Friday, November 30, 2007

In A Blink

Julie has posted This Too Shall Pass on her blog.
I remember one day, my MIL was rocking Maya to sleep, and one of us said, ‘we don’t want her to get used to being rocked to sleep all of the time’ (my MIL watched Maya a few days a week for us, and would rock Maya to sleep at nap time every day)…my MIL replied that we would miss these times, that they grow up so quickly. You know what? She was right.
My mom said, “Don’t worry, I’m sure she’s grow out of it by the time she’s 35.” Her way of telling me that this too shall pass. And you know what? It did.
And, as often happens with Julie's posts, it got me thinking about when Julie was 5 and Richard was 7 and I really wanted time to pass. Richard was having a hard time learning to read, and Julie was still in night diapers. I really, really wanted these two "problems" to be finished. And what I didn't realize was that these were situations, and only problems if I deemed them to be. And that at the same time these two minor annoyances were going on, some pretty wonderful things were also going on. They were both living home, both funny, both smart as whips, both loving, both well behaved, both helpful around the house. They hadn't yet hit adolescence, which is hard for the child even if the parent does remember surviving it. They weren't confronting many of the ways that life doesn't live up to its PR yet.

Two or three times a day, we ate together. We spent the evenings and weekends together. We played board games and cleaned house and went on picnics and to movies and the fair together. They told me so much about their lives. I still read them stories. We loved and laughed and filled our lives with each other and animals and Alaska. We went berry picking and made jam and planted a garden and . . .

And when Julie no longer needed night diapers, and Richard was a good reader, many of the days of that delightful existence had passed. There were fewer days ahead of us as a family that lived together. Fewer berry picking days. Fewer trips to the lake with the canoe. Fewer Monopoly games.

All of it passes. Instead of wishing part of it away, I wish I'd treasured it more. Because, it all passes in a blink.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Inside Every Fat Woman

Kate Harding on Shapely Prose has posted The Fantasy of Being Thin, in which she discusses how putting things off until we are thin wreaks havoc on the lives of fat people. Talking about the discovery that what we think getting thin will do for us is totally change everything about us that we don't like into things we wish were true and the revalation that it won't, she says
The reality is, I will never be the kind of person who thinks roughing it in Tibet sounds like a hoot; give me a decent hotel in London any day. I will probably never learn to waterski well, or snow ski at all, or do a back handspring. I can be outgoing and charismatic in small doses, but I will always then need time to recharge my batteries with the dogs and a good book; I’ll never be someone with a chock-full social calendar, because I would find that unbearably exhausting. (And no matter how well I’ve learned to fake it — and thus how much this surprises some people who know me — new social situations will most likely always intimidate the crap out of me.) I might learn to speak one foreign language fluently over the course of my life, but probably not five. I will never publish a novel until I finish writing one. I will always have to be aware of my natural tendency toward depression and might always have to medicate it. Smart money says I am never going to chuck city life to buy an alpaca farm or start a new career as a river guide. And my chances of marrying George Clooney are very, very slim
And of course, the dark side of that is that being fat then became an excuse not to do much of anything, because it wouldn’t be the real me doing it, so what was the point? If I wouldn’t find the right guy until I was thin, why bother dating? If I wouldn’t have a breakthrough on the novel until I was thin, why bother writing? If I wouldn’t be the life of the party until I was thin, why bother trying to make new friends? If I wouldn’t feel like climbing a mountain until I was thin, why bother traveling at all?
The thin person inside me finally got out — it just turned out she was actually a fat person*. A reasonably attractive, semi-outgoing fat person who has an open mind and an active imagination but also happens to really like routine and familiarity and quiet time alone.

That was never who I expected to be — it was just always who I was.
I love that -- the person inside of me all along was a fat person! Yes! The person who was fighting to get out all this time was a fat person! A fat person who loves and laughs and glories in the world. A fat person of many talents and great dreams. A fat person who is good at many things and very nice to look at in many ways. ME dag nab it. Me! Who finally realized that I had no reason to hate my body or apologize for not being thin. That I am sufficient just as I am and need no excuse to exist. No diet to show that although I'm not there yet, I'm trying. Although I'm a fat woman I'm not a bad fat woman**.

And I'm so glad that the fat person who was struggling to get out, the woman who could accept herself and get on with life, didn't give up on me over all those decades of my thinking she was a thin person.

* Emphasis mine.
** A bad fat woman is one who eats. If you diet, you are just a thin woman trapped for some reason, for some period of time, in this foreign body. One day, like the sweatshop workers in The Wiz, you will unzip the fat suit and out will come the real you. A good fat woman. A thin woman.

Photo: ABC

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shifting The View
From Interior to Exterior

Since I've spent so much time examining my own motives and trying to get beyond the fog of self delusion lately, I thought I would rest and allow some mystery to take me back into its arms.

I love this picture, from, of the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog. It somehow makes The City seem like a magical place, wrapped in white, approachable only through true vision.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Granny's Secret Shame

Posting about figuring out how to get Colleen to holiday dinners on time and Mama to stop using racial slurs got me to thinking about when I did and when I didn't solve problems. I've written about Colleen before, and mentioned how she used to break my things until the day I made her pay to repair one of them, which turned out to be the last time she broke something of mine. But there were times when I didn't do anything about the behavior except resent it.

One example is the prawns. Not long after the kids and I moved back to California from Fairbanks, we were visiting my parents and Colleen was there. Daddy ordered and picked up Chinese take-out.* As the food was being passed around, Colleen took all of the prawns. I said something about other people wanting some prawns and Colleen said, "I don't eat anything but prawns." I commented that she could still ask if anyone wanted one before she took them all, since of course with just Mama, Daddy, and her everyone knew ahead of time, but with Richard, Julie, and me added to the mix, one of us might want one. "Colleen doesn't eat anything but prawns," my parents stated, so I shut up. I didn't actually care if I had a prawn or not and my kids weren't acting like they did, so I let it go. However, as soon as Colleen had eaten all of the prawns, she loaded up her plate with everything else in the cartons -- twice. Wait. She got all the prawns because she didn't eat anything else, but she ate more of everything else than any two people. That didn't seem fair. Nor did it seem exactly sane to make that statement. So, I tried to point out that Colleen was now chowing down on everything else, and my parents simply ignored me.**

This scene was repeated an uncounted number of times over the next 20 years. And it was never any different. I never figured out what to do about it. Which is crazy, because now I know exactly what I could have done about it. I had several choices. Since my kids and I didn't really care that much about prawns, I could have let it go. Or, when Daddy went to call in the order, I could have handed him a $5 bill and asked him to get two orders of prawns so that someone else could have some.*** There were probably other things I could have done as well, including taking a picture of the plate full of everything else to whip out as evidence the next time she grabbed all the prawns.

So, why didn't I? Why did I wait until she was dead to think of the solution?

I'll tell you, and it doesn't make me look all that good. The reason that I could figure out how to deal with some things and not others was that I did what gave me the biggest payoff. Quite simply, holiday dinner mattered and racial slurs mattered and having my stuff savaged mattered. But I didn't really care about prawns. And yet, I got angry every time. And that's why I didn't solve it. Getting mad was the payoff. A much better payoff than a few measely prawns.

Because one of the themes that runs through my life with my folks and Colleen is that I am a saint and she was a shit and my parents were unfair. So, when she got all the prawns, and they let her get by with it, they were vindicating me. It was proof that I'm a saint, and she was a shit, and my parents were unfair.

As hard as it is to admit, in those moments, I would rather be right than happy. When I cared I solved it. When I didn't, I let it go on to feed my sense of the unfairness of life and my sainthood.

* Remember, at this point it had been 15 years since I left home and in that time I had only occasionally been in town to see exactly how things worked with Colleen and my parents. Always the same way, always the way they had worked since she was born, but the particulars of any given situation were still missing.
** You may recognize that ignoring when facts clashed with prior policy was a fairly common behavior in that house. It makes one feel crazy, let me tell you. You have no idea how I treasure people who observed this and can confirm for me that it wasn't some nutty imaginary scene I cooked up. I really did say things that they didn't want to hear and they really did simply cease to hear me.
*** Not that he would have taken the money, but he would have ordered more prawns.

Monday, November 26, 2007

These Are Our Kids

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast has posted War May Be The Least of Our Problems, about the suicide problem among the military (averaging 17 a day) that you would do well to read. This is a problem that is not going away and we are not prepared for it. The families of the soldiers are not prepared. The military is not prepared. The VA is not prepared. Our communities are not prepared. The nation as a whole is not prepared. Not prepared to deal with it, to help the soldiers, to provide the kinds of care that would make a difference, to deal with the aftermath among families. Hell, mostly this administration is ignoring it and sweeping it under the rug.

These are our kids. They volunteered for the military because they wanted to protect America. They go to Iraq, the vast majority of them at least initially believing the reasons they were given for going. My local paper had a letter to the editor this weekend by a soldier who is a soldier for these reasons, who is willing to give his life to protect our lives and freedom. And we damn well owe it to these brave young people to make sure that their trust is not betrayed; that they are not sent into wars that are unnecessary or that may be making things worse for us in the future; that when we do send them, we send enough of them; that we equip them with the best body armor and vehicles; that we provide enough of the best care for them when they are wounded; that we don't send them again and again into battle with no end in sight; that we don't keep them in battle beyond their terms of service by stop-loss measures. We ask that they kill and die for us. We need to never do that unless there is a reason worthy of that sacrifice.

And when they are so wounded in spirit that 17 of them commit suicide every day, we need to figure out what to do about that and do it. And that doing needs to include what do we do about their survivors. About the parents and children and spouses and siblings and friends that go bereaved of their loved ones forever more.

Wow, What Meals We Had*

I thought that since I had told you about the time I figured out how to get Colleen to holiday dinners on time, I would tell you my other holiday solution story. Particularly since it also involved recognizing that what I was doing wasn't working and shifting from complaining/talking to acting.

My grandfather's side of the family hails from the deep south. Lovely people in many respects, but very southern about race. My mother couldn't seem to get over the fact that other races existed and called them by various derogatory names. Over the years Forrest, Colleen, and I all three tried to get her to stop. We told her it humiliated us. That it made her look petty and ugly. That we couldn't believe she could use such cruel words. Nothing worked.

And then one Thanksgiving, when the table was full of relatives and my friend Linda, Mama said something about a black man, calling him what no one should call another person. And, instead of telling her how I felt about it, I was struck by inspiration, and said, very loudly and very clearly, two compound nouns of a sexual nature that I don't think had ever been spoken at my mother's table before. Shocked silence. Mama then took up her conversation, as though my venture into Tourette's hadn't occurred. Pretty soon she said something about a Mexican woman, calling her an equally nasty word. And I repeated my earlier comment. Well, I think I reversed it this time -- the first time it had been xying cder, and this time it was cding xyer. Again shock, again carrying on as though it hadn't happened.

However, a couple of days before Christmas Mama called Linda, who had been invited to share that meal with the family, and asked her if she could control my mouth.** Linda's answer was that the only person who could control my mouth was Mama, which Mama didn't get.

So, there we were at Christmas dinner, same cast as before, and Mama used her black person word again, and I repeated my original response. This time Mama decided that she had to do something about it and said, "Joy, you mustn't use words like that." And I responded, "Mama, I only use them when you use your filthy words. But, from now on I'm going to use them every time you use your filthy words. Because, no matter how much my words embarrass you, it is nothing to how much your words embarrass me."

Problem solved. My mother may still use those words, but not in front of me.

* Change of title from Julie's comment.
** How Mama thought she could do that I have no idea.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Vatican Rag

I think this is funnier if you have actually spent some time in the Catholic church. Which, you may remember, I did. I went to a Catholic girls' boarding school after my father died, and then when Mama remarried and we moved to Puerto Rico, the Catholic school was the only one where classes were taught in English.

Except arithmetic and geography. Since that was the year we did multiplication tables, that gave me a brief hitch in my math. On paper it was no problem, Spanish numerals and English numerals look the same. But, if someone asked me a multiplication problem and I had to answer verbally, I had to translate the English number to Spanish, work the problem, then translate the answer to English. Slowed me down considerably. I don't recall there being any problem with geography because of it -- perhaps we did Puerto Rican geography that year, and I've not needed it in any of the other places I've ever lived.

And then, decades later, I was the resident secular humanist working for Catholic Community Service for 12 years. That worked out pretty well -- the courts would assign parents to take my parenting class and sometimes the person would object because she/he wasn't Catholic, and the judge would respond, "The instructor is an atheist. I doubt she will try to convert you."

Anyway, here it is Sunday, and here is a post that touches, however lightly, on religion.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Holidays from Hell

You must visit Julie's blog and read The Ghost of Thanksgivings Past and discover what holidays were like for us when we lived in California and went to Mama and Daddy's for Thanksgiving. You will quickly realize that it was not a Norman Rockwell painting. For one thing the visual is all wrong. Daddy was 20 years older than Mama, a short, skinny man with naturally black hair his entire life. Mama is still slender and would die before she let her hair go white; indeed she has no idea of how white it is because she hasn't let it get there. And the turkey didn't look like that! No, it was all dried out and falling apart.

In addition to the sarcasm and short temper and the overcooked food that tasted of cigarettes, there was one misery that stood out for me and made me want to spit nails. You have to understand that when I was growing up, if I was one minute (I am not exaggerating here, one, 1, a single, a unitary, one minute) late, I was in trouble. Usually Daddy took my library card away, but sometimes I also got grounded. So, I tended not to have much patience for people who were allowed to be late in his house.*

And Colleen was invariably late. Dinner would be scheduled for 2:00. Everyone else would be there by 1:10, since it is rude to arrive just in time to eat. At 2:00, Colleen would be nowhere to be seen. At 2:15 Daddy would start to carp and complain and generally carry on and make everyone miserable. Talk about how inconsiderate she was, how she always expected the world to stop for her, how no one else counted in her universe. This would go on until she arrived, usually well after 4:30.

During this time I would suggest that we eat at 2. That if Colleen arrived and had to eat alone she wouldn't repeat the behavior the next holiday. And how would Mama and Daddy respond to this sensible suggestion? Why, they never responded at all. I could have not been in the room for all the notice they gave me. One year I had mentioned this to Forrest's new wife a week or so before the holiday, and when it was happening she looked at me and said to Forrest, quite loudly, "Joy's right. They totally ignore her when she suggests that we not wait for Colleen." And they ignored her, too!

And when Colleen finally arrived, everyone would act like she was on time, we would gather to eat, and the parents would say not a word. If I said anything, she would look at me like I was crazy and give some excuse for why she couldn't get there on time and act like it was just this once, and Mama and Daddy would scold me for making a fuss. And I would quietly boil, having fantasies of butchering the three of them and dancing in their guts. How I managed to get through the holidays the first few years we were back from Fairbanks, I don't know. I was certainly reminded why I had left California in the first place and really regretted going back.

Finally, after the kids and I had been back in California about two years, and we had gone through this routine for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter twice, I had enough of it. Realizing that doing the same thing and expecting different results really is crazy, I changed my tactics. That Thanksgiving I called Mama a few days ahead and asked when dinner was going to be served. And she said, 2:00.

"Fine," I told her. "I've made reservations for 2:15 at Black Angus for my kids and me. If our butts aren't on your chairs by 2:10, we will go have dinner there. I am never waiting for Colleen to grace us with her presence again in my life."

About 45 minutes later I got a call from Colleen. "Joy, Mama just called me. She says Dad is tired of us kids being late for holiday dinners and he says that at 2:00 he is locking the door and if we get there late we can stand on the porch and watch everyone else eat. So, be sure you're there on time!"

There are three points about that.
1. Daddy was so generally unreasonable and demanding that of course Colleen would believe Mama when she cast him as the villain.
2. Colleen never was late for a meal in that house again.
3. While I had thrown Colleen to the wolves, she called to save my bacon.

*Except Aunt Flo, who is always late, one couldn't be upset about that and besides, she would never be late to a meal because she would be there early to help.

Norman Rockwell, Thanksgiving

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tow Trunk

Ask about our 24-hour emergency road service: A tow trunk pushes a broken-down bus off the road in Barishal, Bangladesh.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Birth Mothers

Bitch, Ph.D has posted Adoption: Birth Mothers Are People, Too concerning the book The Girls Who Went Away, about birth mothers who gave their children up for adoption in the days before Roe v. Wade. It's a perspective that most of us don't think about very deeply. The argument is there for women who are considering an abortion, that they can choose to give birth and adopt the baby out. But what we don't really think about is what it is like to have adopted a baby out.

For two years one of my parenting clients was a young woman who had given her younger child up for adoption because she was afraid of his father. The police were unable to offer her help. She believed that the only thing she could do to get this man completely out of her life and keep her children safe was to hide the existence of the baby from him. To give him up for adoption.

She first came to me after she had given the child up and returned to town. She came to see me once a week for two years, and she never came once that she didn't cry. She ached for her child. It was supposed to be an open adoption, but Alaska doesn't enforce the open adoption agreement if the adoptive parents decide they don't want the birth mother involved.* She gave her child to this couple. She was supposed to get pictures and letters and be able to see him at least once a year. She never got a single picture or letter. All of her letters and the letters of her lawyer were returned unopened.

I have never worked with a parent I was less able to help. I have never known a young woman who I wanted to fight for more. I will never know if she could have trusted her baby's father. But I do know that I have never known a woman to regret an abortion the way that young woman regretted that adoption. It left her wounded to the soul.

Adoption is not a choice normally made by the Tlingits in this area. The tribes do not give up children, and if the mother or parents can't raise the child, extended family members will take it in until circumstances change. I worked with many grandmothers who were raising their grandkids, and even two great-grandmothers.

In those cases where there is no extended family to step in, pregnant teens and their children may end up in the foster care system. There is a woman who fosters young, pregnant, Tlingit girls and their babies. She continues to foster both mother and child while the mother finishes school. The foster mom wants the young mother to have a good start as a mother and as near a normal life as a teen as possible. The young mother goes to the prom and football games as well as learning about child development. She grows as a maturing teen and as a mother. If she "ages out**" of the foster system, the foster mom keeps her without money from the state for her care and works with her until she is ready to take her child and go out on her own. And the foster mom is there to support her in many ways for years. Many of the young mothers she has helped still drop in and visit on a weekly basis. Like any daughter would.

I know that the circumstances between my young client and these young mothers are different, and this superb foster mother would not have been there for my client in any case. But I also know that if there were more women like this foster mom, there would be fewer young women who would have to make either choice about a baby. More intact families. And what a blessing that would be.

* To the best of my knowledge, no state does.
** Becomes 18, when the state stops paying for her care and expects her to go out on her own.

Photo: Ashes to Blessing

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Life in a Small Town

My pal Shark-fu, at Angry Black Bitch, posted about how St. Louis, where she lives, has been found to be the second most violent city in the US. Needless to say, she isn't happy about this.

And it made me really appreciative of Juneau. I've mentioned that I'm on the grand jury this month, and that what we do is decide if there is enough evidence in a crime to bring an indictment. We have to listen to the case and decide within ten days of the arrest if the suspect is in jail. Well, we met last Friday, and we had three cases to hear. Which means that in the previous seven days (we met the prior Friday), we had three crimes in this community which resulted in someone being arrested and jailed. And although I can't discuss them, I can tell you that none of them was anything big. All class C felonies. Things like DUIs (the third in ten years becomes a felony) or thefts of over $500 and under $23,000.

I mean, this town is just very law abiding. And, in none of the cases I've heard so far was the suspect sneaky in the least. Did what they did and basically got caught because they didn't try to hide it very well, if at all.

picture from Cody Wyoming Police Department Crime Stoppers

Monday, November 19, 2007

Guilty Pleasure

OK, I'll just admit it. I like The Big Bang Theory -- a lot.*

The critics that I've read don't. Although there does seem to be agreement that the actors are much better than the material. There is, the critics say, too much stereotyping of nerds going on here. Well, yes there is. I admit it.

The critics seem to think that these characters are so stereotyped that they aren't likeable.

But, the reason I like it so much is that these characters remind me of a group of teens who used to hang out with Richard, playing Dungeons and Dragons and talking about that world as though it was real. Very, very bright kids. Much smarter book wise than socially. Never fated for high school popularity. And earnest and fun to be around, at least for me. Supremely likeable.

Indeed, to a lesser degree** they remind me of the Elves', Gnomes', Leprechauns', and Little Men's Chowder and Marching Society.

* I seem to have a very eclectic sense of humor. I laugh at dry and witty humor, I laugh at broad humor. Having spent enough time with my Yu'pik mother, I laugh at very earthy humor. Puns. Knock knock jokes. Jokes based on obscure literary or scientific references. I will pretty much laugh at any excuse to laugh, as long as it isn't cruel.

** Because we were more into literature and less into science and math than either Richard and his pals or Howard, Leonard, Sheldon, and Raj, seen above with Penny, the non-nerd from across the hall.

Click on picture to enlarge and notice details of the room. The two flip charts and the telescope.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Stolen From Jill
At Brilliant At Breakfast

Because it is so worth doing! As Jill says,
It's not NICE to fuck with The Daily Show's writers

Potpouri IV

Odd thoughts on a normal day.

When the bicycle was invented, birth defects in rural England dropped dramatically. Prior to the bike, horseless men could court only within walking distance and the generations of that had led to much in-breeding. When a man could ride a bike two or three times further to court, he reached a new section of the gene pool.

Meow is a sound that cats use exclusively for humans. And there is no word for fetch in their language. In the middle ages, cats were tortured and executed as witches's familiars. Black cats were particularly hunted down. I have always felt that there was a certain poetic justice to the black plague -- the infected lice came to Europe on the backs of rats and there were not enough cats to kill the rats because of the cruelty that had been practiced on them.

700,000 British soldiers died in the First World War, and over a million and a half were wounded; there were many British spinsters for whom there were no men to marry. These women often lived long lives, and when they left their parents' homes they tended to pair up and live together, along with their cats. The existence of so many British spinsters led to an unnatural increase in the number of cats which led to an unnatural decrease in the number of field mice and song birds. It also led to women's rights becoming an issue earlier than it might otherwise have done. It certainly led to a loosening of sexual constraints on women, since if women could only have sex if they were married, there were an incredible number of them in England who would have died virgins. Actually, even though there was an increase in extramarital sex, there were still many women who died in old age as virgins.

Modern transportation has traded polluted air for streets full of horse shit and the sounds of taxi horns for the sounds of horse shoes on cobble stones. There just doesn't seem to be any pollution free way to live in cities, at least not yet.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Forest and Sky

Credit & Copyright: Vincent Jacques

Explanation: With pine trees in dim silhouette, this skyscape from Breil-sur-Roya in southern France was captured on November 11. In the early evening scene, a satellite seems to streak through the branches, while bright, round, fuzzy Comet Holmes appears to lie just beyond them, near the stars of the constellation Perseus. Mirfak, alpha star of Perseus, is the brightest star above the comet and to the right. Next Monday (November 19), Holmes will be close enough to Mirfak to view the star through the remarkable comet's expanding coma. Recent measurements place the dusty coma's diameter at about 1.4 million kilometers, even larger than the Sun.

Ed.'s Note: Predawn skies this weekend will feature the Leonids Meteor Shower.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Names Meme

Julie did this recently, and it looked like fun.

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & first car) - Tricksy Corvair

2. YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie) - Black Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal Raisin.

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name) - L WAR

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal) - Purple Cat

5. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first) - Warli

6. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink) - The Turquoise Pepsi

7. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers) - Percy Roland

8. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter) - Seawell Seattle (I couldn't remember the name of my fifth grade teacher, so I took my sixth.)

9. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, favorite flower) - Christmas Buttercup

10. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”) - Watermelon Nightie

11. HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree) - Malt O' Meal Sycamore

12. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”) - Reading Rain Tour

13. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born) - Joycelyn Oakland

14. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names ) Louise Charles

Wanna play?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

National Brotherhood Week

Having published a long post with a lot of serious food for thought yesterday, and being mid-work on a couple of subjects I want to talk about, I thought I'd give you a light hearted Tom Lerhrer YouTube to enjoy today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Attacking Fat Kids

I was not a fat kid. Until I was 12, when my mother decided that since we were the same height we should be the same weight and put me on a diet to lose three pounds, I never thought about my weight. Well, when I was ten and 5 feet even and 100 pounds even, I thought that was kind of cool and tidy, not because of how slim I was but because the numbers made such a fine pattern -- age, height, weight all at the tipping point. Actually, in those halcyon days, I was rather pleased with how I looked. Except for the freckles. There was a time there when I wanted to get rid of the freckles. But, mostly, I really liked how I looked. I had auburn hair and brown eyes and enough sense to know that was freaking great. There might have been moments when I would have liked to be glamorous, but mostly I was content with my Girl Scout looks. I was, after all, a tomboy, and so glamour would not have suited me very well. Even if I had it, the scabs on my knees, the sunburn on my nose, and the snarls in my hair would have moved me out of that category.

So, I have no personal experience with being teased for being a fat kid. Actually, I have no personal experience with being teased about my looks at all and never while I was in school, up through graduate level, did any of my classmates or teachers mention my size or act like I should be any different than I was. But I remember how fat kids were teased, even back in the 40s when I started school and the "obesity epidemic" was far in the future, even in the days before there was a weight loss industry to sell us all on the idea that there is something wrong with our bodies and they have the magic cure that we only have to pay them for to enjoy. Even then, fat kids had it tough.

Today, fat kids have a much harder row to hoe. Preschoolers, shown pictures of various children which include children of all races, some handicapped, and asked which child they would like for a friend don't choose the fat kid. Even preschoolers are so afraid of being fat that some of them are putting themselves on diets. Four year olds, instead of beaming with delight when they see themselves in the mirror, have started sucking in their guts.

The other thing that my personal history and the reading I've done in the last ten years have taught me is that once you become obsessed with your weight you are in for hell. Eating is a self-conscious act. You hesitate to be the first one who admits to hunger, because as a fat person you aren't entitled to be hungry. You don't go to the pool because people will see just how fat you are. You try everything you can think of to get rid of the "extra" weight. And, since our body sizes are pretty well determined by our genes (want to be thin? have four thin grandparents.), if the weight comes off, it comes back on again. Eventually, you gain back more than you lost. There is one study UC Berkeley, 2004 that suggests that the younger you start to diet, the fatter you will become. The same study found that the more diets you've been on, the fatter you become.

Now, if you were a weight loss corporation and if you had no ethics beyond the bottom line, what would be the best way to build yourself a permanent customer base? Yep, get the kids to start dieting at younger and younger ages. Since it doesn't work, convince them rebound weight is their fault until they have messed up their metabolisims beyond hope and they are caught.

Personally, I'm just enough of a skeptic to think that there is no accident that the focus has been aimed at childhood obesity. First, you set the level so low that only the truly frail don't qualify, and then you hype it all over the place.

Sandy Szwarc, at Junkfood Science has recently posted a number of articles dealing with this subject.

In Such a deal, or is it? Sandy talks about a workplace wellness initiative that targets not just the weight and life style choices of the employees, but also of their children.
IBM has teamed up with Weight Watchers, a fellow member of the National Business Group on Health. It’s easy to see how Weight Watchers will benefit by such compulsory participation of 128,000 IBM employees in a Weight Watchers’ branded that will simultaneously bring up an entire generation of weight-absorbed future customers. But IBM has not disclosed what’s in the deal for them. Even if such a program worked, by the time any health benefits might materialize, the children will long since be off on their own and no longer on their parents’ insurance plan.

The money may be enough to coerce some workers let their employer decide what their family eats, where and when they eat, and how often they exercise and what type of exercise they do. But using children is especially insidious, because what isn’t being said is that this childhood obesity program is an experimental pilot project with absolutely no evidence that it will prevent child obesity, let alone improve their children’s health. In fact, all of the evidence to date has shown similar programs to be ineffective for improving children’s health — such as changing their blood pressures, glucose tolerance, fitness, ‘cholesterol’ levels or rates of childhood illnesses — or change long-term obesity rates. But they do leave young people vulnerable to body-image problems and life-long dysfunctional relationships with food and eating.
Sandy looks at the results of two long-range studies on obesity programs for children at One size childern.
Although both studies found null results, the authors suggested that more intense and continuous interventions might be necessary.

But, of course, doing more of the same won’t work, either. Nor is it surprising that no obesity prevention or weight intervention program to date has been able to demonstrate effectiveness in changing obesity rates among children or teens long-term. That’s because, as we know, the science has shown for decades that the natural diversity of sizes among kids, as in adults, isn’t about what they eat or the exercise they get. Thin kids may eat like horses, while fat kids like birds and it doesn't much change their natural sizes in the end. As a group, fat and thin eat the same. No dietary or activity factor among children explains the differences in their sizes.

In Fat camps for tots, which looks at the new British idea of sending toddlers and babies to fat camp to learn good eating habits, and perhaps take off a little weight while they are there,
Let’s look at the evidence in support of such claims and interventions for babies and toddlers:

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Remember the Scholastic magazine? The one we got in school that was full of grade appropriate information and just for us? The one we still see in the doctor's waiting room? Well, it ain't our Scholastic anymore, folks. Sandy looks at the shameful use to which this once benign icon of childhood is being put in This is scholastic achievement?
From the “What are they teaching our children?” file comes another school-based childhood obesity initiative with no sound basis in science. Worse, it teaches children to fear healthful foods they need and teaches prejudices against their heavier classmates.
Many parents and grandparents remember Scholastic publications as educational, inspiring and fun ways for kids to learn about the world. This is not the Scholastic they remember.
The Food Detective game invites kids to click on the “AFD Case Files” of various “Suspects:” children who are supposedly behaving badly. The fat little 10-year old girl is Emily. The game tells kids that Emily is fat because “she eats too much and needs to learn portion control.” The food detective sets up a security cam in her house “to catch the culprit in the act” and she is shown gobbling nonstop a table of fattening foods and a chart shows her eating a whopping 4,550 [kilo]calories.

We could stop right there, of course, as the evidence has shown time and again that fat children eat no differently than thin children to explain the natural differences in their sizes. This game does nothing but teach children to condemn fat children for gluttony, while instilling the harmful false message in fat children that they must be eating “too much.” But the calories being ascribed to the 10 year old fat girl are beyond absurd and illustrate just how uncredible these lessons are. According to NHANES, 6-11 year old girls eat an average of 1,889 kilocalories a day (plus or minus 43 kcal) and the “educational message” in this game bears no resemblance to the facts.

Other children’s “Case Files” promote equally unsound and prejudicial messages. A heavy little boy named Michael is called a “sofa loafer” and his fatness is blamed on spending too much time on the computer and playing video games and eating bad foods. Another popular myth of fat children. And a little boy, Cole, is supposedly a weakling because he eats junk food. You get the idea.

And finally, You're fine just how you are. and read her touching post on trying to be what you are not. The Allan Faustino T-shirt graphic, left, is enough to break your heart.

Monday, November 12, 2007

1984 is upon us

Go visit Time Goes By and read this post on HR 1955, which some are calling the Thought Crimes Bill. This frightening bill was passed by the House with only six dissenting votes* while the media was covering the California wildfires and has been noticed nowhere that Ronnie and her commenters can find. There is all likelihood that it will pass the Senate and no likelihood that it will be vetoed.

* "The six brave representatives who stood up against the majority in voting against H.R.1955 are: Jeff Flake [Rep-AR], Dana Rohrabacher [Rep-CA], Neil Abercrombie [Dem-HI], Jerry Costello {Dem-IL], Dennis Kucinich [Dem-OH] and John Duncan {Rep-TN]." Notice that they are split between Republicans and Democrats. Also notice that Kucinich is in this list.


Who would think that after all this time, the problem would still be with us? And yet, it is. Some gifts just keep on giving.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Armistice Day

"Armistice Day is the anniversary of the official end of World War I, November 11, 1918. It commemorates the Armistice with Germany, signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compi├Ęgne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front (World War I), which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning — the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." While this official date to mark the end of the war reflects the ceasefire on the Western Front, hostilities continued in other regions, especially across the former Russian Empire and in parts of the old Ottoman Empire."

My grandfather, Percy Herndon, continued to fight in Siberia. He never talked about the war, at least not to me. I only know that he fought the Red Army in Siberia and his part of the war didn't end as soon as the Western Front did.

Currently, we celebrate Veterans' Day, honoring the veterans of all wars, on the Monday closest to November 11th.

Cartoon: Clifford Berryman, 1928. American Treasures of the Library of Congress.
Photo: P.F. Herndon, and his sister Julia.
Text: Wikipedia

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Life of Crime

I thought I would post this today, partly in honor of my having spent Friday as part of the grand jury. It is amazing to me how blatant crime is. Nothing subtle about it at all. We had a DUI where the guy drove off at 70 mph with a cop after him -- in a community where the longest road is 45 miles and there is no road out. We had two shop lifters who were watched in the store because they were recognized by staff as having done it before. And the technique! Pile the cart full of expensive stuff and shove it out into the parking lot! I mean, when I was shoplifting* we had the sense to distract people.**

So, that was my day. Helping law enforcement and realizing that it's a good thing I didn't become a criminal, because I was all too good at the brief foray I took into the life.

* When I was at my first high school; I reformed when I went to live with Auntie***.
** There was the time Kate and I wore our Girl Scout uniforms into the store and Sissy wore her slut outfit. Sissy picked things up, acted like she was going to put them in her pocket, put them back. And while everyone was watching Sissy, Kate and I did it. There was the time I asked the clerk for help finding pork blintzes, on the theory that no one would be watching anyone who called that kind of attention to themselves. Oh, and those were the times I didn't get caught, either.
*** At least temporarily. A few years later, I took it up again briefly, and then gave it up permanently.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Peculiar Arp 87

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)

Explanation: A cosmic bridge of stars, gas, and dust stretches for over 75,000 light-years and joins this peculiar pair of galaxies cataloged as Arp 87. The bridge is strong evidence that these two immense star systems have passed close to each other and experienced violent tides induced by mutual gravity. As further evidence, the face-on spiral galaxy on the right, also known as NGC 3808A, exhibits many young blue star clusters produced in a burst of star formation. The twisted edge-on spiral on the left (NGC 3808B) seems to be wrapped in the material bridging the galaxies and surrounded by a curious polar ring. While such interactions are drawn out over billions of years, repeated close passages should ultimately result in the merger of this pair of galaxies into a larger single galaxy of stars. Although this scenario does look peculiar, galactic mergers are thought to be common, with Arp 87 representing a stage in this inevitable process. The Arp 87 pair are about 300 million light-years distant toward the constellation Leo. The prominent edge-on spiral at the far left appears to be a more distant background galaxy and not involved in the on-going merger.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day

Thursday, November 08, 2007

10-20-30 Virus

I found this at Julie's blog, Thinking About.

She added 40, since she is now over 40; since I am over 60, I'll go that high. The idea is to identify what you were doing 10 etc. years ago.

Ten Years Ago - 1997 I was working for Catholic Community Service providing parenting skills coaching and training to families whose children were in foster care or at risk. Maya was new and life had a special meaning that it hadn't had before.

Twenty Years Ago - 1987 I was working in Stockton, just before I moved to Sacramento. In May Julie had said something that made me realize that I had made a major mistake in not making sure my kids knew their fathers, and I spent the summer working to correct that. Julie's father, who had misunderstood me when I told him she was his, was overjoyed to come and meet her. Richard's father, who had known all along, never did come through with more than a few letters and phone calls.

Thirty Years Ago - 1977 I was in Campbell, having moved back from Fairbanks in 1975. It was not a good year for us. I was director of education for a Montessori school system owned by a man who I'm pretty certain was bipolar. He dipped into the bank account all the time, so that on pay day everyone who distributed checks made sure their own was cashed (not deposited. Cashed.) before handing out the rest and who was always suggesting things like borrowing money from the Mafia (which caused me to picture shadowy figures knee capping teachers because the payments were overdue). Richard was suffering in a junior high from Hell, the neighbors were involved in high drama which they brought into our house on occasion. This is where I said, to the tall, strong, mean-as-spit wife beater as he tried to bring his fight into my living room, "I don't care who is married to whom. I pay the rent in this house, which makes it my roof. You need to get out, leaving your wife with me, because I have called the police."

Forty Years Ago - 1967 The kids and I were in Berkeley. I was finishing college, my life consisted of kids and school and learning and love. I've never been happier as an adult.

Fifty Years Ago - 1957 I was attending Hillsdale High School (the first of two) in San Mateo, California and my best friend was Kate. The next year I went to live with my great-aunt Julie, and met Jack and Michael and Jane and Robert. 1957, the only bright light was Kate. Things got really better in Modesto.

Sixty Years Ago - 1947 I was five years old. It was the last year that we lived in the trailer, moving from one place in California to the next. It was the last year of my father's life. It was the last year of unquestioned security.

Candle Light

Shark-fu, at Angry Black Bitch has posted a quick note, in which she talks about our need to recognize our power to make a difference, even when it seems that we have none. For, surely, if we believe that we have none, then we are powerless indeed.

So, let us remember that it is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

Photo: DHD Multimedia Gallery

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

They Decided To Share

digby, on Hullabaloo, has posted this quote from Chris Matthews, Tweety of the day
"This gender thing is so tricky. Here's my theory. Men voted in the first part of the last century to give women the vote. They had all the votes and decided to share them. They thought, 'they're smart, we're married to them, if momma's not happy nobody's happy' sort of thing."

Let's try telling that to my great-grandmother, the suffragist, shall we? To all of the women who marched and went to jail and were force-fed to break their hunger strikes. To all of the women who heard that only ugly women who couldn't catch a husband would ever want to vote. To all of the women who died before it ever happened. To Abigail Adams, who asked her husband to "remember the women" in the Constitution.*

Even a child's publication, the Scholastic, says on its suffrage page, Women's Suffrage
Woman suffragists often met hostility and sometimes violence.
Yes, yes. Hostility and violence. That sounds to me like deciding to share. Doesn't it to you?

And how about this (also from Scholastic)?
During the Civil War, suffragists shelved their cause temporarily, hoping that at war's end, women as well as emancipated slaves would be enfranchised. After the war Republican party politicians believed enfranchisement of the ex-slaves would be defeated if harnessed to the even more unpopular cause of woman's suffrage. They succeeded in passing the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which gave the vote to black men but not to women.
It has always amazed me that men were willing to give the vote to men of other races before they were willing to give it to their own mothers and daughters and sisters. I could understand their not wanting to share power with their wives and even their sisters. But their mothers and daughters? What kind of person doesn't see the humanity of his own parent and child? What does that say about those men?

* Let's remember that there have always been men, like John Stuart Mill and my great-grandfather, who believed in the equality of the sexes. I am not talking about them here. I am talking about the majority of men, who had power and did not gladly give it up.

photo, National Archives of Scotland, Photograph of Janet Arthur, suffragist, 1912, taken from the Home and Health Department criminal case files, NAS ref. HH16/43/2

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Home Delivery

Unlike the naughty ice cream delivered by The Good Humor Woman, I never actually ordered anything from the Pot Pie Guy. I had moved to San Francisco before I heard of his small enterprise in Berkeley, and I'm not certain if he was making his deliveries before I left or not.

At any rate, rumor had it that there was a guy who delivered chicken pot pies on a bike with a heated basket. And that they were more pot than chicken.

Since I was no longer part of the Berkeley hippy scene at the time that I heard about this, I have no idea whether it was true or not, nor how long it lasted if it was. It certainly smacked of the "Purloined Letter," what with the out in plain sight aspect of it.

I do know that pot is more potent when eaten than when smoked, because I once had some rather green brownies. The night of the Beatles' Candlestick Park Concert, which is where I ate them. I won tickets to the concert by calling in and correctly identifying Eleanor Rigby the day after Revolver was released, so we got up a group and went. I'm very glad that I wasn't driving and that the driver had eschewed the brownies, since on the way back it seemed to me that the Bay Bridge stood up in front of the car and shimmied like a snake. Lovely and funny, but I doubt that would be easy to drive on. And, I suppose that makes up for the fact that we couldn't hear a note of the music what with all the screaming and all, and that later I read that the Beatles were so disgusted with American audiences by that time that they lip synched to get it over with, so we weren't missing anything after all. That would have been terribly disappointing to me, as I had scrimped my meager funds as a college student single mom and bought Revolver the day it was released. I was a fan.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Do We Need To Go Back?

The very first fire fighters that we know of were in ancient Egypt and consisted of slaves running a bucket brigade.

In ancient Rome, Marcus Egnatius Rufus and later Augustus added pumps, poles, hooks, and basllistae (to tear down buildings in advance of the flames) to the basic group of slaves with buckets.

In both of these cases, they fought fires that threatened the property of their owners. Anyone else? Not their problem.

The next advancement in firefighting* came with fire insurance. Subscribers could expect the fire department to arrive and fight the fire at the insured structure. Anyone else? Not their problem.

Modern fire departments, paid for by taxes and expected to protect the property of poor as well as rich, arrived around the time of the Civil War. The idea that the poor had rights and were deserving of protection was historically novel, and required a country founded on liberty and equality to grow. Today we take it for granted that fire protection covers everyone -- rich, poor, citizen, illegal alien. There is no means testing, no mark on the front of the building declaring that it is insured and fire fighters are allowed to save it.

So, I find it shocking to discover that there were private fire fighters at the California wildfires last month. Fire fighters who fought fires and sprayed flame retardant on the homes of their subscribers, and allowed the neighbors' houses to burn.**

In Southern California, it is Firebreak Spray Systems; in Florida during the last hurricane season, it was HelpJet, which arranged evacuations to a five star resort, turning "a hurricane evacuation into a jet-setter vacation."

Soon it will be Blackwater. Private emergency response firms. While public fire departments are horribly impacted by budget cuts, the rich need not worry. The good old days of fire insurance and gangs of slaves protecting the important people while the rest of us can make do on what is left are back.

* The dogs which usually ran with the horses (not, sadly enough, shown in this photo) were rarely Dalmatians, which are too high strung for the stressful duty, and usually mongrels. They ran between the horses feet, fighting off strange dogs who might decide to harry them. Once the engine had been delivered to the fire, the horses were released and the dog would lead them away to a quiet spot a safe distance away and guard them until they were needed again. It was a good day if there was grass for the horses to graze on.

** Two Tiered System, on

Steamer Team,
Toronto fire truck, Mike's

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Again, from The Electric Company, vintage Tom Lehrer.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Runaway Carmen

In 1962, while I was being an early hippy in Berkeley, I had an apartment about a mile from campus, where the coffee houses and bohemians were concentrated. We all worked at minimal jobs, enough to pay the rent and buy groceries and books and go to movies. Life was exciting and different and new. There was a sense of community among the young people exploring this lifestyle. Lots of people lived in communes, although I didn't. There was a lot of back and forth visiting; we were all too young to hang out at home for the evening. Our social circle grew rapidly.

And one of the people who dropped in occasionally, pulling pandemonium in her wake like the tail of a comet, was Runaway Carmen. Runaway Carmen came from one of the eastern states; it was a matter of pride to her that her family had come over in colonial times and were still in the state they had first settled in. I'm not sure if her family had means at that point, but they certainly had for long years of the country's history. I think that Runaway Carmen was about 14 at the time. Periodically she would run away from the expensive finishing school her parents had, as she said, "imprisoned me in this time" and head for Berkeley. On hitting town, she would run for cover to the homes of the hippies that she knew from previous visits. The police, having received notice that she was on the loose yet again, would watch for her. Instead of picking her up, they would follow her from one house to another, raiding the unlucky householders as she went out the back door. People would desperately call each other, "She's in town! Get out!" and the recipients of the phone calls would flush pot and call friends and try to get out of their house before she led the narcs to the door.

Although I did meet her at the home of a mutual friend, she never knew where I lived and so never caused me anything but amusement. I was playing a computer game and listening to Hair the other night, and I got to thinking about her. And I got to wondering. If people had been more open in those days, if child abuse had been talked about, if we had been just a little older and more aware, would we have recognized that there must have been some reason behind the deep unhappiness that drove her from one coast to the other in an ever futile attempt to find a place where she felt safe. I wonder if she ever did find a safe haven.

Photos: Campenile, virtual traveler; toilet, Fun, Facts, and Trivia

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Silent E

The Elves', Gnomes', Leprechauns', and Little Men's Chowder and Marching Society discovered Tom Lehrer our last year in high school. At that time, he was a mathematics instructor at Harvard, putting out these wonderfully funny albums every once in a while. How very adult we felt, listening to his wicked take on the world while our contemporaries reveled in Elvis.

What a delight it was to me, years later, to turn the TV on to The Electric Company, and hear Tom Lehrer teaching the kids about reading. For those of you who never saw that aspect of him, or who saw it and would like to review it, here is Silent E.