Wednesday, December 1, 2010

They've Been Lame Since Election 2008

All the chest-beating and folderol coming out of Washington these days... I pointedly DO NOT listen because it makes me want to tear my hair out.

Like this BS:

Senate GOP pledges to block all bills until tax dispute resolved

Senate republicans--the same ones who spent eight years of the Bush Administration creating the frightening National Debt, and are now blaming Obama for it--getting up on their high horses about the Bush Era tax cuts (to the RICH!!!)

"Job-killing?" WHAT jobs? Your rich cronies have already sent all the jobs overseas. They're not coming back!

So now, we should just let the rich business moguls sit back and rake in the money from the manufacturing that's being done in other countries, and not have to pay taxes on it? Why? Do you think they're actually going to USE that money to benefit anyone but themselves? Is there a history--recent or otherwise--of that actually happening? Show me the numbers, please...

Our government is in complete gridlock, and it's only going to get worse in the next two years.

What a mess!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


May I suggest an alternative to the airport security check ins that have so many knickers in a twist? I haven’t figured out which combo is best. But, when you arrive at the airport and check in you are issued either two bed sheets or a sheet and a hospital style gown. You are also given flip flops and a see through bag that can be sealed once it’s scanned. Perhaps they could use something like the anti shoplifting tags that use dye. That, or a very small stink bomb to deter folks from unsealing their bags.

You change, put your clothing, including the above mentioned knickers and other unmentionables in the bag and go through the security scanners. Your bag is sealed and you board your flight looking rather like an extra from Gandhi, the Animal House toga party or an old sword and sandals film. I would not want to be stranded on the tarmac in Chicago this time of year.

For extra spice all congressional representatives, bureaucrats etc. would be required to fly commercial airlines and have to do the same thing. Especially anyone remotely tied to the TSA or Homeland Security. Can you imagine all our over sixty representatives without their power suits (or skirts) as the case may be. ;-) It’d be worth the cost of a ticket just to see Mitch McConnel trying to figure out what to do with his tighty whities.

"Those who sacrifice liberty for a little security deserve neither security or safety." freely borrowed from Ben Franklin.

Friday, November 12, 2010


I’ve been following the Alaska senate race with a lot of interest. The incumbent, Lisa Murkowski, was edged out in the primary by a Tea Party candidate endorsed by Sara Palin. She conceded the election, but decided to run as a write in candidate. As of today it looks like she just might win the election.

At this point they’re arguing over which votes count. Alaska requires that the write in candidates’ name be spelled correctly. Works for me, except that both major parties went to court to block any list of write in candidates being posted at the polls and to forbid poll workers to help voters with their write in ballots. My source for this is the on line version of the Anchorage Daily News. Both parties, not just disgruntled Republicans who view Murkowski as a spoiler. Some states (example; Texas) block candidates who lose in the primary from running as write ins. Alaska doesn’t.

Let’s shift our perspective a bit. Look at the Republicans and the Democrats as brands like say, GM or Ford. The brand provides a commodity; votes and access on the local, state and federal level instead of pickups and SUV’s. It is in the interest of the major parties to provide fairly reliable results in return for the money donated to their war chests. From the point of view of the donors the parties provide a source of votes and access with as few surprises as possible. Democracy is great in theory. Not so great in practice from the point of view of parties or their donors.

It is also in the interests of the parties and the donors to restrict the competition; in other words the fewer brands (parties) competing for donor money the better. I don’t know how other states handle party access to the ballot. In Oregon a new party has to gather enough signatures to get their candidates on the ballot and then maintain a certain percentage of the ballots cast to maintain that access. A few years ago the legislature passed a (short lived) measure that counted those petition signatures as votes. If you signed a petition to get Joe Blow on the ballot and he didn’t make it you couldn’t vote for another candidate from a different party who did make it on the ballot.

Uncontrolled, unbranded candidates? A successful write in campaign at the federal level could be a nightmare come true for both parties.

Friday, November 5, 2010

NOT the End of the World

Post Election:

Life goes on, the world still turns, the seasons change

the autumn leaves have their hour

reminding us of those things

truly worth our full attention...


Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I have a suggestion for an amendment to the constitution.

"For the purposes of funding political campaigns a person shall be defined as a living being of human descent possessing either two X chromosomes or an X and a Y chromosome or a variation of the combination usually found when genes are typed."

Think it’ll happen?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

End of Year Performance Review - raaaaggggghhhhttttt....

So it's time to submit my end-of-the-year Performance Review. Ugh. This time, to add insult to injury, there's a new question, no doubt thought up by some Harvard educated MBA: Where do you see yourself in 1-3 years? I have to make up some suitable BS to answer this inane question, and I will, but what I really want to say is this:

Listen, you dweeby bean counter, I've been a permanent employee now for almost 4 years. In that time, although my caseload has increased by almost 50%, I've never submitted a single late report (this is a big deal at the company where I work). Furthermore, I've taken on many additional responsibilities since I started, some of which have been assigned to me, others that I've initiated, e.g., I created a training manual, complete with screen shots, that's now used internationally to train new employees on our pharma database, and I'm expected to keep it current. Yet I haven't received a raise or a promotion, or even an overall EE (exceeds expectations - word is that management doesn't like anyone to receive that rating, because an employee receiving that rating might expect some sort of financial reward, e.g., a raise or promotion). And so I'm still working at the same grade at which I was hired, as are those employees hired at the same time as me whose idea of work is pretty much to show up for 8 hours a day, period. Furthermore, in spite of my putting time and effort, twice a year, into writing these performance reviews, I have yet to have a one-on-one or to receive any sort of feedback on the work I'm doing from anyone who's supervised me. I'd say writing these is sort of like pennies down a well, except that I know someone reads them, because we get them back to redo if what we've written falls short of the rah-rah spirit with which they're supposed to be once again, I'm writing and submitting mine, but oh, what a colossal waste of time.

Previously on Alphawoman...

The Rules

Recently I have not had the opportunity to read. I dearly miss curling up with a good book. So I decided to venture down to the local-ish public library and pick up some audio CD's to enjoy when I am driving.

I picked up Tony Robbins talking about something or another. I find I enjoy him much more as an orator than as a writer. Several times I tried to read this book I am listening to and failed. But I'm loving the audio.

I am picking up quite a bit about changing your behavior and little tricks to make yourself a better and happier person. Now you might be asking yourself, "I thought Mary was an extremely happy and well balance person!" And you're right, I am. But everyone could little readjusting now and then.

One interesting section was about rules. Not just any rules, but the rules you make for yourself and thereby inflict them on those around you. I found this "spin" quite easy to apply to real life. Especially if I apply it to other people. I understood at once why Joe is having a difficult time with a certain someone. He does not understand her rules and therefore, breaks them. As much as she dislikes Joe, he must break every single one of her rules. (see how easy this is?)

Is it possible to sit down with some one you are having a conflict with and somehow find out what their rules are? I don't know. But he makes sense and I believe that if you could follow his advice and put into action his behavioral shifts I think you're life might just be less annoying. Better? Happier? If I am less annoyed, I am happier.


Take today. I go to Kroger's because I like Kroger. It is a classy supermarket in this town. This area is limited in the supermarket offerings. For some reason the powers that be think that "everyone" just drives into Nashville if they want variety. (I stop here, I learned my lesson in Ft Wayne about city bashing). I pick up the two items I want from the vegetable area and mosey on down the Halloween aisle (1/2 off and tremendous make-down) and pick up some (pukey - but I only find this out later) Kroger brand Indian Corn. The place is packed. Last minute Halloween shopping but it looks like a blizzard might be making a beeline for us with the crowded store and impossible to find a space in the parking lot! So I go to the self check out line and get in the queue. As I stand in the middle area of the two lines a gentleman assumes his place behind me to await his turn after me. Out of nowhere a lady and her husband arrive, just out of church by the way they are dressed to the nines, and get behind the lady at the check out space to the right!

I turn to the guy behind me and say, "Did I miss something about check out etiquette at this store?" He is Mexican and just smiles and nods. Maybe he understands, maybe not.

I realize one of my rules was just broken!!

So life goes on. I understood (not right then but later) that my rules about standing in line at the self check out area is totally different from the people who just left church. They believe in every man/woman for themselves and those who play fair go after them.

Then I go to Walmart. Halloween candy is still top dollar. Thank God I stocked up on my Almond Joys at Kroger. I get the items I need and head to the self check out lanes and immediately get one. As I am lifting the 35 pound cat liter out of the basket this woman comes up behind me and gets in my space!! I just ignore her breathing down my neck and swipe my coupon and pay with her shopping cart right up my thigh. As I get ready to leave I see a second lady ignore the queue and rush towards the person next to me and get as close to her as the lady behind me. I look at all the people who obey the rules of etiquette waiting patiently in an orderly line and wonder why some people think they are more important.

And I think that maybe Tony is right.

Right about something.

(also apprearing on Alphawoman)

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Hello! anyone noticing? White House - No Flag
It is time we ousted this scoundrel...
Have you noticed that the decor at the White House haschanged since BHO moved in? The Oval Office is now stripped of the traditional red, white, and blue, and replaced with middle eastern wallpaper, drapes, and decor. The hallway that he walks out of to talk to the press now has middle eastern chairs, drapes, etc..Most disturbing is the bright yellow drape behind him every time he speaks from the White House. It has Arabic symbols on it and has been there from the beginning.Today I received this and it clearly shows what I have been noticing. That bright yellow curtain is highly visible, but as you scroll down, you will see what is predominantly absent. Also, as you look at the pictures of other presidents speaking from the same spot, look at the traditional 'American' background and decor as opposed to the new decor. This is intentional and should alarm every American
This is the text of an email forwarded to me by a relative of a relative. I've done some Googling about the new oval office decor and I'm still trying to figure out what's Middle Eastern about striped wall paper, among other things.
I'm not seeing the Arabic characters in that backdrop fabric. I'm not really into yellow but it looks like a really nice satin brocade to me.
It's getting loonier by the hour.

Great Breakfast Treat, Oatmeal Cake

A cold morning, water in the birdbaths lightly frozen over. The birds are emptying their feeders in record time, and I am feeling quite guilty about forgetting to fill them last evening. It's still too cold to go out there and do it right now in my jammies.  But it's the perfect morning to bake up a panful of Oatmeal Cake so we'll have it to take as a portable breakfast for fly-ins at the Bosque del Apache next week. Oatmeal is a breakfast staple for us in winter, both in our previous life, and our New Improved Vegan/no oil life. 

This is something I used to make for breakfast when we ran Marigold's, our guesthouse on Cape Cod, only now I have modified it for our new diet to exclude eggs. sugar and oil.  It is actually quite good, with the banana and applesauce providing a nice sweetness. It makes a grab & go breakfast if you don't have time for a sit-down, or can be heated up with fruit for a tummy-warming morning start.

Oatmeal Cake 

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (NOT instant)
2 cups soy (or almond/hemp/oat/etc) milk
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 (or more, as you like) tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 large banana, mashed
1/2 cup applesauce
handful chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins (cranberries are also great)

Oven at 350.

Spray 8" round or square pan.
Soak oats in milk about five minutes.
Add nuts/raisins, vanilla, banana and applesauce to soaked oat/milk mix.
Mix dry ingreds separately, then mix in to oat mix until well blended.
Pour into baking pan, bake 40 - 45 minutes, until golden crust forms on top.
Let cool before cutting.  Serves six, or keeps two in breakfast  treats for several days. 

(Cross-Posted from Quid Nunc)

Thursday, October 21, 2010


An expansion on a comment I posted on Lisa’s entry. Do I think that the president might have done a few things differently over the past couple of years? Personally, I believe the administration might have spent more political capital on putting people back to work. The president worked like an old time coal miner trying to put together a bi partisan consensus even though it was pretty damned obvious from the beginning that the ‘Pubs weren’t going to cooperate. Do I wish there was a way out of Afghanistan that doesn’t involve throwing our hands in the air, saying the hell with it and pulling out? Oh yeah. The only consolation is that Alexander, the Russians and the British couldn’t do any better.

Thomas Paine coined a wonderful phrase back during the Revolution in his pamphlet “the Crisis”. To the “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots” who voted Democratic in ’08 and aren’t happy or satisfied with the results and feel too “discouraged” to vote this time around; if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the results can you?

We’ve got a candidate for the house in my district who, among other things, believes that public education is socialistic and “child abuse” and should be abolished. That our radioactive waste could either be diluted and dumped in the ocean or mixed into housing foundations because low dose radiation is good for you. That the EPA should be abolished, and that all our energy problems would be solved if companies like Exxon and BP (and their employees) didn’t have to pay taxes. Of course now that he’s running for office and being reminded of what he said in the past, well that wasn’t exactly what he meant. Seems to be a lot of that going around.

It gets even better. Other candidates want to gut the fourteenth amendment. Some candidates would repeal the seventeenth amendment that provides for the direct election of senators. There are modern nullifiers who would allow the states to ignore any federal statute they don’t agree with. Andrew Jackson must be spinning in his grave. Sharon Angle is on the record advocating a “second amendment” solution if the election results don’t suit the far right radicals.

There is a radical minority who are willing to trash what we have in hopes of replacing it with something more to their liking. Now, they can’t succeed, but they can create a hell of mess in the process. An even bigger mess to clean up. Now all you discouraged folks out there; if you want to risk this by all means stay home, sit in a corner, stick your fingers in your ears and hum real loud.

As for me, my mail in ballot it already deposited in the drop off box. We filled ours out the same day we got them.

Hail to the Chief

Last night, for about twenty amazing minutes, I got to be in the same room ( was an auditorium. A very BIG room, but a room nonetheless) with the President of the United States.

After standing on the sidewalk for three hours (I SO wore the wrong shoes) then sitting in an ugly auditorium for two more hours, and having to endure a rather childish political pep rally, that man walked out on the stage.

I'm not saying it was worth all the peripheral bullshit to get a glimpse of an obviously tired president who was sniffling from a cold and guzzling water in order to try to retain an audible voice for the duration of his speech. And we were really far away (mostly watched him on the Big Screen.) :(

But I realized I am still very proud that he is President of the United States. I'm proud that I voted for him. I'm proud that he speaks FOR me, and TO me as if I were a rational adult.

I'm proud of what he has achieved so far, in the face of ridiculous opposition. And I'm proud that he hasn't lost heart, and that he's just going to keep on plugging. He has set his sights on accomplishing as much as he possibly can while he holds the highest office in the land. I'm proud that I was in that crowd, among those five thousand people who showed him a degree of excitement, admiration and support that, I'll wager, he doesn't encounter too often these days.

Barack Obama has my greatest respect and loyalty.

Hail to the Chief!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Let's All Go, Shall We?

This is probably the only thing in the world that would induce me to get on an airplane and fly across the country...

Jon Stewart's Rally To Restore Sanity.

...and Blogger refuses to upload the video about it. Sigh!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

On the Tea Party Victories…

A lot of press is being given to the primary victories of Tea Party-endorsed candidates in states like New York and Delaware. Somehow, the exponential surge of the Tea Party is being painted as a serious threat to the Democrats' congressional majorities in this mid-term election cycle. Say what?

Personally, I think this is a spin job being perpetrated by a desperate Republican Party, which is trying to hold itself together at the seams as the Tea Party tears the ultra-right-wing ideologues away from it. Those same ultra-right-wingers who were nodded and winked and placated for eight years by the Bush/Cheney/Rove political machine. The machine that understood it needed the votes of the ultra-conservative nutjobs to keep its stranglehold on the political power in this country. The power that was going to allow them to advance their "build wealth, protect wealth" agenda. The agenda that, in the end, didn't effectively accomplish either of those things. Which is why they are no longer in power.

So tell me: How is the rending asunder of the Republican Party going to threaten the Democrats? Isn't it traditionally so that when an independent party splinters away from one of the two major ones, the party from which that upstart splinters becomes weakened? These Tea-Partiers, with their ultra-conservative agenda, their "birthers" and their altered definitions of socialism, are not the folks who put Barack Obama in office. They are not the folks who threw the bums who had spent eight years leading this country to the brink of economic, intellectual and moral collapse, out on their ears.

THEY are the ones who fell in love with Sarah Palin.

And in case you hadn't noticed…Palin lost.

It's indeed a pity that she hasn't gone away into Losing Candidate Oblivion. But still. Ubiquitous and strident and seemingly popular as she is—she's a loser.

And it's unfortunate that she has become the mouthpiece for a group of discontented loud-mouths who, in my humble opinion, gave up the best thing they ever had when they ripped themselves away from the mainstream Republican Party. Because I think they are going to find that they need the Republicans as much as the Republicans needed them. Together, they are a block to be reckoned with.

Apart…not so much.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Politics of Love

I have completely given up hope on our country, politically. The stuff that filters down to me, even through my overworked, sleep-deprived haze is so inane, so unbelievable, so...filled with hatred and divisiveness, name calling and power grubbing, that I have, finally, just had to step away from it. I have, literally, given up. I can no longer be that voice in the wilderness--albeit a weak one--that I was in the waning years of the Bush Administation.

The "Tea Party" thing makes me crazy. But I just can't have any hope that the progressive answer to that hideous noise--the "Coffee Party"--will have any effect other than feeding the fire of divisiveness and "Us vs Them." I don't want to be an "Us." I don't want there to be a "Them." I just want us all to figure out a way to live in peace.

Fat Chance.

Still, every once in a while, something comes along that makes sense and I need to endorse, regardless of where it comes from.

The following comes from the "Coffee Party" website. I was led to it by Cynthia on Facebook. Here is the link:

But for those of you who don't click on links in blogs, here are my favorite parts: On second thought, here's the whole thing. It's all my favorite part:

Sat, 09/11/2010 - 9:08am — AnnabelPark
The building was on fire and there
was no way down the stairs. She was calling to say goodbye. There was really
only one thing for her to say, those three words that all the terrible art, the
worst pop songs and movies, the most seductive lies, can somehow never cheapen.
I love you.

She said it over and again before the line went dead. And
that is what they were all saying down their phones, from the hijacked planes
and the burning towers. There is only love, and then oblivion. Love was all they
had to set against the hatred of their murderers

-- Ian McEwan's op-ed
in the Guardian UK on September 15, 2001

British noveist Ian McEwan wrote this essay soon after reflecting on those extraordinary messages left for their loved ones by the victims all saying "I love you." In those terrifying days right after the Towers fell, I looked for guidance on how to understand what just happened. Reading this essay helped me to understand not only 9/11, but something important about life.

The simplicity of the truth stunned me: In the end, love is what matters.

Instead of being consumed by fear in the last moments of her life, this woman -- the caller, the victim -- was consumed by love. When we fear death and destruction, love is what gives us strength as individuals.

When we need to summon courage for a dangerous operation or to pull ourselves together after we get into a car accident, we think of the ones we love and want to talk to them. We don't think of the ones we hate. Hate doesn't give us the strength to live.

Imagine a whole society consumed by hate. All too well, we can imagine this. Now imagine a whole society consumed by love. It's much harder to imagine.

So, why do we indulge in hate when it weakens us as individuals and a society? There is an illusion of power when we hate, when are we are angry. There is a burst of
energy when chemicals are released into our brains that we mistake for power. We
also feel a sense of unity and camaraderie with our fellow haters. We don't feel
so alone when there is organized hatred. We feel like we are part of a group.
But it is a bond that ultimately weakens us as individuals.

Imagine the same bond based on mutual love, not mutual hate.

Let's again try to imagine a society driven by love for humanity and country. By compassion for those suffering. To want to care for people who need care. Whether they are breathing in toxic chemicals in the Gulf, trapped in a mine is Chile, displacedand hungry in Pakistan, still homeless in Haiti or unemployed in Rockford, IL.Yes, it makes us cringe. It's painful to care when we feel that there is little
we can do to help.

But think of the trapped miners in Chile. Knowing,that the world is watching and their loved ones are holding vigil in amake-shift tent just above and not leaving them, strengthens the miners. Theyknow that they matter, that they are loved, that around the world, we care. Thismutual situation of concern and love makes the miners stronger. It strengthensus as well to see the awesome resilience of the human spirit.

Love strengthens us. Hate weakens us. For at least today, let's imagine a world
driven by the politics of love, not hate.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Texas billboard


Mike and I spotted this billboard on I-35, just south of Waco, as we were driving to Austin on Sunday. We stopped to take a pic of it on our way back on Monday night, and we weren't the only ones who did.
A young friend found it funny but I find it disturbing.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


(a poem by Wendell Berry)

1. How much poison are you willing to eat for the success of the free market and global trade? Please name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much evil are you willing to do? Fill in the following blanks with the names of your favorite evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared to make for culture and civilization? Please list the monuments, shrines, and works of art you would most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and the flag, how much of our beloved land are you willing the desecrate? List in the following spaces the mountains, rivers, town, farms you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes, the energy sources, the kinds of security for which you would kill a child. Name, please, the children whom you would be willing to kill.

Wendell Berry

My thanks to a fellow member of the Creation Spirituality Communities for letting me know about this poem. And my thanks also a relative who shall remain nameless who appears to be far more fundamental than I am for her pro life comments regarding a progressive voting link.

I’m aware that not all so called pro lifers seem to lose their concerns for unborn as soon as they are born.

For me, being pro life means supporting all life. We have to support an unpolluted environment so that children have access to clean water, food, housing and air. Pro life means supporting jobs that pay enough to provide at least basic access to the above mentioned water, food, housing and air. Pro life means access to basic education. The ‘Pub candidate running for Peter DeFazio’s seat calls public education “socialistic” and I really believe he’d like to see the public schools closed.

Pro life means preserving as much of the natural world as we can so kids can dig in the dirt; plant a seed and watch it grow. We all need to at least know that the green is out there for the sake of our sanity.

Pro life means the support and protection of all Creation. It is in Creation that we see the face of the Creator.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


is really worth a thousand words. I read the cartoon. I read it again. And then it sank in. Then it really sank in.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


The last of our oriental lilies to bloom is the Casablanca. If the Stargazer is the definition of "pink" then white doesn't come much whiter than this lily.
I know it isn't Friday but I couldn't get a good shot yesterday morning. ;-)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reading Matters, Post Script

As the title of the post states, this is but a short P.S. to my earlier post, Reading Matters. In that post I stated definitively that I had declined to read The Art Of Racing In The Rain, this month's book for my book club. My refusal was on the grounds that I knew it was going to be sad, and leave me crying in the rain.  Or, really, since I'm in New Mexico, in the brilliant sunshine. However, in a comment to that post, Kathy stated just as definitively "I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain. Crying or not, I loved it." The woman who suggested it for the club had also loved it.

So, on Tuesday afternoon I settled into the old wicker rocker on the back porch and devoted myself to reading Enzo's story.  Enzo is a dog.  And so, just as I thought, the book is as sad as any book narrated by a dog is bound to be.  It was also, to my huge surprise, an extremely spiritual and uplifting story. The track, and racing on it, serves as a terrific metaphor for life and how to live it - and Enzo has a better, clearer, and more compassionate outlook on life than most who are already living it as humans. I managed to read the entire book that afternoon before our club meeting and participate in the discussion. But I delayed the last few pages until I was safely in the shelter of my own home, and with my own sweetie to comfort me.  All dog books end with the dog's death, and this one is no exception.  But it might be one of the most beautiful, hopeful, wonderful literary deaths I've ever read.  I can only hope my own could come any where close to Enzo's. 

If you're looking for something utterly engaging and delightful to fill some empty hours, on a plane, a beach, a train, you couldn't do better than to pass those hours with Enzo and Dennie, their family and friends.  Just be sure to have a large clean handkerchief close by as you approach the end of the story.  Also it might be good if it was your own copy.  I found myself longing to underline or highlight often.  But the library frowns on their patrons taking such action.

Oh, please

Every where I turn, people are talking about Steven Slater. I confess, when I first read the story, I laughed. He really acted out a fantasy for almost everyone who's worked in customer service. Having worked in customer service fields for a long time, I definitely understood how he felt.

Once at the end of a long work day, I literally had to spit out a tiny piece of tooth enamel, because I'd been grinding my teeth to keep from saying what I dearly longed to say. While I looked at that chip in my hand, I remembered that Bill Cosby once said that the key to failure is trying to please everyone. My job in customer service was trying to please everyone. The inevitable conclusion was that being a failure was my job.

That was just a bad day though, and I'm proud of what I do.

I've worked in a variety of customer service jobs throughout my career. Some have been seen as serious career jobs that require a solid base of knowledge and professional skill before service could be provided. I'm glad I've spent more time in those than the other type. Those are the customer service jobs where the people like me are just seen as the flunky you get stuck dealing with. Throughout both types of jobs though, I've come to hold a lot of respect for good customer service people everywhere.

It's not an easy job. I've worked in marketing, sales and public relations as well as traditional customer service, and frankly, customer service demands a higher level of communication skills than any of those fields. You have to be able to listen effectively, promptly identify a customer's real need, and present a problem solving solution in a clear way that makes your customer feel good and want to do business with your company again. A good customer service rep has to think quickly and master the art of emotional alleviation. She has to thoroughly understand company policies and procedures and have the ability to adapt those procedures to individual needs, while pleasing both the customer and the company. Let me add, either company or customer could have caused the problem you're trying to solve. Talk about being in a hot spot.

Since the people you're frequently dealing with are sometimes upset, they can often be long winded and short tempered, and you have to be able to sort out the verbal chaff from the essential information. This requires patience, but beyond that, it requires an emotional maturity that is becoming increasingly rare. On a bad day, it's not just maturity that's needed, it's emotional teflon. I haven't met too many people made of synthetic polymers, but every day I see more evidence that the loss of civility is not limited to the political realm.

Yes, there are days when I've really wanted to make a bold "F... You" statement like Steven Slater, but some fantasies need to stay in the land of daydreams. His flamboyant reaction was another loss of civility, maturity and self-control. It was no better than the customers who put their desires before any one else's needs, and the biggest part of me wants to tell them all, "Grow up!"

Monday, August 9, 2010

Reading Matters

I had a "page" on my personal blog that I called "Reading," but I consistently forgot to write there about what I was reading; and a few days ago while attempting to catch up on it I somehow managed to completely delete it.  Nobody looks at those Pages anyhow, so, I think I will just write in the blog itself when I feel like discussing what I am reading. Or, not reading. I'm currently having a very hard time settling into anything that really grabs me.  Wonder if others have those strange blank spells? Nothing you pick up, no matter how great the reviews, or enticing the cover, grabs you and makes you want to turn the pages.  It's kind of a Reader's Block, instead of Writer's Block. The book for our neighborhood book club, meeting tomorrow evening, is The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, which I declined to read.  It is narrated by a charming and personable dog, and after my partner, Gail (who very seldom cries), finished the book in heaving sobs, I knew I was going to skip it.  Since childhood (remember Old Yeller?) I have avoided dog books - their sole purpose is to break the reader's heart.  Our own crazy little old dog's death is still too recent for me to risk waking up that pain. 

We recently found Sea of Troubles, in a new paperback reprint and I gobbled it up in a couple of nights It's one of Donna Leon's Venice mysteries that has been, mysteriously, unavailable for far too long, and I devoured it in a couple of nights.  There are two others that seem to be missing, and I'm hoping they're next in line to return.  If you love a good police procedural, captivating protagonists, great food, and exiting locations, Leon's series of books with Commissario Guido Brunetti will be right up your alley.  I have never been to Venice, but from these books I feel I know it, in its contemporary form at least.  It's clear from these novels that Italy has its share of the woes and tribulations of modern life, but the beauty of this ancient city also manages to shine through.  Many of the mysteries have to do with environmental problems, and political corruption, as well as immigration problems.  All things we are familiar with and think of as our own national difficulties.  But, after I finished with Sea of Troubles, I was right back into my lack of enthusiasm for anything I pick up to read.  I have things on hold with the library system, but lack of funding has forced them to seriously cut back on the number of copies they order, and it can take weeks and weeks to get a popular book.

So, while I wait for my holds on the latest titles by Jane Smiley, Anna Quindlen, Scott Turow, James Lee Burke, Sharon McCrumb, and others, I am desultorily picking at one unread volume or another off our shelves.  We are trying not to buy books right now, so it's the long hard wait, unless I lose control completely and find myself at the register at Bookworks with a stack of new books in my arms.   Anyone have any suggestions?
(Cross-posted from Quid Nunc?)


I can't imagine using these colors to actually decorate anything. I mean can you see a room painted with super hot pink, lighter pinks and burnt orange? But here, courtesy of Mother Nature's paint brush, it works. Oh, how it works.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Petunias in the early morning sun. The pot is ageing very nicely. And they smell so wonderful later in the morning as everything warms up.

Friday, July 30, 2010


This was the best of the morning's pictures. It was about seven and the sun had just come out from behind the tree across the street. Some sun loving coleus, and geraniums. There's a sweet potatoe vine in there too, but I need a different angle. Better luck tomorrow; or whenever.
I've been so busy digging I've forgotten to record the results. Mixed bag so far. A few peppers, enthusiastic tomato VINES, our first zuke, some lettuce and a Frankenstein lemon cucumber that's doubled in size in the last couple of days and appears to be heading for the border. LOL

Monday, July 5, 2010


I spend very little time watching, reading, or listening to the political discourse these days. For awhile, just after the 2008 election, I was under the mistaken impression that things would improve; that the inanity was somehow going to dissipate with the presence of an intelligent, well-spoken man behind the desk in the Oval Office. We all know that didn't happen, don't we?

We all know that, if anything, the right has become more shrill and more inane in its proclamations and accusations. Including taking every disastrous, unpopular result of eight years of Bush Administration policies and immediately projecting them on to President Obama. The Economic Crisis? Obama's fault. The Bail-out? Obama's idea (No one mentions the free bailout money the Bush Administration dished out shortly before Bush left office. It's like it never happened…) It's Obama's fault that he has been unable to wave a magic wand and create new jobs for everyone who lost theirs as a result of a runaway financial system left unregulated by the Bush Administration. The Gulf Oil Disaster has been characterized as "Obama's Katrina," even though it was most probably the result of at least eight years (prior to Obama's election) of rule by a Big-Oil Puppet King. Last week, Michael Steele decided to add the war in Afghanistan to the list of Obama's transgressions. (We are supposed to forget this war has been going on for eight years and Obama's only been in office for two…)

And then there's Sarah Palin.

If I let myself think about it, I would still have a nearly irresistible desire to put my house on the market, pack my bags and my animals and head for some remote backwoods in Canada to live out my life in blissful political ignorance (with better health care…)

But I don't let myself think about it. In fact, I just can't go there, because it's all so flagrant and hopeless, this hype/attack/demonize/destroy political method that has taken hold of our country. For the past two years, I've been (metaphorically) trying to function with my fingers in my ears and humming really loud. I almost get to the place where I can choose my own reality—that I'm actually living in a country (a world?) governed by grown-ups. And then something happens that rudely drags me out of that rarified space and douses me with a bucket of cold, green, slimy reality.

Something like that happened last week. I was behind the counter at the café, and an old gentleman walked up to the counter and asked where the offices for the phone company were. (In fact he asked for the wrong phone company…the one that covers most of the county but NOT our little town. Evidently, he finds it inconvenient to read the name at the top of his phone bill…) Maybe it will just be easier to relate the conversation:

LOG (Little Old Gentleman): Do you know where's the office for (wrong phone company) around here?

Me: We don't have (wrong phone company.) We have (right phone company.) And their offices are right across the street.

LOG: I went over there. But there's nobody there.

Me: I know. They don't have a customer service office over there anymore. You have to call the customer service number on your bill.

LOG: Well, I done that. And she keeps sayin' all these things that don't have nothin' to do with what I want. (I assumed this meant that he got lost in electronic phone menu land and didn't hear an option that appealed to him…)

Me: Yeah…sometimes those phone things can be kind of frustrating…

And then he launched into the story all about how his phone bill was fouled up and he got it fixed once, but he can't find the right people to help fix it this time. Went on and on for about five minutes, while I was politely trying to extricate myself from his tale of woe and get him to move on so I could wait on the customers in line behind him.

Me: Well, you just have to call that number and see if you can get to the right person.

LOG: Yeah… But ever since that Obama got in, ever'thin's been messed up…

That's right, folks. This Old Gentleman was going to blame Barack Obama for his woes with the local telephone company.

That's how far the poison has spread. How ingrained and integrated into our society this insane bullshit has become. That some little old guy in Nameless Small Town, USA believes that anything bad, anything negative that happens to him personally is the direct fault of the President of the United States. And, by god, he is going to cast his vote for the other side next time around…because the phone company messed up his bill.

I turned away from that suddenly insane exchange with the Little Old Gentleman, with my fists balled and an almost overwhelming desire to go and beat my head against the nearest wall…


Friday, July 2, 2010

Photo Friday

It's been so very long since anyone celebrated Photo Friday. It has, in fact, been a long time since I played with my camera. Weather has been crappy, cares of the world have bent my shoulders to the ground...and all that.

So, anyway, here's a picture. Of an astoundingly neat petunia I found at one of my favorite plant shops in Eugene. I don't usually go for petunias, because they are so susceptible to being attacked by "green eaters" around mid-summer ("green eaters" being cabbage butterfly larvae that are particularly fond of petunia flowers...)

But this one was so very cool, I had to have one. And I actually got it planted in a pot before it died!

So here's the mug shot:


Yeah, it's huge. And, yeah...the flowers are deep pink, with purple veins and edged in green.

Pretty neat, huh?

the awful spill...

I came across this poem about the oil spill, written by John Wareham, who was nominated for a Pulitzer for his book Sonnets for Sinners (worth checking out):


I want my life back, cried the BP chief,
oblivious to the pelican’s grief,
as gushing fool’s gold plumed the living reef,
and fearful creatures stared in disbelief.
Oh, noble, formerly feathered albatross,
now embalmed in crudest ooze from hell,
please kindly note the oilman’s aching loss,
and help restore his life, which once was swell.
Oh, majestic, magic, winged creature,
cauterize that oilman’s fulsome portal;
unfurl your powers and return his leisure;
absolve his sins and become immortal.
An act of such mercy from avian ranks
will for sure secure the head honcho’s thanks.

So slip your sickening golden glue and soar,
then summon all your strength and dive full-bore
into the aching sea to quell the gore
that gushes from the wound within the core.
If only you, my slickened friend, could pray,
what awesome incantations you would witch;
you’d melt the gum that binds you to the clay,
free all frightened creatures from tarry pitch—
then be lauded by lobbyists all day long,
and parade the town in an open car,
confettied by teeming ticker-tape throngs,
and courted by corpulent commissars.
Instead, alone, with anxious, pleading eyes,
you merely scan the tide, and wait to die.
 John Wareham / June 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thalassa, Thalassa!

Hard to believe that two months have flowed past since April's poetry challenge had me writing a poem a day.  May and June have been busy with my last classes of my ESL career (as I see it from here, but you never know) and with rage, grief, and constant reading of news about the oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. I have been on Facebook more often than not, reading news, posting items on my own page, sharing feelings about this event with like-minded friends. I don't know what this social networking is for others, but I see it as the reason the Internet was invented.  I have found a community of interesting, sensitive, compassionate, politically savvy friends via this medium.  They are people I know in the Real World, mostly people with whom I had long ago lost touch, as well as people I know only in the Virtual World, some for many years, some for the past months only. Having this medium to vent feelings, gather and share information, has kept me from going completely mad during the past two months since Deepwater Horizon first blew.

If you have read any of my poems on this blog (blog I refer to is my poetry blog, Poetic License), you know I write about small quotidian bits of life - birds, gardens, weather, food, the conjunction of any of the above - and this Gulf disaster is far too big a subject for my heart to encompass, for my brain to form words.  I think about it all the time, I wake in the night imagining the loss of the marshes, the plight of the birds, turtles, sea mammals.  I go to the river, the Rio Bravo, or Rio Grande as we call it now, and send my prayers for all of the creatures floating down the redbrown muddy currents to where it empties into the Gulf.  A very valuable new friend found on Facebook is a writer named Julia Whitty.  She has written quite a few books, and is also an environmental writer for Mother Jones.  Her blog, titled, like her most recent book, Deep Blue Home,  is on my daily reading list.  She has a lovely habit of posting poetry on Sundays, and this one stopped my breath, went straight to my aching heart:

by Cleopatra Mathis

    When I woke, the waves had gone black,
    turning over the macerated
    curd of the ocean bottom, heaving its sludge
    onto the beach. Some storm far out, I thought,
    had ravaged the sea, stirred up its bed,
    sent the whole mess flying to shore.
    At my feet I found a grave of starfish,
    broken and gnarled among the fleshy
    snipes and heads. Every shade of death
    covered the sand. It looked hopeless
    in the pale day but for the birds,
    a congress of gulls, terns, and the rarest plovers,
    calm for once, satiated, a measure of
    the one law: this sea will claim it all—
    feed them, catch them, grind their complicated bones.

(Crossposted from Poetic License.)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hands Across The Sand

If you live, work, or play anywhere near a large body of water you may run into some crowds tomorrow around eleven a.m. your timezone.  That's when the event being called Hands Across The Sand is taking place on beaches and shorelines all over the world. From the Grist article about the event: 

Saturday could bring the biggest public demonstration yet about the Gulf oil gusher, when Hands Across the Sand gathers people on beaches around the world at noon to hold hands in support of coastal economies, oceans, marine wildlife, and fishing industries.
Organized by surfer and Florida restaurant owner Dave Rauschkolb, the dispersed event looks to be aiming for a surfer zen vibe, as opposed to the angry demonstrations against BP that have arisen in New Orleans and elsewhere. (The precedent, fellow young folks, is the 1986 Hands Across America chain.)
Even here in the desert we will be participating.  Here in Albuquerque we will be holding hands on the Bosque Bike Path that follows the Rio Grande, and on the old Alameda Walking Bridge across the Rio.  The Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico, and is therefore a wonderfully appropriate place to share in this protest.  I don't know if I can pull off a "surfer zen vibe," but Gail and I will add ourselves to the numbers gathering to make our voices heard across this planet.  I know it's late notice, but if you feel that we need to begin now (actually we needed to begin thirty years ago, but we'll take what we can get) working for a clean energy future that doesn't include ill-regulated freeform off-shore drilling, then check the Hands Across The Sand website map for your closest location.  All hands on deck, or on the sand, the bridge, the edge of the pond in your local park. (Cross-posted from Quid Nunc.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Kathy posted this on facebook today. I love it. Too bad I couldn't make it any bigger without it getting totally pixel-y on me....

WWJD? He probably wouldn't text while driving...

Friday, June 18, 2010


“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

On or about June 5, 1944 General Dwight Eisenhower scribbled this note and stuck it in his jacket pocket. He never had to use it and it was found years later, still in the jacket pocket. Since the little sheet of paper shows the editing he did as he wrote, many historians believe he probably wrote it as he traveled from base to base to visit with the airborne troops as they readied to board their planes for the invasion of France.

Worst case casualty estimates for the airborne troops was up to seventy percent. The man believed it was important to look into the eyes of the men he was sending into harm’s way. Contrast this with the Deepwater Horizon survivors who were asked to sign liability waivers as soon as they reached shore.

Contrast this with the “nobody told me anything, I apparently haven’t displayed any curiosity whatsoever about how the company I’m in charge of drills for oil, I wasn’t on the Deepwater Horizon rig before the disaster, so these events are not my responsibility” testimony of BP CEO Tony Howard in Washington DC yesterday. It may be catty, but I picture the man in his office eyes closed, fingers in ears, humming really, really loud.

In another note, Rep. Joe Barton R-Texas (recipient of over $1,400,000 in oil and gas contributions since 1989 ) first apologized to Howard at the beginning of the hearings for the “shakedown” by the White House that forced BP to set up an escrow account to cover damage claims from the spill, then withdrew his apology later in the day. It appears he was strongly encouraged to do so by members of his own party. As in “eat crow now or risk losing your seat on the committee.” Again the précis of the news story is my own, but it gets the gist of it.

After all the ‘Pubs are hoping to pick up as many seats at possible this fall. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out as the supporters of “leave industry alone to regulate itself” face the voters. At least the escrow fund may help the alleviate some of the capitalize the profits, socialize the cost of cleaning up the messes we’ve seen in the past.

Cross posted in Walking With Hope.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Woman Hit By Car Sues Google Maps Over Directions

(May 31) -- A California woman is suing Google after she was hit by a car while following walking directions provided by Google Maps. Lauren Rosenberg claims Google Maps led her to walk from one Park City, Utah, address to another via Deer Valley Drive, a rural roadway also known as Utah State Route 224.

In a lawsuit filed in district court in Park City, Rosenberg claims Google is to blame for a car striking her on the road, an accident she says has cost her $100,000 in medical bills."As a direct and proximate cause of Defendant Google's careless, reckless and negligent providing of unsafe directions, Plaintiff Lauren Rosenberg was led onto a dangerous highway, and was thereby stricken by a motor vehicle, causing her to suffer severe permanent physical, emotional and mental injuries," the complaint reads.

Rosenberg is asking Google for the cost of her medical bills plus loss of earnings and punitive damages. She is also suing the driver who struck her, Patrick Harwood of Park City. In the complaint Rosenberg says Google should not have instructed her to walk along Deer Valley Drive, which does not have sidewalks and pedestrian paths. Rosenberg alleges the roadway "exhibits motor vehicles at high speeds" and "is not reasonably safe for pedestrians."Google Maps issues a warning about its walking directions that is visible on PCs but not cell phones or PDAs, saying: "Walking directions are in beta. Use caution -- This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths."

Yes, my title is more than a little on the snarky side. I'm not sure if this qualifies as a WTF or a YHTBK (you have to be kidding.) Yes, the directions on Google sent her to a road with no sidewalks or bike paths. But, YO!!!!!!, where were your brains woman? Fast traffic plus no side walks plus narrow shoulders equals danger with a capital D. I'm surprised she hasn't included the state in her lawsuit for not posting NO WALKING signes.

If the route hadn't been updated since a lake appeared on the landscape would she have tried to walk on water?

I've long believed that there's a finite amount of intelligence in the universe.....and it 's getting spread thinner and thinner all the time.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Am I Supposed to Feel Sorry For This Guy?

Working as many hours as I do, I'm largely cut off from television news, and I wouldn't listen to a radio talk show if you chained a set of headphones to my ears and held a gun to my head. But I do get the opportunity to browse the headlines in the Oregonian when I pick it up off the sidewalk on my way in the door of the cafe in the morning.

I know newspapers are having a really hard time staying afloat these days. And I honestly think it's a terrible shame. It's possible that print media was the last place you could obtain actual news if you went looking for it. But since papers have decided to turn themselves into "news magazines" in an attempt to retain readers, there's nothing much besides a whole lot of fluff splattered between the first and last pages. And there's no such thing as a "news" piece written without a ton of very obvious editorial intent.

So the other day, I spied this story on the front page of the paper:

AT & T Customer Goes To Jail After Shooting At Thieves' Car which some jack-ass with a concealed weapon permit and a loaded .38 in his pocket decided to play "NCIS" and shoot out the tires of the getaway car of some thieves who had run out of the local cel phone store with a couple of hot I-Phones.

He missed. God knows where those shots went, or could have gone. And since when does one resort to deadly force to recover $700 worth of electronic gadgets? The Gresham Police hauled his ass off to jail. And everyone is outraged, because this ballsy guy was "just trying to do the right thing."

I have to say, we live in a crazy world. Every time the police around here actually have to kill someone, there is a monstrous investigation, the cop gets suspended until the investigation is complete, editiorialists from every nook and cranny put in their two cents about how the police misuse deadly force. A cop can hardly taser or bean-bag someone without being painted as an accomplice to the Rodney King assault. But let some Joe Blow on the street with a concealed handgun and an over-developed fantasy life take pot-shots at a petty thief, and he's painted as some kind of folk hero.

I guess this qualifies as my


for this week...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why I Really Love Oregon's Senior Senator

I grabbed something to read off the newspaper table at the cafe, while I sat down to scarf down my (excellent!) cream of broccoli soup. The reading material of choice just happened to be our local newspaper, published once a week. What I was actually looking for was whether any of my competitors were advertising, and what they were advertising. What I found was a wonderful gem of an opinion piece written by Oregon's senior senator, Ron Wyden.

Looking for a link to post here, I found it at the Washington Post:

Bipartisanship Shouldn't Be a Political Death Sentence

I'll tempt you to go read the whole thing with quotes like this:

Ideologically, Bob and I couldn't be more different. He's pro-life. I'm
pro-choice. He voted for the Iraq war; I didn't. If Bob has ever seen a tax
break he didn't like, I am unaware of it. But one thing Bob and I have in common
is our fundamental belief that we were elected to do more than just get
reelected, that once elections are over we have a duty to try to govern even if
it means working with people with whom we don't always agree.

And this:

Working in a bipartisan fashion can lead to watered-down legislation, yes, but
principled bipartisanship can also lead to a value-added, better result.
Personally, I believe that both sides can get much more of what they want by
working together than by simply trying to prevent the other side from gaining
ground. By working with those with whom we don't necessarily see eye to eye, we
are forced to work harder, to test our ideas and to consider solutions that we
may never have thought of on our own. Moreover, if Democrats and Republicans
ever stop fighting each other, they might finally find the strength to defeat
the interest groups that all too easily exploit the partisan divide.

Please go read, and have your faith renewed that there is at least one man in Washington who "GETS IT." (Well, there were TWO, but one has lost his job because of it...)

After reading this, perhaps I've decided not to leave the country after all. At least there is one human being--who happily represents my adopted home state--who does not have his head up his political ass (wish I could say as much for the state of Utah...).

As long as Ron Wyden represents me in Washington, I'm good...

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I’m not sure if this is WTF entry, just some observations now that the primary is over out here in good ol’ Oregon.

Oregon Republicans are fielding a former pro basketball player for governor; at least he has a degree in political science with a minor in economics. Near as I can tell, he hasn’t done anything with them but he does have the degrees. At least the ‘Pub running for Ron Wyden’s senate seat is a law professor. No political experience but I assume he knows something about the law.

And the local candidate running for Defazio’s congressional seat appears to be a real prize. He appears to be a right wing nut scientist from Cave Junction. He doesn’t believe in global warming, markets his own line of home school products, seems to believe that Creation Science is a good thing and markets survivalist books from his web site. The one thing all these candidates have in common, loudly trumpeted, is their total lack of political experience.

If you follow the “lack of experience’ argument to its logical conclusion I’d expect one of these candidates to show up at Lisa’s café looking for a good mechanic or checking out the local garage when they need a surgeon. After all experience isn’t everything, right?

Note: The candidates are a little thin on the Democratic side too. Although it’s been repealed the one item both parties could agree on a few years ago was making it harder for anyone who wasn’t a democrat or republican to get a spot on the ballot. Hell of a way to run a railroad.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Here's a New Idea...

I've come up with a new idea for a post series.

I'm going to call it "WTF?!"

Every time I encounter something in the news, in life, in the political landscape, that screams the inanity of what our world has become, I'll post it as a WTF.

Today's WTF is...

Cinco de Mayo.

Have you noticed how every other bar, eatery, shopping mall and chamber of commerce in the US is having a big Cinco de Mayo Celebration?

You know...Cinco de Mayo. The obscure Mexican holiday that we Anglos have adopted as the day to raise a glass to Mexican American culture.

And yet...

These days, we treat Mexicans like the worst plague to darken our land since Yellow Fever.

Can you say...


Tuesday, April 27, 2010


A little background first. Sarah Palin blew into Eugene last Friday to speak at a Republican fund raiser. Attendees were searched before entering to make sure they didn’t have cell phones, cameras or recording devices. The media were confined a separate room and weren’t allowed access to her speech. Any questions from those in attendance had to be submitted ahead of time for pre screening. Her reported take from the gate? A cool $75.000. It’s reported that the party, not Palin paid for first class plane tickets and first class accommodations during her stay.

Ever read a letter to the editor in the paper that leaves you wondering WTF? We’ve got one of these in the local paper today. And I quote in part:

…Why do so many “tolerant” liberals hate Sarah Palin, especially those of the female persuasion? Here’s a little test you can do to make this phenomenon quite easy to understand. Take a photograph, any photograph, of Sarah Palin and put it in front of you. Then take a photograph of a liberal woman, any liberal woman, and put it beside the first picture.

OK? Got it? I rest my case?

John Wilson/Veneta

I’m still trying to decide if this letter is really a joke in disguise. It’s not like liberals or conservatives have a big “L” or “C” tattooed on our foreheads to tell us apart.

So where to start? I haven’t met anyone who actually hates Sarah Palin. I do know there are many people, including me, who question her qualifications to hold any elective office. I suspect that cameras were banned to keep any more pictures of Sarah’s “handy” crib notes. And questions were probably prescreened to avoid any more founding fathers fiascos.

And what would a possible picture collection prove? That she has big hair and a big smile? That she’s younger than Hillary Clinton? I did some Googling and some collages. I don't know who put them together but the pictures of the liberals are tabloid type shots, fairly unattractive. The conservatives look like fairly professional shots. Nice makeup, good lighting etc. Nobody had a "C" or and "L" on their foreheads though. Some folks with too much time on their hands I suspect. And extra memory on their computers that they're willing to waste.

Honest, it really is a coincidence that Sarah is in red and Hillary is in blue. I was looking for shots that were about the same size, lighting and make up.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Facebook :-(

I trust we all remember--though I know I would rather forget--the dark days after 9/11 when our national government turned into something we didn’t recognize. When you actually feared what might happen if you were overheard at a bar or a restaurant criticizing the actions of the Bush Administration. Those days when any even slightly negative comment about the then-President was resoundingly condemned as, at the very least, un-American; and, at worst, actual treason punishable by…god knows what. It was a surreal experience, to be shocked and dismayed at the actions of the government, and to realize that if I reacted publicly, I might well actually be pulled out of my bed in the middle of the night and dragged somewhere for questioning, or worse. This is a nightmare, I thought. This CANNOT be the United States of America.

So now, we have those self-same ideologues who viciously and self-righteously declared the office of the President of the United States worthy of all respect and deference no matter who occupied it, giggling behind their hands and clicking on the “like” button on a Facebook page advocating prayer for the death of President Barack Obama.

Oh. My. God.

Can you imagine, can you just picture, the reaction to such a thing during the Bush years? That Facebook page would have been yanked so fast it would make your head spin. Hell, perhaps Facebook itself would have suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from the ether. And, sure as hell, someone would have been rounded up. Very publicly, with flags waving, bugles blowing and inflammatory rhetoric blaring from any and every conservative podium.


Friday, April 23, 2010


Well the governor of Arizona has signed the toughest immigration bill in the country. She has stated that racial profiling won’t be tolerated. Care to lay odds on how many blond blue eyed Caucasians will be asked to prove they’re in the country legally?

Arizona’s population is approximately forty percent Hispanic. Would we even be having this discussion if the majority of Hispanics voted Republican and/or showed up at Tea Party gatherings?

Under the new law it is also illegal to be in the company of or to transport undocumented people. If part of the family is undocumented and part of the family are citizens appears that it may be illegal for them to be together under this new law. WTF??????

If you aren’t supposed to be in the company of an undocumented person or to transport an undocumented person, how long before you’ll be required to inform the authorities if you suspect someone is not a citizen? Are we getting paranoid yet?

How long before there is a call for the only thing that will make this work: a national ID card complete with check points and immigration sweeps in the non Latino neighborhoods? Sounds extreme doesn't it? But, the stories of helicopters buzzing Latino neighborhoods in Arizona may not be urban legends.

That would really put the cat among the pigeons for the folks that want the illegals out but would scream bloody murder if the elected hired help tried to implement a system that would allow undocumented residents to be easily identified. Now we’re really cookin’ in the paranoia kitchen.

Which brings me to what I believe is the true target of the law: the legal Hispanic residents; potential voters, every one of them. Ok, I’ll admit that maybe I watched too many X Files episodes over the years but come along for the ride.

Arizona allows on line voter registration but you still have to show up at a precinct to vote. (Oregon, your mail in ballots look better all the time) Just imagine the impact if a cop shows up on Election Day and insists on checking the status of all voters who even look Hispanic. Imagine the potential impact if the cop just parks the squad car and looks interested in who is coming and going.

Oh no, that can’t happen here. Yeah, and I’ve got some waterfront party in the middle of Florida for sale. And would we be having this discussion if the migrants had just been satisfied with grunt work farm jobs on the west coast and stayed west of the Mississippi? It's hard enough for some folks to deal with one non white minority group but two? Danger Will Robinson, danger!

Molly Ivins wrote over the years about Texas precincts where the voters would find a squad car parked in front of the building on Election Day. Just a coincidence that it was a precinct with a largely African American population. And remember the stories from 2000, 2004 and 2008. The cops will be at the precinct checking for people with outstanding warrants or unpaid traffic tickets and you just might be arrested if you show up.

Is it just a coincidence that the organizations that work the hardest to LIMIT access for potential voters seem to have ties to the Republican Party? Makes you think doesn’t it?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bullet Point

And for today's cartoon I give you this, by Tom Toles, from The Washington Post.  I am particularly affected, since two days ago in our town a four year old boy found his father's gun, while his nanny was in the house and his two year old brother was sleeping, and accidentally shot himself with it.  He was the third child under six to do this in this town so far this year. It was in an UNLOCKED gunbox and was itself not locked.  How long will we as a country tolerate living like this?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


And this is from a cartoonist with a San Antonio newspaper. In almost all the pictures I've seen of Tea Party gatherings the faces are white,white, white.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dirty Hands And Happy Heart

Hey, where is everyone?  I hope that where everyone is, as often as possible, out in the spring sunshine (sometimes rain) grubbing in the earth.  I know Jackie and Judi are, from their Facebook comments, and I certainly know I am.  Just spent a wonderful couple of hours in the backyard working on a new herb bed. The soil in this yard is execrable, hardly worthy of the name "soil" at all.  So doing anything involves a lot of hacking and digging, and a lot of amending with compost.  So, that's mostly what I've been doing.  Some nepeta is already growing there, a plant that cannot be discouraged.  I began my new planting with a big clump of Mexican oregano that I've had in a pot since last summer.  Because of above-mentioned soil wretchedness, much of my gardening since we moved in here has been done in planters and pots.  With this herb bed I'm hoping to finally get somethings growing in the ground.  As I turn locations into growable places.  

So, my hands are scratched and dirty and I'm hungry as a bear.  Time to clean up and figure out some lunch. A big storm may be blowing in (what?  Again?) from California later in the week, and some more rain would be a delicious serving of lagniappe.  Different of course from a delicious serving of lasagna, which I think I am making for dinner tonight.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Eyes Will Have It

I don't know if spring has been the death of blogging for me, or if I should blame it on Facebook.  Or the Poem A Day Challenge.  Whatever the cause, my impetus to blog has been in serious death throes for a while now.  The end of the term is of course another likely culprit.  Facebook has been a real entertainment, but it's beginning to wane.  Spring calls me out of the house every day until the day gets too hot, to get things cleaned up, weeded, cut back, planted, ad infinitum.  It is so utterly spring here now, the fresh green leaves of the big cottonwood outside the kitchen window greet me every morning and make me smile even before I get the coffee going. The redbud and the lilacs are glorious right now, irises blooming a rich deep purple.  I just cut the remainder of my winter greens, some chard and spinach, for a stirfry tonight.

I won't be able to do much in the garden, at least of the bending, stooping, lifting sort (and what other sort is there?) for a while soon, as the next milestone on my life journey is coming up in two weeks.  I've been procrastinating about an eye doctor visit much too long, but very aware how blurry my vision was becoming.  I thought I just needed new glasses.  But no, I need new eyes. And so, I'm having cataract surgery, both eyes, one eye at a time, the first one on the thirtieth of this month.  Everyone tells me I'll be so happy once it's over, that it's like a miracle, and other exuberant forms of propaganda, but I'm fairly freaked out about it nonetheless.  Any Women On readers who have already been through this - I'd love to hear your experiences.  One of my sisters has had one eye done, and she is in the "it's like a miracle" camp, and she doesn't suffer medical procedures lightly.  I dreamed last night that I found an old pair of glasses in some stuff I was going through, and they were perfect, I could see absolutely clearly and was so happy because it meant I wouldn't need to have the cataracts removed.  Perhaps the glasses stand for the lenses I'll have IN my eyes once it's all over, or perhaps it's just about how nervous I am. (Cross-posted from Quid Nunc?)

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Listen to the tech heads and the marketers. We live in a technological Nirvana and pity the poor souls who had to make do with less. Sometimes we forget that what the technology actually provides isn’t new. It’s either faster, more elaborate, or replaces something we used to do for ourselves. Computers process information in seconds that used to take days or weeks to complete. The global information network allows us to know about earthquakes in Chili or Haiti in minutes; not months or years. Planes allow us to cross the Atlantic in a few hours instead of a few weeks. The Battle of New Orleans is an icon in American history. It was fought after the peace treaty was signed.

Chasing some ancestors through the centuries prompted me to finally crack open some of the history books I’ve been collecting over the years. (The reading list doesn’t seem to get shorter.) Anyway, I stumbled across something low tech, but very effective.

I’m not sure if the English still use the term, but the royal finances used to be managed by the Exchequer. Before the exchequer was an office it was a thing. A tablecloth, actually. A tablecloth with a simple grid painted on it.

I knocked this example together on Photoshop. It's a simplified version of the system in use in the 1100’s in England. It would be at least two hundred years before Roman numerals were replaced by the decimal system we use now. Remember playing with Roman numerals in math class? Remember trying to actually add or subtract with them? Instant insanity.

This sample grid just has spaces hundreds, tens, and ones. When it was time to collect the taxes the court officials would go on circuit and meet with the local justices or sheriffs. The cloth would be laid out where everyone could see what was happening and collections began. Working through the list tokens would be laid out on the cloth. The top row was for what had been assessed. The bottom row represented what was actually paid. You could see at a glance whether the totals matched.

At a time when literacy was at a premium that checked cloth was a way to get the job done in a way everyone could follow and agree on, And the receipt? The final total was notched onto a stick. The stick was split and each side kept half. The clerk who could actually read and write wrote out the final results on parchment and rolled everything together for safekeeping.

It worked; it’s hard to argue with that.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Poem for My Farmville-Obsessed Facebook Friends

When I joined Facebook and started to collect Friends there, I was quite startled by the number of posts that sprang onto my page from such applications as Farmville, Vampire Wars, Fishville, ad infinitum. Really, I was amazed at the amount of time people seem to spend playing these games, tending this real estate, feeding these fish, killing these monsters. Once I discovered that I could automatically hide these application posts, I was much happier.  What I don't know is if I have also hidden anything else these Friends might choose to write or post.  Things I might actually want to read or see. Does anyone know the answer to this quandry?

Anyway, I've been mulling this phenomenon over for several weeks now, continuing to be amazed.  Some of these Friends also blog about their virtual pastimes Down On The Farm, adding to my astonishment. There is evidently a Facebook Group dedicated to the idea that "I Don't Care About Your Farm, or Your Fish, or Your Park, or Your Mafia" and I couldn't agree with it more.  I agree with it so much that today I found myself writing a poem to express this idea a little more kindly (I think), and actually posting it in my Notes.  It's not meant to offend anyone, just to vent a little. So, forgive me if you're a dedicated resident of Farmville, and just know that I'm a crabby old woman who likes to spend at least some of her time in the Real World.

Poem For My Facebook Friends

 Although I love you dearly,
each and every one,
There is something urgent
I feel that I must say:

I do not want your Farmville updates,
Virtual notes on crops and weeds,
chicken surprises,
pretend gifts of colored eggs.

No, I want real chickens,
eggs that I can gather in a basket,
warm, with straw and feces
sticking to their shells.
Please do not be offended,
but the blueberries that I want
will stain my fingers,
make noises falling in the pail,
turn my teeth blue when I
eat them in a cobbler or a pie.

It’s all that I can do to keep
catboxes emptied,
water in the birdbaths,
Suet feeders filled.
Your obsessions are your own,
virtual lambs and ponies,
barns you build in outer space.
So, please then, do not share them
with those of us doing what we can
to turn the living compost,
pull weeds, watch seeds
break through the dirt.
We are waiting for our real
tomatoes to grow round and red
and juicy
here on planet earth.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


It was a marathon, but the trip to Umatilla this weekend was priceless. Rick was in the hospital about three years ago. Several hospitals actually. He finally ended up in Seattle after a midnight ride from the Tri Cities area in an ambulance. He had symptoms that mimicked meningitis, but it wasn’t meningitis. I’m not sure they ever came up with a definite diagnosis. Then there were problems in the last year or so with phlebitis in one leg.

Perhaps that’s what prompted him to get everything organized. As his pastor put it in the memorial service, “we were the only ones who were surprised last Sunday.” Rick had organized things, picked out his favorite music, made a tape and left all the materials with his pastor. I can only imagine how difficult it was for this man to come to Robbie and say “Rick left this for you.”

Words aren’t enough to describe what happened Sunday afternoon.

Imagine a basketball sized high school auditorium. People are filling one side of the bleachers. A few flower arrangements, a couple of rows of chairs, and AV equipment are on the floor facing the other set of bleachers. Somebody grabs a mike and asks folks to scoot closer together because “we’ve still got people coming in and they’re backed up to the sidewalk.” A few minutes later the pastor, my nephews and the AV guys said the heck with it, had us turn the props towards one end of the court and started seating people in the other half of the bleachers. In a town with about six thousand people, we had at least six hundred at that service.

It was unconventional to say the least. There must have been at least two dozen students who shared stories and memories of Mr. Wyland or Coach Rick. There was some from friends and family, but it was mostly the kids, some very articulate kids.

And yes, there was a purple tutu. He made a bet with the cross country team. If they made it to the state meet; he would wear a purple tutu. In public. They did and he did.

I knew the family Rick. I didn’t really know the teacher or the coach, or the believer. My loss. I only hope that when the time comes I can be as cheerful and graceful about facing my mortality as Rick was.

And I was reminded of something I believe is very important. Sis and her husband not only shared their teaching skills but their personal support and when needed; their home. At least two students spoke briefly, without too many details, of times when they needed a refuge and they found it. We can test for teaching skills and that’s important; but I’ve never heard of a test for empathy. And that may be the most important skill of all.

Brother I am going to miss you. But, when I see those wonderful sons of yours smile or laugh or lend some one a helping hand I’ll know that you’re there too; with a smile, and words of encouragement.

And on the home front? We left three cats with three litter boxes. We were gone approximately fifty four hours. With these ladies this is something you keep track of, believe me. I am prepared to swear that Lucky met us at the door and led me to the box in the pantry. She looked at me, looked at the box and looked back at me. Her expression was priceless and very, very eloquent.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A pain, not in my back, but in the you-know-what...

Most health plans, including mine, recommend a first colonoscopy at age 50. I managed to put off the procedure for eight years, but two years ago, at age 58, I finally got around to having it done. It's a good thing I did, because the doctor found several polyps of a type that, left untreated, are likely to become cancerous. Those polyps were removed, but because they are aggressive and tend to grow back, he scheduled another colonoscopy in two years. Last month I had the second colonoscopy, and the results were good, so I now have a three year period before I have to have another.

This morning I got a letter from a subrogation services company contacted by my insurance company "to get more information about the injury or care you received". The first question on the Questionnaire included with the letter read: Was your treatment due to (please check one below) auto accident? home injury? work accident or injury? medical malpractice? liability, like a slip or fall? other/not an accident (explain below). The letter had a case number that I'd never seen before, but no other information about what they were asking about: not the doctor involved, or the facility; not the treatment or procedure; not even a date of service.

I sighed and called the 1-800 number. After spending some time going through a number of annoying steps in the electronic processing procedure, I was put on hold. Eventually, a claims representative came on the line. I told her that I thought the letter must have been sent to me by mistake, because I haven't been in an accident.

"That doesn't mean anything," she exclaimed cheerfully.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because," she said distinctly, and I could practically hear the unuttered DUH! "You could havebeen injured in an accident without being in an accident!"


After I provided my date of birth, she began to unravel the Gordian knot. The inquiry was related to my recent colonoscopy. Apparently, my insurance company would like to get out ofpaying for this procedure. Never mind that it wasn't an emergency procedure, and I had to be pre-approved before it was scheduled, and they'd been apprised two years ago of the results that would require this to be done again in two years time.

"It says here you had this procedure due to back pain," the claims rep said.

I told her I did not have the procedure because of back pain; I had the procedure because I previously had a certain type of polyps that requires regular screening in case they come back. She blithely disregarded me, exclaiming, "Back pain is what the nurse put down!"

"Well then the nurse got it wrong!"

"Was the back pain due to an accident?"

"I DIDN'T HAVE BACK PAIN!" I exclaimed, although I was beginning to have another sort of pain trying to get her to understand this.

"I can't change the record, but I'm making a note that the back pain wasn't due to an accident, so you can tear up that paperwork," she said.

I hope the new health care plan is able to eliminate some of this idiocy, but I'm not counting on it.