this year.
*** Imperial Times in the Emerald City.
**** In Alaska, outside means out of state.
***** And one day I'm going to figure out who that man in my very best dreams is and go hunt him down!

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mom's Overture

Anita Renfroe is one funny woman.

The Milky Road*

The Milky Road
Credit & Copyright: Larry Landolfi

Explanation: Inspired during a visit to Fort Davis, Texas, home of McDonald Observatory and dark night skies, photographer Larry Landolfi created this tantalizing fantasy view. The composited image suggests the Milky Way is a heavenly extension of a deserted country road. Of course, the name for our galaxy, the Milky Way (in Latin, Via Lactea), does refer to its appearance as a milky band or path in the sky. In fact, the word galaxy itself derives from the Greek for milk. Visible on moonless nights from dark sky areas, though not so colorful as in this image, the glowing celestial band is due to the collective light of myriad stars along the plane of our galaxy, too faint to be distinguished individually. The diffuse starlight is cut by dark swaths of obscuring galactic dust clouds. At the beginning of the 17th century, Galileo turned his telescope on the Milky Way and announced it to be composed of innumerable stars.

* Picture and text from Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Elements
& Moms*

Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world
and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you Your mother and not some other mom?
1. We're related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your mom?
1. My Mom has always been my Mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did Mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your Mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What's the difference between Moms & Dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home & dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller & stronger, but Moms have all the real power 'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's.
4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your Mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your Mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.

* Because there is nothing more elemental than a Mom. Thanks, Harold.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Who To Vote For?

I haven't said much about politics lately. It is too depressing.

For decades I was a Libertarian. The platform of maximum social and economic liberty seemed sensible and sane and in line with the Constitution. Over time, as I saw regulations relaxed and learned that not all corporations are run by saints, I came to realize that pure libertarianism is like pure communism: it sounds real good and if only people acted in real life as they do in theory it would work for the good of all.

But, we have learned painfully that communism doesn't work in a pure form; even if it doesn't get involved with a dictatorship, people don't put maximum effort in for minimum reward. There has to be something in it for me or I won't do my best.

And the same is true for the libertarian dream. There aren't enough leaders of industry who will self-regulate when it hurts their bottom line. Instead of the ideal of the corporation that wants superior workers and so pays above union scale to get them, we have the many corporations that off-shore their labor so that they can pay slave wages to people working under slave conditions. As much as I would like to believe that corporations are as good as three year olds and will live up to expectations when treated with respect, it just ain't so. People need rules, and people with power don't like to obey rules. Don't think the rules apply to them.

Nonetheless, I used to vote Libertarian anyway. There wasn't a chance we would win anything big, but we might influence the winners if we got enough votes, and since I believed that influence would be in the direction of freedom, that would be good.

And then the 2000 elections happened. The results were frightening on so many levels. By 2003 I could see that this country was going in the direction of reduced freedom, that we were going to leave our grandchildren with less hope and liberty than we had. And I could see from what was going on in Washington that having one party in control of all branches of the federal government was a very bad idea. If we were to break this one-party rule, no third party had a chance. Only the Democrats had a chance to supplant the Republicans in one branch or another. So, I voted Democrat for the first time in my life.*

And things got worse. And in 2006, the electorate reared up on its hind legs and voted the Democrats into majorities in both house of Congress. Perhaps not big enough majorities, but nonetheless, majorities.

And what good has it done us? Does the Democratic led Congress vote the way the electorate wants them to? It seems to me that instead of taking their cue from their election and the increasingly low approval ratings of Bush and his policies, of the fact that ever larger numbers of people think the country is going in the wrong direction, they vote for whatever George Bush wants. They renewed FISA for six months, with a promise to revisit it then and correct its most egregious parts. And then they allowed themselves to pass it again, with the added provision that telecommunication companies that went along with the administrations requests for warrantless wiretaps on US citizens be immune from prosecution.

Until Senator Chris Dodd put a hold on the Senate FISA bill, which, I understand, will prevent its passage. At last. Someone with guts. Dodd joins Kucinich, in the House, whose introduction of Articles of Impeachment against Cheney also takes a stand in action against the erosion of the Constitution.

So, now I have two men to choose between. It will probably be Kucinich, again, because I agree so closely with everything he says. But, I could give my vote to Dodd if he made the ticket without much concern. A candidate with guts.

For most of the rest of the Democrats in Congress, I suggest that they follow the link to Mark Fiore's Spineocrat

I think they need a good strong dose.

*Ah, perfect record -- I've never yet voted for anyone who actually won an election.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Empty Your Pockets

For some reason, the YouTube is no longer available, so follow the link to AlterNet and view it there.

Dennis Kucinich and Stephen Colbert are two of my favorite people. Very smart.
Is there anything as sexy as a playful man? Well, two playful men.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Potpouri III

Julie commented on Nothing New that she and Maya and Ted had watched Moonlight, which caused Maya to want to watch Buffy. And that reminded me that, for you vampire fans, Blood Ties is currently on Friday nights on Lifetime. This is a story about Victoria, a cop who had to retire because she is losing her day vision and is now a private investigator who specializes in supernatural cases and is assisted by Henry Fitzroy*, the illegitimate vampire son of Henry VIII.

And I got to thinking about Forever Knight, and Nick's car. Although the series began in 1992, Nick drove a 1962 Cadillac, because it was the only car with a big enough trunk for him to sleep in if he should be caught out with sunrise approaching.

For you Christopher Gorham (Jake and Ugly Betty's Henry) fans, the science fiction network is currently rerunning his first series, Odyssey 5.
The story revolves around a set of people on a routine spaceflight on August 7, 2007: three astronauts, a scientist, and a television news reporter. However, during the course of the flight, the Earth suddenly dissolves into a fiery ball, and explodes. The crew of the space shuttle Odyssey resign themselves to death, but a non-organic being called the Seeker rescues them. Fifty other worlds have been destroyed in the same way as Earth, but the seeker has always arrived too late to observe it or find survivors. However, this is the first time he has met survivors of such a tragedy. He offers to send them back in time 5 years (and therefore to present day, at the time of the series), so that they can prevent the disaster. In a twist, their consciousnesses are sent back and not their physical bodies, as physical time travel is impossible. They only know the name of the thing that did this: Leviathan.
Each of the five crew members who returns is not only trying to figure out what went wrong and fix it, but to also deal with their own lives. Gorham plays Neil, who only his crew mates don't think of as a 17 year-old computer whiz screw up. The commander has a family to hold together, the reporter a five year old son to get diagnosed with a rare cancer in time to save his life, the woman astronaut must try to prevent her senator father's corruption from ruining her family, and the scientist would like to use the time to enjoy a hedonistic life, since he doesn't believe that they can save the world. Very well made.

It is definitely fall here in Juneau. Which means that the summer fruit is over for us, and pomegranates and persimmons not ripe yet. Of course, A&P has some scrunchy little pomegranates on stock for $4.99 each (and I used to pick them off my grandmother's trees!), but the good ones come to Costco in a big box of 20. Every week I call and ask if they are in yet, and when they are I will feast. Meanwhile, this is a great time of year for winter squash and root vegetables. I like to steam beets, cauliflower, broccoli, onion, red potatoes, and carrots together. Also a good time to start making soups and stews.

* The Fitz prefix to a name is a British variant on O'X or MacX. In later times, similar forms were coined for members of the English and British royal family, who historically lacked a surname, and particularly for illegitimate children of kings and princes (Fitzroy - son of the king, Fitzjames - son of the king James II of England, and FitzClarence - son of the Duke of Clarence).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Teach a Man to Fish. . .

When I was three and my baby brother Storm lived mostly in the hospital for the six months of his life, my mother's cousin Edith cared for me so that my mother could be with him. I saw her regularly until I was about seven, and then I didn't see her again until I was 17. Aunt Flo, Grandma Herndon, and I attended services at her church one Sunday and the potluck after. And when Edith walked in I recognized her instantly by the swelling of love that filled my heart. I wish I had a picture of Edith to show you. Love radiated from her like warmth from a fireplace. The 300+ pounds of her was hardly a large enough container for her generosity And the 100 years she lived was hardly long enough for the world to be so blessed.

Edith was a member of the Church of the Brethren. As were many of my grandmother's relatives, some were even ministers. There has never been a family funeral that they didn't attend, a time that they didn't support this godless branch of the family, or a single instance of their trying to convert us. I simply cannot imagine any people more loving and kind and gentle.

I tend to feel proprietary about the Church and am never surprised when I hear of something wonderful that they have done. They base their lives on "Continuing the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together." They are not interested in doctrine but in making life better for people. They believe that there is enough to go around, and they work to make that happen.

A few years ago, a friend turned me on to Heifer International. I had been contributing to them for about a year when I discovered that they had been founded by The Church of the Brethren. Well, of course. It didn't surprise me, but it did make me feel proud, once again, of this religious side of our family.

Since tomorrow is World Food Day,* what better way to celebrate it than to learn about and perhaps contribute to a non-profit built on the idea that what hungry children need is not milk that is drunk and then gone, but a heifer, which serves as the foundation of a life free of dependence.

Heifer International
Solving the problem of world hunger has been a heartfelt vision of many people, but the sheer magnitude of the problem has overwhelmed the most sincere individuals and corporations who are keen on vision but bereft of finances or logistics. Heifer Project International is the outgrowth of one man with a vision and a practical method of implementation that did not require inordinate financial underwriting. Born a native of Ohio in 1893, Dan West, a life-long Brethren graduated from Manchester College in 1917 and spent the next two years as a conscientious objector during World War I. After working for the Emergency Peace Campaign in 1936 he traveled to Spain in order to serve as a relief worker following the Spanish Civil War. Sitting under an almond tree one day, he also felt the challenge of feeding hungry people as ubiquitous images of poverty and depravation surrounded him daily. Thinking of his own daughters being healthy and well-fed back in the United States, he believed that he must start a process that could bring that same wellness to the children of Spain. But how? He observed that as fast as you give milk to these children they drink it and it is gone, and the cost of importing more milk was economically prohibitive for a war torn nation engrossed in a monumental recovery effort. Then one day an idea came to him. Why not bring cows to Spain and produce the milk here? Why not give each cow to a family with the stipulation that its offspring must be given to another family who would, in turn, give a calf to yet another family? And so on and so on! Somewhat analogous to: 'Little steps climb big mountains.'

The Wikipedia entry has this to add:

Today the organization is known as Heifer International and gives gifts of sheep, rabbits, honeybees, pigs, llamas, water buffalo, chicks, ducks, goats, geese and trees as well as heifers. As of 2006, these animals and plants have been distributed in more than 125 countries around the globe. Each gift perpetuates Heifer's interest in agroecology and sustainability..

If you are at all interested in participating in this wonderful work, go to Heifer Gift Catalogue

The children's book, Beatrice's Goat** tells the true story of a girl who, because of her family's gift of a goat, got to go to school and eventually became a teacher.

*The Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN calls for the day to ensure humanity's freedom from hunger.

** I stole the image from Obviously, you can't Search Inside here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Something New

Joy Nash of Fat Rant has done another Fat Rant, called Confessions of the Compulsive. Watch it. Enjoy it. Know why I love this girl.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nothing New

I'm probably giving you more information on my viewing habits than is smart if I want you to continue to admire Granny's wisdom, but I just can't refrain from commenting.

So, this year we have Chuck, a new comedy/spy program about Chuck, a charmingly awkward computer repair nerd for Buy More, who accidently gets a top secret computer downloaded into his brain and gets conscripted into working as a spy while continuing to live his old life.

Reminds me a lot of Jake 2.0, a comedy/spy program about Jake, a charmingly awkward computer repair nerd for the NSA, who accidently got infected by itty bitty computers and developed super powers and was conscripted into working as a spy while continuing to live his old life.

But, of course, Chuck has no idea what he wants to do with his life, while Jake did want to become an agent. Also, Jake was cuter.

(By the way, if Jake looks familiar to those of you who never watch science fiction, he is currently Henry on Ugly Betty.)

Gee, a new show that looks like an old show. Must be a coincidence, right? I mean, television doesn't go around borrowing premises.

Although . . .

Another new show this season is Journeyman, about Dan, who with no control or volition gets thrown into the past to fix things that went wrong. He never knows what he is supposed to fix until the end of the episode. He meets his ex-fiance, who he had thought dead, as he travels and she gives him not too much help. It interferes with his regular life; he has trouble getting back to his wife.

Not unlike Quantum Leap, where Sam got thrown into the past to fix things that had gone wrong. Oh, yeah, he had no control over it and never knew what he was there for until the end of the episode. He met his assistant, who was in a hologram chamber, as he traveled and he gave him not too much help. It eliminated his regular life; he forgot that he was trying to get back to his wife.

But, of course, Dan is a reporter and Sam was a physicist. And Sam was cuter.

Twice in one season. How odd.

Couldn't happen again, could it?

And then we have Moonlight, a show about Mick, an ethical vampire who fights his nature, works as a private detective, and has a thing with a mortal woman. He doesn't kill to live, subsisting on blood from the blood bank, which he keeps in the refrigerator (and drinks from wine glasses) in his handsomely decorated apartment. Although he is weaker during the day, he does not lose all of his powers come daybreak or refuse to enter a house he has not been invited into, nor does he sleep in a coffin. When he functions as a vampire, his eyes go wierd and his canine teeth grow.

Not unlike Forever Knight, a show about Nick, an ethical vampire, who was a cop on the graveyard shift and had a thing for a mortal woman. He no longer killed to live, subsisting on cow's blood, which he kept in wine bottles in the refrigerator of his handsomely decorated apartment. Although he couldn't go out in the sunlight, he did not lose all of his powers come daybreak, or refuse to enter a house he had not been invited into, nor did he sleep in a coffin. When he functioned as a vampire, his eyes went wierd and his canine teeth grew

But, of course, Mick is 85 years old and Nick was 800. And Nick was cuter.

Chuck and Jake.
Dan and Sam.
Mick and Nick.

Naw, just a coincidence.

Friday, October 12, 2007

If These Cats Got Together!

This cat uses the toilet.

And this cat flushes.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Maya In The Morning*

On weekends, Mama and Dado and Maya spend the day together, but the rest of the week Mama goes to work and Dado works on his dissertation and Maya goes to Montessori. Dado and Mama both want to spend time with Maya every single day, and the way they have arranged it is this: Mama goes to work very early, while Maya and Dado are still sleeping, so Dado gets to spend mornings with Maya. Dado takes Maya to Montessori when he goes to work on his dissertation. Because Mama goes to work so early, she comes home earlier than Dado, and so Mama picks Maya up at Montessori, and she spends her afternoons with Maya. Then, when Dado finishes his work for the day, he joins Maya and Mama, and they spend the evening together.

So, one morning in January, Mama got up early and took her shower and did her hair and got dressed in her going-to-work clothes. And Maya woke up and went to the bathroom, and then she crawled into bed with Dado. Oh, how nice it was to cuddle in with her Dado. It was so nice, in fact, that Maya, who is very much like her Mama was as a girl and so not a snugglorum most of the time, decided she really liked it and said to Mama, "There's room for you." Oh, how Mama wanted to crawl right into that bed with her sleep smuggered girl! Mama has hardly ever wanted anything as much as she wanted to crawl right in and cuddle right up! But, she already had her going-to-work clothes on, she already was all ready to go. So, she girded her loins and kept a stiff upper lip and behaved in a responsible manner and off she went to work. But she surely didn't want to. All day Mama thought about how nice it would have been to snuggle right in with Dado and Maya. All day she wished she could have just done it. Indeed, she thought about it so much she had to send an e-mail to Granny, who understood very well indeed.

* A story I wrote for Maya and about Maya when she was much younger.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Heart Warming

"Once a mom, always a mom: Honey the retriever plays wet nurse to Precious the kitty in Stephens City, Va. The kitten's cries apparently prompted Honey to produce milk, even though she hasn't had a litter of her own for a year and a half."


I Love This One

Click to enlarge.

As you may have noticed, I haven't been as inspired these last few days. Not so much writer's block as, perhaps, need for a mini-break. So, I'll post something every day and expect to get re- inspired soon.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My Perfect Candidate
& Photos

When I took yesterday's test, I agreed most with Dennis Kucinich. A result that didn't surprise me, since I supported him in 2004 and still do. And, I noticed in the comments from yesterday, that a number of my readers also agree with him.

And now, for something completely different:
Taken at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Your Perfect Candidate

Take the Select A Candiate quiz and answer 11 questions to find out which candidate most agrees with your views and opinions. I'll not say what I thought before and after, but I will say that the one who agrees most with me is the one I thought it would be. We only disagreed on one issue, and I had marked that issue as not very important.
Leave your results in a comment and I will post mine tomorrow..

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Jury Duty

For the first time in my life, I've been sorta chosen for jury duty.

I've been called a number of times, but never chosen. Sometimes I would go and sit and wait, only to be told that no jury would be needed, which I discovered usually meant that the defendant had decided to plead guilty, most likely a plea bargain. If that happened, I would be out of the court house by 10, so I always dressed for work -- a skirted suit, heels, and a brief case. Sometimes they would have a jury and alternates empaneled before they got to me. And several times I would actually get to the questioning part and the defense attorney would ask me my highest level of education and I would say I have a Masters and he would object to me as a juror and I would go to work. After this had happened a few times, and once a man who I knew had a Ph.D. was questioned before me and selected, I asked an attorney friend what was up with this. And he told me that defense attorneys do not want a woman of my age and education level because we wouldn't have a post graduate degree unless we were willing to go against peer pressure. We were much more likely than women with less education, younger women, and men of all types to have a disciplined mind. It meant we wouldn't lose track of a piece of the prosecution's case if the defense tried emotions and tricks. Which was certainly flattering, but also frustrating, since I've always believed that jury duty is like learning the issues before voting -- a good citizen does it.

And so it stood until Friday. When I was called for grand jury selection. Now, I've never been called for the grand jury before, and I've never been called in Alaska before, either. So, I have no idea if the petit jury selection here is the same as in California or the grand jury selection anywhere else is the same as here. There was a pool of 60 people, out of which they selected 18 regulars and then 18 alternates (six for each of the three months this grand jury sits). Names were drawn, no questions were asked, and that was that. So, I'm a grand jury alternate for December. Since many people leave the state in December, and grand jury* members are allowed to do that, the likelihood of an alternate being called is higher in December than any other month. Since the grand jury meets one day a week, I might be called up to four times, although that is unlikely.

At last. I can feel like a good citizen.

* In Alaska, the grand jury hands down felony indictments, and in a single day may hear the prosecution case in six cases. So, one day's work would have nothing to do with any other day's work, and continuity of individual jurors is not necessary.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Cats & Laughs
Are Good For the Soul

I particularly like the one in the lime peel helmet.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Go visit Author Mom with Dogs and see the lovely pictures she has taken of her garden produce. She has pictures of her grapes and the squash she has grown, including Hokaido Stella Blue squash which she says may be the best new vegetable she has ever discovered.

Seeing her post reminds me of the years when I grew a garden, and how much I loved it. The peace and connection to nature that comes from working in the earth. The feeling of self-sufficiency of growing some of your own food. The sheer pride when you feed the food that you have grown to others. The fun of canning, dehydrating, and freezing for later in the year. The memories of a summer well spent that come when you take out the food you have put up and enjoy it while the snow lays on the ground.

I have not done many things that made me feel as calm and centered as gardening. Raising my children, teaching Montessori, writing, taking long walks, watching the eagles kettle in the sky. The list of things I love doing is longer than this, but that calm and centered feeling is very rare.