Thursday, January 31, 2008


When Julie and Richard were children, we played a lot of board games. Every year for Christmas, in addition to gifts that they received as individuals, they always received one or two board games.* We started with Sorry when Richard was four, using the games to learn to count and then to add. Eventually, we used Yahtzee dice to play Sorry, using the color of the larger number to decide whether this move would be decided by addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. It led to interesting games and the kids learning basic math in an enjoyable way.

Julie was at a disadvantage to Richard for some time, because in the early years two years difference in age can really affect how well you do math and strategy. But, not for long. Julie's desire to do things as well as Richard did them led her to play games to win.

Except when my parents came to Fairbanks to visit. Julie couldn't stand the thought of her grandmother losing. So I was treated to the delightful spectacle of Julie trying to lose to her grandmother, while her grandmother was trying to lose to her.

* as well as items like the large box of Legos or other construction toys that I could not afford two of although they both liked them. The rule was whichever child took the toy from the shelf could decide wether to play alone or with the sibling. However, the other child got to decide if the first child could play exclusively with only one or more of the jointly owned toys. Usually what would happen was they would share playing with a number of construction toys. Some marvelous things were built on my living room floor.

Images courtesy of World of Monopoly
Spilling the Beans

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Helping a Neighbor

Being down about Edwards dropping out of the race, I decided to post something to cheer us all up. This is from one of my favorite The Big Bang Theory episodes. Enjoy.

And here we have, Is Sheldon a Robot?

Strong Winds

I'm going to give you a couple of pictures and some text from yesterday's newspaper this morning. As you can see, we have been having a little wind up here in the frozen north.
Wind and frigid temperatures wreaked havoc on the Alaska Marine Highway System this weekend and toppled more than two dozen 11,000 pound shipping containers at Alaska Marine Lines near downtown.

An avalanche comes down Mount Roberts toward Thane Road at about 8:20 a.m. Monday. The avalanche, reportedly caused by high winds, did not block the road.

Photos: Early morning avalanche
Courtesy of Annette Smith; Winds knock over 11,000-pound shipping containers By Kim Marquis. Text, Juneau Empire

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Signposts to Sanity

Wherein your ever lovin' Granny points out other people's stuff to you.

Let's use the signpost with the crooked trail today, since we are dealing with politics.

Think Progress has posted Fact Check the State of the Union should you like to compare statements to facts.

We can cheer for another step taken in the right direction concerning the FISA bill on Monday at Fiery FISA Debate Dominating Senate: GOP Bill Fails Cloture by Steve Benen. It seems that the public spoke. I made my calls on Sunday, because I wasn't certain of when it was coming to a vote and the four hour time difference between D.C. and Alaska and the further down the list I got, the more I was running into voice mailboxes that were already full.

And there needs to be concern for the polar bears when we read Joe Connolly's Bush Moves On Alaska about how the declaration of the polar bear as endangered is being delayed until after their habitat is opened for oil drilling while our eyes are on the economy.

Update Life in Juneau. So, everyone in the building left the cold water dripping and when we got up on Monday discovered that the water pipe leading into the hot water heater had frozen. Luckily nothing broke, but it took 24 hours to thaw it and get hot water back. Luckily I once lived on a homestead, so I know how to boil water on the stove to do dishes with.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Clear Skies

The sky has been absolutely clear for the last two days. Not a cloud to be seen. Which means that it is what Yahoo weather describes as "bitterly cold". January and February are not months when you really want to see blue skies in this part of the world.

The temperature has been between +5º and 0º F. But the wind has been blowing, with gusts up to 50 mph. Which gives us a wind chill factor of -20º at times. Indeed, bitterly cold.

And, of course, the price of heating fuel has gone up. Mine is included in my rent. There are four apartments in my building, one of which the landlady lives in. So, three paying rentals. The fuel bill has been running $600 a month more than it was last year. And that was before this cold snap. The landlady has raised our rent, but only $50 a month. That doesn't put a dent in the heating bill. So, we are all trying to conserve. Keep the heat low. Wear layers. Yesterday I was wearing a long tee-shirt nightgown under a long flannel nightgown under a terry cloth robe. Sit under a lap blanket, with a heating pad on behind my back. And slipper socks. If I dress like this when it's +20º outdoors, I can save some money. But at these temperatures, the heater was on all day. When I came upstairs, I turned the thermostat down from 65º to 55º. Perhaps it cycled off during the night, but I doubt it.

And, for those of you who have never lived in the cold, this also means that I have to leave the kitchen and the bathroom faucet dripping so the pipes don't freeze. Frozen pipes mean broken pipes (ice expands) and big messes and plumbing bills. Not good.

Click photo to enlarge.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Drop A Dime
A Call to Action

The FISA bill has started moving in the Senate. Senators Obama, Clinton, McCain, and Graham have not gone to Washington to vote on this bill, which would strip American citizens of their First and Fourth Amendment rights and grant retroactive immunity to the telecommunications corporations who have been spying on us at the request of President Bush since before 9/11. In all likelihood, this bill will be voted on tomorrow. In order to support Senator Dodd in his filibuster, in addition to the Senators who are currently standing with him, three of the Democrats who voted against the Senate Judiciary Committee proposal, which would strip immunity from the bill and protect American citizens and the Constitution, would have to change their vote and Clinton and Obama would have to return and stand with Dodd in reality, as they have said they do in principle. Here are their numbers, so that you can call them again: Obama (202) 224-2854, Clinton (202) 224-4451. These two senators have a unique opportunity to show us just how important they believe the Constitution is. They have the opportunity to stand and protect it and us. If they can not do this, what kind of president would they make?

Here are the Democrats who voted against the SJC proposal:

Bayh (202) 224-5623

Carper (202) 224-2441

Inouye (202) 224-3934

Johnson (202) 224-5842

Landrieu (202)224-5824

McCaskill (202) 224-6154

Mikulski (202) 224-4654

Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274

Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551

Pryor (202) 224-2353

Salazar (202) 224-5852

If any of these Senators represents you, call them. Indeed, I am calling all of them, although none of them represent me. Their offices are not open over the weekend, but you can leave a message on their voice mail. They need to know that we expect them to fulfil their oaths of office and protect the Constitution. They need to know that we do not buy the idea that we must trade freedom for security. They need to know that we are aware that this has been going on since before 9/11 and that it didn't prevent that attack. They need to know that we are watching them.

And they need to know that no one is above the law.


Sandy Szwarc, over at Junkfood Science, posted Fishy sushi scares on Friday. In it she discusses the latest fear-du-jour, the "study" by the New York Times on the mercury levels in fish. In a scenario that will surprise no one who reads Sandy's breath of fresh air blog, the story that was published by the Times bears little resemblance to the actual meaning of the results.
In fact, there has never been a case of an American eating so much fish as to be harmful. The only cases in the scientific literature of mercury poisoning from fish and subsequent neurological problems — a fact confirmed by Dr. Thomas Clarkson, a toxicologist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine — were the result of an industrial mercury spill in Minamata Bay, Japan in the 1950s, which resulted in fish with methylmercury levels 40 to 1,000 times higher than the fish Americans, and most people around the globe, eat. These tragic poisonings first pointed out that at extremely high exposures, mercury was a neurotoxin and might affect the developing fetus.

In other words, we don't have to be afraid of eating fish. Glad to hear it. Living in Southeast Alaska, where the regional cuisine is fresh from the sea, I not only enjoy eating salmon, halibut, and crabs of all types, but friends make their living by fishing. I would hate to have to worry the next time I get the urge for Dungeness almost as much as I would hate my friends to have to go out of business. Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. The reward for risking your life on a continual basis shouldn't be that some study is incorrectly reported so that people are afraid of what you take those chances to bring to their tables.

In her post, Sandy provided a link to Sushi Etiquette
When you eat by your fingers, pick up a piece of nigiri at the both side with your two fingers, thumb and middle, and simultaneously lift up the far side top to this side by the index finger, and turn it upside down. Then dip the fish side to soy sauce, and next, twist your wrist to turn the fish side up and face to you. Alternatively do as the same way as by chopsticks. To eat, bring the nigiri to your mouth, throw it into your mouth in a way that the fish side touches on your tongue, and this is a recommendable direction in nigiri-eating.
Notice that one is recommended to throw the entire piece of sushi into one's mouth. This is where I have a problem. I don't have a very big mouth. I seek out dentists with small hands. And I have always bitten the sushi in half. Now I discover this is rude.

What to do, what to do. Shall I continue to be rude? Shall I fill my mouth to my eardrums when I eat sushi in a mannerly manner? Should I explain to the waiter that I'm not being rude on purpose and I'm not ignorant, I just can't eat the thing whole? Will it taste as good if my mouth is so full my taste buds are shoved down? I was better off before I knew this little tidbit. When I thought that the only reason the other people in the restaurant were eating their sushi in one bite because they had bigger mouths.

Sushi pictograph and photo, courtesy Sushi Encyclopedism. Crab

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Non Sequitur

Sometimes the truth of something is so incredibly obvious that it just jumps out at me and yells, "Share this!"

And so, I do.

Click to enlarge.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Weather Update

Well, we are expecting a lot of snow today. Between seven and 13 inches, according to Yahoo. And, continuing snow off and on for the next week. At the moment* it is falling heavily and the plow just went by for the third time this morning. The Hooligans are fascinated. I'm rather enjoying it myself.

* 9:00 A.M. Alaska Standard Time.

Image courtesy Click to enlarge

What I've Learned So Far

Deja Pseu over at Une femme d'un certain age has tagged me for a meme. Lessons in Hindsight So, this is the advise I would give to my 20 year old self if I could go back in time.

1. People walking down the street are too busy worrying about their own lives to give much thought to you. There is no need to be so damned self-conscious.

2. It came to pass. Whether it is good or bad, it will most likely pass. So enjoy the good stuff while it is here and relax about the rest of it. By the time that child is 35, she will have learned to tie her shoes. And she won't be living with you and available for the random hug.

3. There is no one road to happiness. Perhaps you'll do it the standard way, perhaps you won't. The same for your kids. The well marked path may be much more boring.

4. Question authority. About everything Trust your own experience. If your experience isn't the same as what you're told it should be, the problem may not be you. It may well be the advice.

5. If you've tried to do something twice and it hasn't worked, you need to try something else. Sometimes anything else would work.

6. Trust yourself. You really do know what you are feeling and whether you like someone or not and when you are hungry. You are who you are and that's good. You are supposed to get angry when people do cruel things. You are supposed to feel sad when you lose something or someone you value. You are supposed to come first once in a while. You are supposed to get older and have gray hair. And you are supposed to be round.

7. Laugh. A lot. Laughter heals a wondrous lot of problems. And it leaves nicer lines on your face.

8. Sometimes if you just hang in there long enough, the person who is driving you crazy will leave. When that happens, you've won. There you still are in the situation you love and there they are, gone.

9, Sometimes if you hang in there waiting for them to leave, they don't. The trick is to figure out which time this is and just how crazy the person is driving you.

10, You reap what you sow. Be kind. Be honest. Look for the good in people.

11. Diets make you fatter. All of them. Always. The more you go on, the fatter you get.

I'm not going to tag people on this one. If you want to do it, feel free. Let me know so I can see what wisdom you have gleaned over the years.

Two Women in a Garden by Kasimir Malevich

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Andromeda Island Universe

This photo from The Astronomy Picture of the Day, courtesy of NASA, is so lovely that I had to share it. And, since I'm working on a post for tomorrow or the next day, I'm using it as my "checking in so Julie knows I'm OK" post for today. Do click and enlarge -- the bigger it is, the more you can see.
Explanation: The most distant object easily visible to the unaided eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy some two and a half million light-years away. But without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy - spanning over 200,000 light years - appears as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. In contrast, a bright yellow nucleus, dark winding dust lanes, gorgeous blue spiral arms and star clusters are recorded in this stunning telescopic digital mosaic. While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers seriously debated this fundamental concept only 80 years ago. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying components of our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they instead "island universes" -- distant systems of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations of M31 in favor of Andromeda, island universe.
Credit & Copyright: Tony Hallas

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Your Constitution Needs You

Glenn Greenwald at has posted about the upcoming Senate vote on the FISA/Protect America Act. The last time this came up, Senator Dodd led a "silent filibuster" which delayed it. Now it is time, once again. Harry Reid, no surprise to me any longer, is not fighting for our constitutional rights here. He is making threatening noises to Dodd, Feingold, et al about forcing them to actually filibuster, rather than the "silent filibuster" (if we don't have 60 votes, we just won't vote on it and the GOP doesn't have to really talk about it) that he has granted the GOP since 2006. There is no need to pass this bill this week, or ever. If it is not passed, the FISA law that has held previously, the one that honored the Fourth Amendment and your privacy rights, will continue to allow the government to protect us from terrorists in a lawful manner. However, Reid seems to be bent on giving Bush whatever he wants, despite his 28% popularity and the wishes of the people. This is not what we elected a Democratic majority for.

So, please read the following excerpt from Glenn Greenwald and call your Senators, Harry Reid, and the senators who worked with Dodd last time. Tell them how you feel about this. Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of freedom.

When the FISA/Protect America Act legislative debate resumes, the bill (S.2248) will already be pending on the floor. The cloture vote on the motion to proceed on 12/17/07 was a vote of 76-10. (See here for specifics on votes.) The pending matter, as I read the procedural ins and outs from the close of debate, will be the SJC substitute bill, but I have a call in to the Senate Parliamentarian to clarify on this, and I'll certainly let you know what I hear if different.

For the record, "Not Voting" is just not good enough.

And neither is sitting this one out for any of us. So, let's get to work. Congress is about to take yet another recess -- but I'm hearing there may be a procedural maneuver in the works for tomorrow, whether a 30 day extension of the Protect America Act or something else. It is critical that we let members of Congress know that we are paying attention and that this issue matters to all of us.

The Constitution needs your voice today -- so please, call your Senators and let them know that retroactive immunity and a breach of the 4th Amendment are not acceptable. Tell them to stand up for the rule of law -- because THAT is their job and you expect leaders not rubber stamps. The time for leadership is now.

Senate phone numbers are here; and Sen. Harry Reid's phone number is: (202) 224-3542. And Sen. Mitch McConnell's phone number is: (202) 224-2541 -- tell him national security and the rule of law should never be used as a political football, and that taking political marching orders from Rove is so 2002.

We should focus first on the 14 Senators who promised to help Sens. Dodd and Feingold. Here are their fax and phone numbers:



Feingold (202) 224-2725 (202) 224-5323
Dodd (202) 224-1083 (202) 224-2823
Obama (202) 228-4260 (202) 224-2854
Sanders (202) 228-0776 (202) 224-5141
Menendez (202) 228-2197 (202) 224-4744
Biden (202) 224-0139 (202) 224-5042
Brown (202) 228-6321 (202) 224-2315
Harkin (202) 224-9369 (202) 224-3254
Cardin (202) 224-1651 (202) 224-4524
Clinton (202) 228-0282 (202) 224-4451
Akaka (202) 224-2126 (202) 224-6361
Webb (202) 228-6363 (202) 224-4024
Kennedy (202) 224-2417 (202) 224-4543
Boxer (415) 956-6701 (202) 224-3553
Even if you have never called a Senator before, take the time to call these. This is a vitally important issue.

Big Cat

This never happened in the Serengeti: Luke interrupts his gnawing to study the odd white flakes falling softly on the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington.
Photo and text courtesy

Merry and Pippin have been sitting in the window this morning watching it snow. Like the lion, they also are caged and enjoy watching something different happen. They also like to watch the rain, particularly when we have a good, strong wind along with it. And they love to watch birds. Since the eagles and ravens that fly near my place are very large birds, they watch them with a great deal of interest.

We don't expect much snow today -- the trucks have come by and sanded the road, but unless something unexpected happens there will not be any need for the plows. Just enough snow to make things look pretty. The mountains across the channel on Douglas Island look like God has been sifting powdered sugar over them. And the snow is already melting on the roof across the street. Like Merry, Pippin, and Luke, I enjoy watching it come down.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blog For Choice

As I started this post, I decided to review what I had written last year. And what I discovered was that last year I said exactly what I wanted to say and exactly what I still want to say. I can't say it better, and I have nothing to add or subtract,.so here it is again.
I have already told you about when my grandmother in California had given birth to five children in six years and wrote to her brother in Ohio, the doctor, asking how to prevent any more pregnancies. He wrote and gave her the information, but the first sentence in his letter was, "Memorize this information and then burn this letter because I could go to prison for telling you this."

Until my grandmother had that information, she had no choice, no control over her body and life at all. My grandfather was fated to work harder and harder and provide less for more children. Not being able to decide these very personal issues is less than freedom.

I worked for 12 years teaching parenting skills to parents who either had their children in foster care or were in danger of the state placing them there. I saw all sorts of horrible things and heard of even worse than I saw. The abuse that is heaped on children when their parents resent them is unbelievable. The unintended neglect that occurs when a girl has a child when she is too young can put the child's life at risk.

It is not good for children to be born when their parents resent them or are unable to care for them properly. Choice has to be available. For those of us who would like to see as few abortions as possible, the need is great to give people full information on how to prevent pregnancy, and abortion needs to be available for when birth control fails.

I came of age before Roe v. Wade and I remember friends seeking out the name of a doctor in Mexico. That assumed the girl could get her hands on the money to go to Mexico. Many couldn't. Just because abortion was illegal, that didn't mean that poor girls didn't have them. It just meant that they sought them out in dark alleys and often died because the procedure had been botched.

The current direction of this administration is to work to outlaw abortion and birth control both. Plan B was kept off the market for much too long, although it does not cause abortions. The people who kept it off the market knew the truth about it. They teach abstinence only sex education and post the lie that abortions cause breast cancer on government websites. This is not a desire to protect women, it is a desire to control them.

And it isn't belief in the sanctity of life. People who refuse to teach teens how to avoid AIDS and other diseases don't consider the life of those teens as sacred. People who send other people's children to die don't consider the lives of those children sacred. People who drop bombs on other countries don't consider the lives of those people sacred. People who refuse to fund stem cell research, who value the "life" of an embryo which is going to be thrown away if it isn't used over the life of someone who has already been born, don't consider the lives of the born sacred. People who would rush to Washington to sign a bill to prevent a husband from being able to allow his brain dead wife to die in peace but don't bother to cut a vacation short while New Orleans is drowning don't value life.

God alone knows what these people value, but it isn't life. The sanctity of life doesn't end at birth. A few cells are not more valuable than a living woman or her husband or her other children.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bound & Gagged

True friendship

Click to enlarge..

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What I Learned When
I Gave Up Dieting

Here it is, the middle of January, and diet season is in full swing. Everywhere I go, I hear people discussing how they are losing weight this time.* Some are counting one thing, some are counting another. Some are eating the food some program is willing to sell them. Some are modifying their lifestyle. And, of course, Weight Watchers is advertising that "Diets don't work. Weight Watchers does." Totally ignoring the fact that Weight Watchers is a diet and has horrible long term results. Ah, so nice to be free of all of the nonsense. To simply eat when I'm hungry, whatever it is that I'm hungry for, and stop not when the measuring cup is empty but when I'm satisfied.

It does, however, bring back memories of all the yeas when I did diet, when I had these strange rules for how I ate that were supposed to take off the pounds and not let them creep back on. Before I let myself out of the cage and discovered that I didn't have to live that way.

I used to never buy "forbidden foods"** when I did my grocery shopping. I couldn't bring them into the house via car. The rule*** was, any forbidden foods I had to walk home carrying. 20 blocks, ten of them uphill. If I wanted ice cream, I had to really work for it.

Another rule was, only enough for now. Once I got it home, I had to finish it all that episode. I can remember climbing the hill with a muffin, a pint of ice cream, a package of peanuts, and a couple of doughnuts and then eating the whole lot of it in one sitting, although I wasn't hungry after the first. But, I could only eat it if I ate it now, so I certainly didn't enjoy most of it.

I kept my butter in the freezer. If I wanted anything with butter, I had to wait while it thawed. Once I stopped doing this, I discovered that the bread lasted longer! It seems that, when I had to wait for the butter before I could have a slice of sourdough French bread, as long as it was thawed I might as well eat several. Once it was always thawed, I discovered that sometimes I only wanted half a slice!

There were many, many more rules, but since I gave up this nonsense in 2000, I don't remember what they were off hand. However, these days my house is full of formerly forbidden foods, and I have discovered that if there is plenty I have no need to eat it all. Particularly if it is obvious that I can't eat it all, I can eat much less. The more there is, the less I have to eat. Rather like when my mother was in high school and worked in a candy store and was allowed to eat all the candy she wanted. Soon, she was going weeks without any candy because she didn't want it.

When I first gave up dieting, I went out and bought formerly forbidden food like there was no tomorrow. Five pounds each of seven kinds of nuts. All sorts of candy. Chips of every kind. Crackers. Cheese. Salami, spare ribs, bacon. Bread! Doughnuts. Pie. Cake. Ice cream. I brought six gallons of ice cream into my house at one time. At the same time I brought in all the rest of this list. At first I would have five scoops of ice cream with toppings and nuts and banana. Daily. For dinner. Or breakfast. Then it was less. Before very long at all, it was one scoop plain. Now, sometimes I have a single scoop. Sometimes I have two scoops and topping. Sometimes I have a single spoon. Mostly I have none. I go months without having ice cream, because I don't want it. It is the same with all of the formerly forbidden food. I let myself eat it and eventually I didn't want it. At first I gained about ten pounds, since I no longer weigh myself I'm not sure how much, but all of my clothes still fit. Then that weight came back off. I was having a bowl of nuts and candy for a meal. I had spareribs at least once a week for over two years. I let myself have all of the things that I had denied myself for so long.

And then, as I no longer needed to eat all of these things all of the time, I began to discover things I had never known about them before. Like, cheese turns green. Nuts go rancid. Ice cream gets crystals in it. Salami grows white "hair". Bread and doughnuts and crackers and chips get stale. I had never had any of that food in my house long enough for it to spoil, but spoil it does. So, now I buy smaller amounts. Instead of five pounds of cashews, I buy the small can. And often have to throw out most of the can because it has gone rancid.

And, once I no longer needed to eat all of the formerly forbidden stuff, I discovered that I really like tomatoes. I ate some form of raw tomato every day for well over two years. I love produce more than anything else. I stock up on fruit, and it does not go bad. Spare ribs are too fatty for my taste. One day I looked up on the top shelf, and there was a package of Oreos that was over four years old and unopened! Also, a virgin box of almond roca. Unopened and stale peanut brittle.

Amazing. If I'm not trying to discipline myself about food, I don't need the discipline.

Do you have any idea how wonderful it is to be free of food obsessions? To not be afraid of doughnuts and pecans and a slice of bread and butter? To take a couple of slices of my birthday cake home from Kathy and Richard's?

* The fact that it is this time doesn't seem to cause them to question whether or not diets work.
** And the list of forbidden foods was long. It seemed to include everything a person would ever want to eat, except produce.
*** And, boy, did I have rules!

Great minds travel the same roads sometimes. My friend Deja Pseub, over on Une d'un certain age has posted Finding myself through food today. It is well worth reading.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Starry Night Castle

Starry Night Castle
Credit & Copyright: P-M Hedén

Explanation: The tantalizing Pleiades star cluster seems to lie just beyond the trees above a dark castle tower in this dramatic view of The World at Night. Recorded earlier this month, the starry sky also features bright star Aldebaran below the Pleiades and a small, faint, fuzzy cloud otherwise known as Comet Holmes near picture center at the top of the field. Starry Night Castle might be an appropriate name for the medieval castle ruin in the foreground. But its traditional name is Mörby Castle, found north of Stockholm, near lake Skedviken in Norrtälje, Sweden.

NASA's web site has some of the loveliest pictures I've ever seen. Here is one for you to enjoy.

picture and text, Astronomy Picture of the Day

Friday, January 18, 2008


I'm being lazy today, so here is a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in a storm. From, by Mark Costantini.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Were The Puritans Puritanical?

Rain left a comment on my post More Lessons From The Puritans that I have been thinking about. She said,
I think though there is another side which led to denial of natural bodily needs, seeing nudity as sexual sin, suffering being godly, etc.
I suspect I am too old to change my prejudice that Puritanism is why America still has some of the 'wrong' (in my mind) attitudes toward many natural things-- like being gay. As an artist, I deal with the prejudices against depicting the nude figure even today
Rain said more, but this is the part I have been thinking about most. I looked up Puritanical, and from The Free Dictionary by Farlex, the definition is:
Adj.1.puritanical - of or relating to Puritans or Puritanism

2.puritanical - exaggeratedly proper; "my straitlaced Aunt Anna doesn't approve of my miniskirts"
Which would seem to imply that according to common usage, the term does mean false body modesty. That bugaboo so many of us had to fight to overcome. Sexually repressed. The stuff I learned at St Mary of the Palms, the Catholic boarding school I attended. The school where I was taught, at the age of six, to take a bath in an over sized tee shirt to "cover your shame." Mama tells me that when I came home, I would not get undressed in front of anyone because "Sister says it isn't modest." Which, I suppose it isn't. However, since I had no such notions when I left my Puritan descended family to go to St Mary's, you can probably guess I associated them with the Catholic church. So, I double checked Fischer's book, Albion's Seed and discovered this paragraph:
The general pattern of sexual attitudes -- strong encouragement of sexual love and sensual bonds within marriage, strict punishment of fornication and adultery, a maniacal horror of unnatural sex, and rigid taboos against contraception within marriage -- was in its totality unique to New England. By and large, the culture was not a system of sexual tyranny and repression. The sex ways of Massachusetts rested upon an intensity of moral and religious purpose which marked so many aspects of this culture*.
If Puritans repressed what they considered unnatural, which would include homosexuality but not the body itself, where did the repressed view of the human body and sex come from? It seems it was more Victorian than Puritanical. Looking at the pictures here of the somber Puritan and the gaily dressed Victorians, one would suppose the opposite.

It was the Victorians who held that women shouldn't enjoy sex and a woman who did was immoral. It was the Victorians who called the bull a "gentleman cow" and legs "limbs" and the chicken breast "white meat" and legs "drum sticks" and "dark meat". They put skirts on tables and chairs and pianos so that men would not see their legs and have sexual thoughts about women, who also had legs. It was the Victorians who considered a glimpse of ankle extremely provocative. Not only were the Victorians sexually repressed, they suffered the things that go along with it. Hypocrisy was rife. This was the age of Jack the Ripper. Prostitution, including child prostitution, was part of the hidden world of Victorian England. Stories are told of upstanding Victorian gentlemen paying for a child prostitute, only to discover when the girl was delivered that she was their own daughter, kidnapped that very afternoon. It was a world with an ugly side.

And the idea of the virtue of chastity, far from being Puritan,** was Catholic.And the ancient Romans and Greeks were shocked at the prudishness of the Hebrews -- one of the sources of the idea that homosexuality was unnatural.

So, we can see that part of the common idea of Puritanical is indeed from Puritans, but much of it is from the Victorians and part from the Catholics and part from the ancient Jews and part undoubtedly from other sources as well. And the Victorian ideas are not founded in a religion, but rather with one woman.

* Fischer, Albion's Seed, Page 93.
** One Puritan elder decreed that life with a bad woman was better than life with no woman.
Photos: Victorian, courtesy Victorian Life
Puritan Woman, courtesy Susan Ditto, 2004

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

More Lessons from the Puritans

As I start the third section of Fischer's book, Albion's Seed, there are a few more things I discovered about how my Puritan ancestors influenced my family and our country down the ages that I would like to mention.

The idea that education should be provided for all and that it is the path to success originated in the Massachusetts colony. As did the idea that food should be nourishing, but mainly plain, with the exception of pies and cakes.

Business wear is still influenced by the idea of plain clothes in what the Puritans called "sadd" colors -- neutrals. They brought two sports to America. Football, which in Puritan England was played by the entire town, including women, children, and elders. And baseball. The Puritan idea of sport was that it was good for the body, the soul, and the community.

The Puritan work ethic went beyond the idea that work is good for the soul and proper to humanity (as opposed to the Cavalier ideal of being above it all). It also included the idea that goods had a proper price, which was fair. The idea of buy low and sell high was foreign to the Massachusetts settlers. If there was a problem which caused the cost of production and delivery to raise, that cost was for the producer to deal with, and not by raising the price of the goods.

In Massachusetts, there were very few slaves and almost as few servants. Puritans hired "help" and treated them as equals. The help ate at the table with their employers. The very idea of employment being a fair trade of labor for money originated with these people.

Time was something that was supposed to be improved. Work, worship, healthy play, time spent with family and friends, all were ways to improve time. (Unlike the Cavalier south, where time was to be spent.) Modest wealth was a sign that God was pleased with you, but too great a difference between the richest and poorest was not God's plan and was actively discouraged. When land was distributed to settlers, it ran between 20 and 40 acres, depending on what the individual could improve. (In the south, there were original plantations of around 20,000 acres -- balanced by some freemen having up to 40 acres, and most people having none.) Unlike Virginia, Massachusetts did not favor differences in rank. Equality has its roots in this colony, and in the counties in England that sent settlers to it.

The Puritans believed in the sanctity of the home. They settled in towns and neighborhoods. People came together in communities and associations. (And in the south, they spread out in isolated plantations.) Massachusetts valued order, and had a remarkably low crime rate. In the south, the custom of the landed gentry appointing a sheriff who represented their property rights was continued from the old country; in the north, a constable was elected by the people of the community and was concerned with maintaining order for all settlers. Government was by town meeting and selectmen already before they left East Anglia. Most selectmen had gray hair, due to the reverence for age. The Massachusetts Poor Laws, which were the roots of modern liberalism, guaranteed each individual freedom from want and fear.

Altogether, the Puritans had a strong effect and a good one on the direction that the country as a whole, including my family, followed.

A Fair Puritan by E. Percy Moran, Library of Congress

Monday, January 14, 2008

Where We Started
Where We Came

Here is a map of the counties of the UK. Notice right down at the bottom, .to the west is King Arthur's country, Cornwall. Next to it is Devon, where my Puritan ancestor's started. As you go along the coast, to the east, you find Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex., where my father's people came from in the middle of the 19th century, and then Kent, where my Cavalier ancestors began. From all the many counties in Britain, my ancestors managed to come from such a relatively small part of England. And, between Devon and Kent, there managed to be so much difference in the culture.

We forget how large space is without modern transportation. We forget that in those days most people never traveled more than seven miles from where they were born. That the invention of the bicycle greatly reduced birth defects because it allowed men who didn't own horses to court from a larger distance.

As I think about Fischer's Albion's Seed, I find it very helpful to consult this map.

It is also helpful to keep this map of Colonial America to hand.

The distances in the New World, the miles between the colonies, were much greater. And yet, because all of the colonies are on the Atlantic, and it was such a short time between their settlement and modern transportation, our states are much more alike after only a few hundred years than the English counties were after over a thousand. Space has shrunk.

The other thing to remember is that when the Puritans and the Cavaliers, the Uptons and the Herndons, first came here Massachusetts and Virginia were the only colonies that had been founded. To me, born in California and currently living in Alaska, all of the east coast states look about postage stamp size.But when the only transportation is ship and horse, those colonies were far apart. And they were far apart for long enough that the very distinct cultures which they started with were firmly rooted, and still are strongly reflected. It isn't just that I can understand the Uptons by reading about the original Puritans; I can understand why the New England states are blue states, where the roots of the liberal grounding came from. It wasn't just the Herndons who took traits from the Cavaliers. The South is still highly influenced by its heritage. Still red states. Still Republican stronghold.

To this day, New England and the South still mean different things by family values. Still have different views of proper male-female relationships. The hierarchy is still strong in the South.

Isn't it odd, that the South which was founded by elites who worked very hard to remain elite, is the hotbed of the GOP, which accuses New England of being "liberal elite"?

UK map courtesy
Colonial map courtesy
Click to enlarge

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Understanding Family II

I've been working on Albion's Seed and have now learned some things about my maternal grandfather's side of the family, the Cavaliers who migrated from south and west England to Virginia. My ancestors came from Kent, one of the eastern most counties in England. Which is interesting -- my Puritan ancestors came from Devonshire, which was one of the western most counties.

This part of my family followed naming customs in Virginia, as had the Puritans in Massachusetts. Children were named, not after Biblical figures, but for kings and heroes. My great-aunt Julia, a name from Rome; Williams and Edwards abound in the family tree. Even the fact that my grandfather had no sons who survived infancy and so Forrest was given his last name as a middle name is a part of this naming tradition. My father's people, who came to the US in the 19th century, came from Sussex, which is next to Kent and followed the same naming customs. My father was Roland Charles, his father was Roland Charles, his father was Roland Charles -- and one of my brothers was Roland Charles. Roland the knight from the poem, Childe Roland To the Dark Tower Came, by Robert Browning and Charles, the king; and naming sons after fathers.

Where Puritans revered age, Cavaliers respect seniority. In Massachusetts once you were 60, you were an elder. In Virginia, if you were the eldest you received respect. Although Virginia was a very hierarchical society, with a wide range of ranks from high aristocracies through slaves, a young aristocrat would show at least nominal respect to an older freeman, calling him Gaffer and deferring to his judgement.

Children in Virginia were not treated with the same equality as the Puritan children were. Boys were expected to develop a strong will, but to discipline it so that they could discipline their inferiors. Girls were expected to be deferent and sweet and ladylike. Of course, with boys being bred for willfulness, some of the girls were as well. Melonie might have been the ideal southern woman, but Scarlett was recognizable. In my family, it is interesting that the great-grandmother who would not promise to obey when she married was the one from the south. In Fischer's book he mentions southern women in the very early years of the colony who stood in church and when it came to the vows repeated "Not obey" until it was accepted that this woman would not obey.

The tragedy of southern families was the unhealthiness of the region, which led to a very high mortality rate. Where the Puritans could expect to live long lives because of the healthiness of the region they had settled, Cavaliers lost many children and as a rule died young.

My family seems not to have been influenced as much by its Cavalier roots as by its Puritan. And I can say that I'm glad. Almost the first law passed in Massachusetts was the poor law, which forbade anyone be allowed to be hungry. The Puritans taxed themselves higher and supported education from the beginning. The Cavaliers worked hard to prevent literacy among their inferiors (which included the highest ranked women), since reading led to the questioning of authority and Cavalier society was built on accepting authority. Women and men were almost equal in Massachusetts, as unequal as they could be in Virginia. Puritans were given land when they arrived, and although some had more than others, it was not by much. They were a very egalitarian society, working to accept only the middle of the caste system from England. Cavalier aristocracy received huge land grants; hardly anyone else received any. All ranks were encouraged to immigrate, for how else could the aristocracy maintain its position and be served by lower ranks? Massachusetts not only punished rape, the penalty was often death. Virginia had a "boys will be boys" attitude that tolerated rape of inferiors and so thoroughly punished even the slightest crime against superiors that although violence against equals and inferiors was common, against superiors it was almost unheard of.

The Laughing Cavalier by Franz Hals

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lovely to Look At

I haven't anything to say this morning, so I thought I'd share this lovely picture of the Campanile on the Berkeley campus. When Richard and Julie were little, and I was a student at UC Berkeley, every Saturday we would spend running errands and exploring the world. One of the stops was the Campanile, which charged a dime for the three of us (R & J in the double stroller) to go to the top. It is a lovely view and on a clear day you can count the windows in the buildings in San Francisco.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Right

What will you do to protect the rights of all Americans to worship -- or not?

Particularly, what will you do to protect the rights of people who are not like you? People who do not believe what you believe? People who you think are wrong?

Will you protect the rights of all Americans to believe and think what they will? Or do you think that the people who agree with you are somehow more American? More right? More worthy?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wearing White
After Labor Day

I'm certain that your mother told you it isn't proper to wear white after Labor Day. Why has no one told her?

Such a pretty creature. Quiet and alert. She appears very calm here, but if those wonderful ears catch the slightest hint that she isn't safe, she is gone. She knows that she is prey, and she lives her life accordingly. When in danger, run very fast. And not in a straight line.

It's too bad that we don't always have her good sense. Sometimes we train her wisdom out of our daughters. We teach them that if they don't feel safe, they mustn't insult anyone by acting like it.

Well, worrying about someone else's feeling doesn't keep us safe. Being willing to run or scream or fight and be more concerned with our own needs than the possible feelings of a person who we find threatening, does.

So, let's teach our children, daughters and sons alike, to stay safe. To pay attention to their fears and to react quickly. To run and scream loudly if they must. Let's teach them that it is better to be safe than to spare some one's feelings.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Memories of Home

To someone like me, who was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and lived a good number of years there, there is nothing as lovely to look at as the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog.

It feels like home. Cool weather. Sourdough bread. Ripe produce bought at farmers' markets. Dungeness crab at the wharf. Long walks at my own pace.

Hangin' out in Golden Gate Park and the zoo. Flower sellers on street corners. Being able to choose almost any cuisine and find it in a range of prices. Book stores and golden afternoons.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Yesterday I posted on why I'm not a Clinton supporter. And today I'm posting Kucinich's platform, so that you will understand why I'm solidly in his camp.

Meanwhile, Viggo Mortensen, angered by Dennis Kucinich's exclusion from the last New Hampshire debate, has flown out to New Hampshire to campaign for and with him. When he appeared on Hannity & Colmes, Hannity had the bad fortune to tell him, "I'm going to forgive your politics."
Answered our hero, "You don't have to. I'm not going to forgive you yours."

Kucinich’s platform:
* Creating a single-payer system of universal health care that provides full coverage for all Americans by passage of the United States National Health Insurance Act.
* The immediate, phased withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq; replacing them with an international security force.
* Guaranteed quality education for all; including free pre-kindergarten and college for all who want it.
* Immediate withdrawal from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
* Repealing the USA PATRIOT Act.
* Fostering a world of international cooperation.
* Abolishing the death penalty.
* Environmental renewal and clean energy.
* Preventing the privatization of social security.
* Providing full social security benefits at age 65.
* Creating a cabinet-level “Department of Peace”
* Ratifying the ABM Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol.
* Introducing reforms to bring about instant-runoff voting.
* Protecting a woman’s right to choose while decreasing the number of abortions performed in the U.S.
* Ending the War on Drugs.
* Legalizing same-sex marriage.
* Creating a balance between workers and corporations.
* Ending the H-1B and L-1 visa Programs
* Restoring rural communities and family farms.
* Strengthening gun control.
Photos: Aragorn courtesy of
Dennis Kucinich by

Monday, January 07, 2008

GOP Lite

David Morris, in his article We Forget What It Was Really Like Under The Clintons, on, has done an important review of what "Clintonism" was like. Before we vote in a return to it, we need to look at this and decide whether this is what we want.
Twelve days before the Iowa caucuses, the New York Times Magazine cover, in large white letters on a deep black background, carried the single word title of its lead article: Clintonism. In the article Matt Bai, the MTimes reporter on all things Democratic, with a big D, made one undeniable assertion and two highly debatable ones.

Bai's contention that Bill Clinton's "wife's fortunes are bound up with his, and vice versa" is incontestable. The primaries and even more so the general election, if Hillary is the nominee, will be a referendum less on Hillary than on Clintonism, the philosophy and strategy that guided the White House for eight years. Hillary clearly welcomes such a prospect, as demonstrated by her constantly reminding voters that she was "deeply involved in being part of the Clinton team."
The historical fact is that when Clinton took office, the Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress and a majority of state governorships. By the time he left office, the Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress and two-thirds of the governorships. By the numbers, it was Clintonism that relegated the Democratic Party to the shadows.
Clinton himself summed up the principle guiding his initiatives in his famous declaration, "The era of big government is over."

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first major overhaul of United States telecommunications law in nearly 62 years. The broadcasting industry couldn't get the legislation through under Reagan or George H.W. Bush, but it succeeded under Clinton.
In 1996 there were eight major U.S. companies providing local telephone service and five significant long-distance companies. By 1999, these 13 companies had merged into five telecommunications giants, in a series of record-breaking merger deals.

Prior to this law, tightly regulated broadcasters could own just 40 stations nationally, and only two in a given market. Suddenly, without the FCC's input or any public hearings, ownership limits on radio stations was eliminated and a feeding frenzy took place.

By 2001, there were 10,000 radio station transactions worth approximately $100 billion. As a result, 1,100 fewer station owners were in the business, down nearly 30 percent since 1996. Two companies -- Clear Channel and Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting -- controlled one-third of all radio advertising revenue; in some individual markets their stations commanded nearly 90 percent of the ad dollars. Clear Channel alone owned nearly 1,200 stations, the result of buying up 70 separate broadcast companies.

In 1999, the Financial Services Modernization Act overturned the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. The Act effectively barred banks, brokerages and insurance companies from entering each others' industries, and separated investment banking and commercial banking. The law was enacted in response to revelations of gross corruption and manipulation of the market by giant banking houses that organized huge corporate mergers for their own profit, leading to the collapse of the stock market in 1929.
The unleashed and deregulated financial services sector boomed, bringing us the speculative boom that in turn gave us the temporary budget surplus of the late 1990s and the finance-led booms and busts since then.
Clintonism never saw a sector it didn't want to deregulate. Wholesale electricity deregulation began under George H.W. Bush, but Clinton worked relentlessly to extend it and bring it to the retail level. We forget that Ken Lay, the founder of Enron and the driving force behind electricity deregulation was a friend of and mentor to Clinton as well as George W. Bush. Enron gave $420,000 to Clinton's party over three years and donated $100,000 to his inauguration festivities. Ken Lay stayed at the White House 11 times.

Clinton's appointees on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) aggressively deregulated the electric grid system, even refusing to step in when Enron and other electricity traders' manipulation of prices drove California to the edge of bankruptcy.

And then there was welfare reform.
There is no question that welfare reform has succeeded in reducing welfare rolls in the states. But 10 years into welfare reform, "the number of people living in poverty had not," noted Robert Wharton, president and CEO of the Community Economic Development Administration. "At the same time, the safety net of services and support that once protected the poor lies in tatters."
NAFTA was enacted despite the opposition of Clinton's own party. Two-thirds of House Republicans voted in favor while 60 percent of House Democrats voted against. In the Senate, Republicans voted 4-1 in favor while a slim majority of Democrats voted against.

I discussed the impact of NAFTA 10 years after in an earlier AlterNet piece. The slogan of those who championed a North American Free Trade Agreement was, "Trade, not aid." NAFTA would solve our problems, the White House insisted, with little or no transfer of funds from richer Canadians and Americans to poorer Mexicans. By raising Mexican living standards and wage levels, Attorney General Janet Reno predicted NAFTA would reduce illegal immigration by up to two-thirds in six years. "NAFTA is our best hope for reducing illegal migration in the long haul," Reno declared in 1994.
In the real world, opening up the borders between two exceedingly disparate economies leads to disaster.

Which is what happened here. Real wages for most Mexicans are lower than when NAFTA took effect. And Mexican wages are diverging from, rather than converging with U.S. wages, despite the fact that Mexican worker productivity has increased dramatically. From 1993 to 2003, worker productivity rose by 60 percent. In the same period, real wages declined by 5 percent.
The only thing that saved Mexico from collapsing into economic and social chaos was the massive emigration of Mexicans across their northern border.

Illegal migration has camouflaged Mexico's economic weakness. Between 1994 and 2004, Mexico's working-age population increased by a little over 1 million per year, but the number of jobs expanded by only half as much. The annual exodus of 500,000 to 1 million Mexicans kept unemployment at least to manageable levels.

Migration has served another even more important salutary function: national financial safety net. In 2005, Mexicans in the United States remitted some $20 billion home, about 3 percent of Mexico's national income. Remittances now exceed tourism, and the maquiladoras, and until the recent runup in oil prices, even oil as the country's top single source of foreign exchange. It turns out that it is aid, not trade, that is keeping the Mexican economy afloat.

NAFTA's designers promised it would keep Mexicans at home. Yet its very objectives undermined that possibility and spawned the waves of illegal migrants that have become one of the most divisive issues in the 2008 campaign.
History has been rewritten in regard to the Clintons' health initiative. Today it is viewed as a bold but failed effort. Even Michael Moore's movie, Sicko, paints this picture. Nonsense. It was Hillary who concluded that it was politically impossible even to argue for a single-payer system. Whether a single payer initiative would have won is unclear, although the national educational effort around it would have been of unparalleled value. But as it was, Hillary's political miscalculation led not only to the idea of universal health care coverage being taken off the table for the next 13 years, but the loss of the House of Representatives and the coming to power of Newt Gingrich and the Republican right.

Matt Bai views Bill Clinton as a profile in courage for taking on the Democratic Party. But if we review his behavior in office, there is one characteristic that stands out above any other: cowardice. Whenever the powerful objected, he beat a hasty retreat. His first year set the pattern. Gays in the military. The btu tax. The jettisoning of Lani Guinier as nominee for assistant attorney general for civil rights, refusing even to allow her to confront her critics.
Photo courtesy of

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Tiger Update

An update on the Tatiana story. Saturday's carried the story: In ambulance, survivors of S.F. tiger attack made pact of silence

Basically, the story says that a paramedic in the ambulance heard one Daliwal brother tell the other to not tell anyone "what we did." Alcohol and marijuana have been found in the blood of both. The police have the cell phones and car of the brothers, and have not examined them yet since the brothers haven't given permission. A vodka bottle can be seen in the car. It is thought that the cell phones may have pictures and/or records of plans to torment the big cats that they made before they went to the zoo on Christmas.

This article has generated 1171 comments by 8 p.m. on Saturday. There is some anger at the police by readers who believe that the brothers were allowed to take the cell phones and car home with them, explanation by other readers that they are in police custody, and lots of disgust with the brothers.. My guess is that the police are following procedure to obtain a search warrant so that they can examine the phones and car. After the way the federal government has taken to ignoring the need for warrents these last few years, it is good to see that someone has read the Constitution and takes it seriously.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


From, Day in Pictures:
Visitors are advised to duck: Odd zoo cat behavior is spreading -- the servals at the Cincinnati Zoo are making snowballs.

I thought you might enjoy this.


I usually record TV shows and watch them at my leisure. I started doing this when I stopped obsessing about my weight and my food. In order to avoid the constant brainwashing that goes on these days about diets and "good & bad" foods and the destruction of self acceptance that all of that entails,* I just don't watch it. By watching a recording, I can zap past the ads.** However, yesterday I wanted to watch something in real time, and so I saw the Nutrisystems ad. Did you know that in their "new" diet sorry, food plan, you can eat "chocolate"?

And that reminded me of the early 80s, when my business partner Alison and I belonged to Business and Professional Women; she was president the year I'm thinking about. Anyway, Alison*** decided to put on a chocolate fair. And part of that was going to all of the stores in Stockton which made their own chocolate, tasting it, and inviting the makers of good enough stuff to be part of the fair. For those of you who haven't been to one of these, the fair goer purchases a ticket with numbers on it for all of the vendors. Then she goes to each table, is given a sample of the chocolate there, has that number punched, and goes on. Lots of coffee is served, since often people gather a few samples and take them to a table and enjoy them with coffee and then repeat with other vendors.

So, Alison and I had the terrible task of going to these candy shops and sampling their wares. Now, I like chocolate, but the words "too rich" mean something to me. They don't to Alison,**** who can eat the richest chocolate in amazing amounts. So, very often I would eat a bite or two of my sample, and feed her both her sample and the vast majority of mine.

Somewhere along the way, the representative of a diet company that supplies the food found out about the fair and insisted on being included. She kept insisting that their chocolate was rich and wonderful and we kept trying to tell her that she didn't really want people to taste her product when they had been indulging in truffles. But, she kept calling back and calling back and calling back and finally we decided that it was silly to keep protecting this woman from the results of her own propaganda and allowed her to rent a table right along with See's and the others.

Come the day of the fair, people were enjoying the samples and having a gay old time.

And then they would get to the diet chocolate table. The woman would tell them that her product, which was about the color as the sample to the right, was as good as the richest chocolates. That they wouldn't be able to tell which was the diet product. And people would take a sample, take a bite, make a face, and throw the rest of the sample away. Sometimes they said something about how awful it was. Some of the men swore. One of the children spit it out. About 30 minutes into the four hour event, she folded up her table and took her samples home. As I remember it, that came right after one of the fair goers challenged her to taste any of the other samples and still claim hers was as good.

My personal chocolate weakness came about when I moved to Sacramento. My office was a block from Macy's and I would go into the store and watch the price reductions on the clothes that I wanted until the item reached the price I was willing to pay for it.*****

And one day I stopped at the candy counter, and there were chocolate covered potato chips. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want such a thing. I even asked the clerk if anyone ever bought them and she told me that they made two or three batches a day. Made no sense to me, until two weeks later when the idea of chocolate covered potato chips suddenly overcame me. Come the lunch hour, there I was at the candy counter, buying some. The clerk smiled, and said, "Among ourselves, we call them PMSers." The clerks knew the cycle of many a woman who worked in that area. And, since I don't do that any longer, I've neither had nor wanted one. But, boy -- salty, crunchy, sweet, fat, chocolate, potato --the only thing better for PMS that I ever encountered is Miso soup.

*I also don't read women's magazines because of the diet ads and articles.
** On Countdown, I zap past the celebrity nonsense that the network insists Keith Olbermann include in his show.
*** Alison ties my daughter-in-law Kathy for the person I know who loves chocolate the most.
**** or, for that matter, Kathy.
***** Which is how I got two silk blouses, originally priced $120 each for $15 each. I've never done that before or since, but then I've never lived or worked so close to a store where I actually shopped before or since.

Update Actually, what that woman had was better described as chalkolate.

Photo credit: Chocolates,
Chocolate covered potato chips, global haja

Friday, January 04, 2008

Tiger Attack

Tatiana and Tony
On Christmas day, just after closing, a tiger got loose in the San Francisco Zoo, killed a 17 year old and mauled two brothers in their early 20s. When police arrived, she was in the act of mauling one of the brothers, and she was killed. Her name was Tatiana, and she was an extremely rare 350 pound Siberian tiger who had been brought to the zoo to be part of a breeding program. and meantime was a companion to 15 year old Tony.

The incident is still under investigation. Although the wall of the tiger enclosure was shorter than recommended, this is the first time that a tiger has ever gotten over it. Or, so far as is known, even tried to get over it. A captive animal is not nearly the athlete that a wild one is, and the 12 1/2 foot wall plus moat had always been more than enough to contain the cats. However, if a big cat is angry, it is capable of amazing feats of strength.*

The discovery of pine cones, sticks, and a large rock in the moat (where they could not have come naturally) initially caused many to consider that the Daliwal brothers might have been taunting Tatiana. The later revelation that Jennifer Miller saw four men at the lion house at 4:30, just about half an hour before Tatiana broke out, three of which were taunting the lions, adds strength to this possibility. Mrs. Miller stated that she recognized Carlos Sousa, the 17 year old victim, as the only member of the group who was behaving. The Daliwal brothers and an unknown fourth party were roaring at the lions in a manner which upset them and so disturbed Mrs. Miller that she took her children and left. It is not entirely beyond belief that if the men would taunt animals when the zoo was still open and there were witnesses around, they would escalate their taunting after the zoo closed and there were no witnesses. The discovery of an empty vodka bottle in their car adds one more piece of evidence. Although it has not been corroborated by the San Francisco police, the New York Post reported that the brothers had slingshots in their pockets when they were rescued.

Reports indicate that after the tiger jumped the fence she attacked one of the Daliwal brothers. Carlos Sousa yelled at her to distract her; she then attacked him and the Daliwal brothers ran away. Tatiana left Sousa and followed the blood trail to the closed cafe where the brothers had managed to attract attention and get the staff to call 911. Tatiana had mauled both brothers when the police arrived and shot her.

As of Thursday, January 3, the brothers hadn't called Sousa's father, and apparently weren't talking to authorities, but they had hired an attorney who plans to sue.

In the article about Mrs. Miller's information, there were 1246 comments as of 10:30 Thursday night. A few defended the Daliwal brothers; most expressed sadness for the deaths of Carlos Sousa and Tatiana, who would seem to be the innocent victims in this story, and anger at the Daliwals for causing this tragedy and apparently preparing to cash in on it.

Carlos Sousa was a brave young man. He lost his life saving the lives of two young men who may have called this attack upon themselves and who then ran away and left him to be killed. His family is left grieving his loss. For them, Christmas will always be tainted by the memories of this horror.

I totally understand the need to kill Tatiana before she could harm anyone else. But, I agree with the comment writers who consider her to be one of the victims. If you taunt a tiger, you might expect to get mauled. If you taunt a captive tiger, you might deserve to get mauled. Tatiana was being a tiger. That was her nature. Just like her affection for Tony was her nature.

Assuming that the Daliwal brothers and the unknown fourth man Mrs. Miller saw did taunt Tatiana, am I totally awful to think that the wrong two may have died that day?

* I once had an 18 1/2 year old, four and a half pound cat named Missy. She was old and arthritic. When she walked, it was slowly and carefully. She looked like a little old lady cat. Six weeks before she died, she was sleeping on my shoulder and she suddenly came wide awake and jumped off. By the time I could turn around, there was only a tail left of the mouse. Cats are predators. Even the mildest of them.

Anvilcloud commented that " Some males of a certain age can be most obnoxious." Which reminds me that I read that 98% of rattlesnake bites that come into ERs are on the hand of a drunk male between 19 and 27. And there are two bites. So drunk they try to pick up a rattlesnake. Twice.

Photo of Tatiana and Tony by chadh

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Gallic Legs

I've mentioned before that I have restless legs syndrome. Usually I take a quarter of a percocet, about 82 mgs, before I go to bed and then a second quarter about four hours later and that takes care of it.

However, last night my left leg wanted to do the sword dance

And that sort of made sense. There is some minor amount of Scot in me.

and my right leg was set on joining the cast of River Dance.

Since I'm not Irish, despite my last name, it makes one wonder.

So, when I got up at the four hour mark, I took a whole 325 mgs tablet. Which quieted my legs nicely, thank you very much. But I've seldom had such colorful dreams. Including the one about how I couldn't get to sleep because someone had fried eggs with the guitar and I couldn't find the Ajax to get it clean.

Those dreams about how I can't get to sleep because of some such nonsense as this are, sadly to say, all too common. I suppose it shows that having sleeping disorders creeps into my dreams so that even when I am sleeping I'm concerned that I'm not. It is only later, when I get up for some reason and think about how I couldn't sleep because of this impossible thing that was happening that I realize I had been sleeping all along. Which is sort of too bad, because the things that happen when I think I'm trying to sleep are really amazing. They might even make for good science fiction.

Sword dance, by Clan Currie
River dance, Design © 1998-2007 Ken Kocanda

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Edwards is sounding good. These primaries have a very interesting feature. Which is, the Dems have a full field of candidates who are interesting for various reasons and all of whom have growing appeal to a portion of the voters. While the GOP has a full field of candidates who are interesting in a whole different way and none of whom seems to appeal to voters for long.

The GOP seems to be flailing around for a candidate that they like, with favor shifting from one to another wildly, with the favorite of the moment likely to be the most recent to be noticed. The more people learn about the candidates, the less they want them. "America's Mayor" was the favorite until people began to hear about how he had actually functioned before and after 9/11. Romney held it until people began to get worried about the combination of too liberal and religion. Thompson was great until he actually declared. Huckabee frightens the mainline GOP, who may well be wondering if courting the religious right was such a good idea after all. Ron Paul has his following, but many people are noticing his affiliations with racist organizations. McCain may come up from behind, and take the nomination, and he's certainly the most experienced candidate. It will be interesting to watch.

Meanwhile, before you get to the front runners in the Democratic party, you have my man Kucinich, who doesn't have the backing but would certainly do a good job. Dodd, who has proven his quality by standing up for what he believes with the FISA bill. Richardson, who has experience and stands for getting the troops home. And all three of them talk about making the Constitution a priority. The top three offer a woman with an actual chance of winning, a black man with an actual chance of winning, and Edwards, who the polls show as able to defeat any GOP candidate.

Personally, I could easily back Kucinich, Dodd, Richardson, or Edwards. I see Clinton as too much in the pocket of the corporations and too hawkish. I also dislike the idea of dynasties, and Bush - Clinton - Bush - Clinton frightens me. And, let's face it. Every other candidate up there is up there on their own merit. Clinton wouldn't be considered after one term in the Senate if she hadn't been married to Bill; she might not even be a senator if she hadn't been married to Bill. Obama is being rushed. He may well have the potential, but not necessarily yet.

Anyway, that's how I feel about it. And tomorrow we can see how Iowa feels about it.

UpdateAnd Joe Biden, Mike Gravel, Duncan Hunter, and Alan Keyes have made so little impression on me, that I totally forgot them when I originally wrote this post.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

Click to enlarge

Glad to be done with 2007. Hoping 2008 will be better all round. Election magic would be nice.