Monday, December 26, 2011

A Beautiful Christmas Walk With Abigail, My Copilot on the Chariot

A lovely bridge to start the walk

Abigail off leash-trying to choose which way to go

I think I heard a twig snap-this way!

She's so enjoying this!

An area for families to play

For future rock climbers

This bird is native to Texas, but I'm not sure the name

A brief rest to reconnoiter

Passed this couple twice-taking turns on the phone. they were with a gorgeous Weimerainer, who was just too fast to snap a picture of.
The road of life has many curves

A tree cave...I wonder what creature abides in there?

 Mouth of the crick

Civilization looms-even here

And, of course, some jerk had to toss a soda bottle. Even these decomposing leaves wont' help break down this plastic for several thousand years. 

There's just something about a babbling brook! 

Another babbling section. Sometimes they make me think of Hank Williams (the real one) and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" No explanation for some feelings, I guess.

I love waterfalls too. Even man made ones.

A real bridge to nowhere

Really, People!?

This is a trash barrel about 30 yards from all that trash in the water. Those morons had to work harder to get the trash into the creek. Sheesh!

A gorgeous golden asks to greet Abigail
Oh, wait, there's TWO!

It's been real. Gotta go!
It looks like a dead end to this home's fence, but the trail shifts left.

Wonder how old the leaves are that made these fossil images? They're so clear! :-)

I walk at a good clip for a fat chick, but not that fast! Oh-it's for bicycles. Silly me!

If we get lost and never return, you'll find us here

Poor Santa! So much build up to the big day, and when it's over, he's totally deflated!

No wonder Herod couldn't find the manger; it is hidden in the Mira Vista subdivision of Fort Worth!(There were a couple of cool dogs here too, but they were too quick to get pictures of .) But really, what is this structure?

Mom, I think it's this way-but I'm getting worried!

So, this is what it looks like when reindeer scrape their antler fuzz-it sparkles!! Or maybe they collided with this tree and that's why Santa was flat in that guy's yard? 

Still can't resist that babbling brook thing.

This sight depressed me. But it is, after all, a city park. 

Three weeks ago, these trees were vivid with color. Oh well, I guess it's to be expected three days after solstice.

Something's not right here. We've come too far.

Will we get back in time for the movie? Check my phone-we've got one hour to make our way back. Can we do it? We've been walking for an hour. That's about 4 miles...AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!

Definitely lost. But a recognizable landmark. Head EAST X SOUTH, Ye Wanderers. 

Well, we were only about a mile out of our way, and we learned a little about the geography of the area. The walk back was on the road in a residential neighborhood. We made it home, and Dad was worried that we were gone so long, but we made it home for the movie and the day was a great one after all. 

Ahhhhhhh-Dad giving Abigail a foot tummy rub. All is right with the world. 

But why'd he have to stop?



Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Believe It's Called A "Murder"

I've always wondered who came up with many of the collectives we use, and why. The guy who came up with "a murder of crows" has particularly intrigued me. Possibly he had some experience with a bunch of crows that lead him to claim that this was an appropriate collective. Sometimes we use the same collective for different things. There is more than one animal that is called a "herd" in the collective. So I would think that if I decided that a "murder" of employees of a certain multi-national super store chain in which I am budgetarily forced to shop, it shouldn't stir up too much fuss. This feeling is particularly intense right now, I'm guessing now,  based on unprofessional self analysis, because of their holiday commercials in which perky, articulate staff, which I have never actually found in one of their stores, happily help people do their holiday shopping. So today I am chatting with the very nice lady who was checking me out and she started to put my bag of potatoes in a plastic bag. I shouldn't fuss at her-I usually bring my own bags, but I said to her, in my best plain English, "No, thank  you-those don't need to be in a bag." We continued chatting about grandchildren and such, when I added, "You can put more things into the bags, and put non-food items in bags with food, I don't mind; I'm a fan of the fewest possible bags." Those were my exact words!!!!!!! I can't emphasize enough that those were my exact she cluelessly put only one or two items in each bag, and complimented me on how "patient" I am. Patience is not the reason I want fewer bags! I was so frustrated that I had to fight back tears as I put ALL THOSE PLASTIC BAGS in my truck. Yes, I recycle. Yes, I should never leave the house without my reusable bags, but please-I did say something, and she did smile and nod as if she understood

While in that line, I saw something that really stuck in my craw, as we say in Texas. Vaseline in little jars, selling itself as "the original lip therapy." Now they are using Carmex sized containers so we can all have them in our purse. First of all, I don't think anyone wants to hear me rant again about packaging. If anyone were listening to me, there would be a movement against Sunsweet Prunes being wrapped in individual plastic wrappers, etc. But I developed a bad case of liberal guilt about using Vaseline on my lips YEARS ago. What is Vaseline? Petroleum jelly. Petrol....that means it is a petroleum product, as in made from non-biodegradable oils products that will never break down. Never in any meaningful sense of the word. It also ONLY comes in plastic jars. Statistically only about three percent of people recycle, so that's an unimaginable number of plastic containers, made with petroleum products, being filled with petroleum products that add to our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels. Does anyone see a pattern here?

But not all was bad in the grocery shopping today. I needed coffee. My husband will not drink any coffee that doesn't come from Starbucks, so I stopped at Starbucks to get a pound of Morning Joe Blend and a salted caramel mocha. We like the Morning Joe Blend flavor, which is really just a repackaging of the Starbucks Gold Coast Blend, but with the Morning Joe Blend some of the money goes to educational programs. And I have a hard time resisting the Salted Caramel Mocha, even though drinking coffee in the late afternoon is usually a bad move for me. The nice lady at the microphone took my order, but when I got to the window, I saw the hottest barista I have ever had the pleasure of being served by. So the day wasn't a total loss. I must also add, he asked me if I wanted the coffee in a bag. My lungs dropped, and I sucked in hard and smiled and, looking at all the grocery bags in the cab next to me and I said, "How many bags does one person need after all." He smiled-gorgeous teeth, green eyes that were clearly not contacts, and said, "I guess that depends on the person." Yes indeed, Handsome. Yes indeed.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The War On Holy Days

Before I explode into the rant I've been holding back for the last couple of weeks, I've seen a couple of things lately that brought a smile. One of them was on my Altoids tin. Now, I LOVE Altoids, especially the Cool Honey and Ginger flavors. Right now I have a tin of ginger ones, and, as is my habit, I looked at the label the other day and was very confused by the ingredient list: "Naturally flavored with other natural flavors." What does that even mean?

I also picked up the adorable Santa snow globe my Secret Santa at work gave me in order to shake it up and make it snow. I noticed a sticker on the bottom that said, "For Decorative Purposes Only." As opposed to what?

I know this is off the subject of holidays, but I've been reminded this week of the argument over earmarks. A couple of congressman have introduced a bill that would make them illegal. My question is, how exactly will an earmark be defined? And why are they going after less than one percent of the budget when there is still so much wasteful spending and so many unnecessary subsidies to corporations that make those nasty earmarks look almost invisible. One man's earmark is another man's representing his constituents.

I am an atheist. Or non-theist. Or humanist, or rationalist...whatever name one chooses to call it. I've been this way for a long time. Longer actually than I knew myself. I was raised in the church, and was active for a long, long time. But I'm not really sure that I ever actually believed. In the mental health field, this is called "fake it til you make it." I never made it, and finally had to admit that I am not a  believer. I have friends on both sides of this divide, and it was quite a surprise when I realized that my non-believing friends are frequently more moral and ethical than those on the religious side. I think there are several reasons for this; not the least of which is that if this life is all we have, then how we treat our fellow man matters a great deal. Another reason, one that I was taught in church, is that Christians have forgiveness for "all sins, past, present and future." So according to that line of belief, once you "accept Jesus," it doesn't matter what you do, you have forgiveness. Isn't that convenient? There are even passages written by Paul in the New Testament in which he gives a rationalization for this: My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak." We are besieged by Satan and temptation all of our lives, even when we have invited the Holy Spirit into our lives. Of course, these sins we commit after being saved won't send a believer to hell;  the believer has forgiveness. But it may prevent that person from leading someone else to believe.

But the code-the morals that are taught in the New Testament: love your neighbor as yourself; treat others the way you wish to be treated; be humble and not arrogant; don't be materialistic are all notions that can make all of our lives better. The Code of Hammurabi, an almost exact precursor to the Ten Commandments was produced circa 1772 BC. The first version of what we now call "The Golden Rule" is from around 624 BC. Scientists have suggested that the desire we have to live in cooperative communities has contributed to the ability of humans to survive and thrive all over the world. Cooperative communities certainly gave humans an advantage when we moved to hunter-gatherer societies. Just like wolf packs can catch prey much larger than any individual wolf, when humans cooperate, survival is more likely.

But this is all just background noise for me right now. It is Christmas. Which occurs on December 25th. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah comes first; it is the eight days from December 20 through 28. Winter festivals of light also include Saturnalia, Mithras (very similar to Christmas,) Brumalia, Loi Krathong from Thailand, and Diwali from India. The reason the early church decided to celebrate Jesus' birthday around December 25th was in order to incorporate what pagans were already doing. It is all about the return of the sun after the winter solstice, or the "shortest day of the year." That way it was easy to claim that Jesus was the light of the world, and thus the days become longer after his celebration day. In the African American celebration of Kwanzaa, the dates are December 26 to January 1.

So, when did it become about material gifts? According to an old friend of mine, who is Jewish, Hanukkah was not about gifts until the Jewish children began to feel left out with all the gentile children getting so much in the way of material things for Christmas. I confess to not knowing how the other religions in my list celebrate their festivals of light, though I'm sure there are candles and lanterns involved.

The American economy is in the crapper. It has been since 2007-that's when the recession officially began. That was almost five years ago, and it is turning back only very, very slowly. The wealthy have done very well during these five years, but the middle and working classes have done terribly. The average male salary has gone down every year since 1973. That is nearly forty years  the standard of living for middle class Americans has been going down. But this year, the spending on Christmas is up beyond any expectations. Not only does the spending appear to be going up, people are using credit cards. Not bank debit cards, credit cards. Too much spending on credit was one of the problems that started our whole downward spiral! And there are, once again, multiple stories of violence as shoppers rush through stores to get their best possible deals on the things they "need" the most. So, despite my feelings about the adopted reason for this celebratory season, I am reminded once again of my distaste for the hypocrisy that surrounds Christmas. While Bill O'Reilly is shrieking about the so-called "War on Christmas," and people are macing each other to get the best sale merchandise, I would only say that I am not ashamed or embarrassed at all to say to anyone, "Happy Holidays." And for all of you who find that offensive, consider its root; basically I'm telling you, Happy Holy Days." It isn't about Christmas, which even Christian scholars say is not Jesus' real birthday, it is about acknowledging that for all of the time that humans have lived cooperatively together, the time of year in which the sun finally begins to stay out longer has been considered holy. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mixed Nuts

The last two weeks have been emotionally tiring for me. I always get this way during presidential elections, but it has started really early this cycle, mostly because I can honestly not believe that anyone could vote for anyone on the republican side. Well-maybe Jon Huntsman, who is the only candidate that actually made me nervous for Obama when he announced. But it seems fairly clear that he is too libertarian for the republican base.

That out of the way, I have a few observations. I love nuts. I've also recently read that women who eat some nuts every day weigh less than those who eat other things. So I keep a jar of delicious mixed nuts in my desk at work for those days when I need a protein boost to get through the morning. But I became aware of doing something I found rather amusing-I pour some nuts into a dish so I don't just keep eating, which I could easily do. But I found myself eating them segregatedly. I eat cashews together, Brazil nuts, pecans, etc. I've even found myself eating the almonds with skin separately from those without. Is my mixed nut behavior a little nutty?

A language rant: THERE IS NO FREAKING SUCH WORK AS EKSETRA!!! That phrase comes from the Latin et (which means AND) cetera;. which means "other things." It is translated as meaning "and other things," or "so on." And while we are at it, it doesn't make anyone look smart and continental to say, "Wala." That is a mispronunciation of the French, "Voila," It starts with a V, and it means something like, "Well, there ya go!" And the latest word I'm getting tired of hearing thrown around over and over again-like "like," and "amazing," is "authentic." Do the people who use it for everything good these days know that it means "real?" That means it is very unlikely that it will ever apply to an American politician. The oft dropped journalistic phrase, "He doesn't come across as authentic," is rather oxymoronic, don't you think?

I'm a very fidgety person. I fidget constantly; I have a hard time sometimes even getting myself situated in the very same desk I worked all day on yesterday. When I talk with my hands, I use both hands. This made me think one day as I walked with my dog, and we passed one of those young men who wears his pants super-baggy and around his thighs, what a great sacrifice these people make for their fashion statements. Every guy I see dressed that way, whether at WalMart, the bus stop, or just walking down the street, must walk around with one hand on his crotch at all times in order to keep his pants from falling down all together. Sigh. None of those guys could ever describe the size of a fish he'd caught, let alone talk with his hands in a regular conversation. I've been waiting almost 20 years for this silly fashion to pass. A few years ago, when an older man auditioned for "American Idol" with the song, "Pants on the Ground," I really hoped the foolish appearance of it would be brought to the consciousness of that demographic, but I guess the age of the man singing the song should have been a dead giveaway that it wouldn't work.

I was walking in to my office the other day, and saw a squirrel with a bare tail. Some other people had seen it, and said that they had seen them before. Is that just an anomaly? The first thing I saw was the tail, and I thought it odd that such a large rat would be out in broad daylight, climbing a tree.

I was in a shop last week that has candy vending machines. The kind that give you a few M&M's or nuts for a nickel, and supposedly give the money to charity, and I couldn't help wondering if anyone gets candy from them anymore. With Americans so constantly freaked about "germs," I can't imagine anyone buying unwrapped food from one of those little machines nowadays.

There is a Christmas commercial getting regular rotation lately that gets my anti-Walmart heart pounding. There is a woman asking for a price guarantee on Christmas merchandise. She stands there long enough to makes several comments to the sales associate, and then sing part of a song. The first thing that struck me about it is that the actor playing the sales associate looks an awful lot like a young, brunette Goldie Hawn, but then I thought, who has ever seen a WalMart sales person spend anywhere near that much time with a customer? In fact, who shops at WalMart and can get any help at all when they need it?

I'M SO HAPPY!!!! Not really. I hate so-called "reality shows," and I've been seeing commercials recently  now for the return of one of the early ones-"Fear Factor." In the commercial they promise to be bigger and better than ever-including "bigger stunts." I guess they may be referring to the feats and humiliations that contestants are required to be subjected to in order to win, but in my classic movie mind, big stunts mean optical illusions of people appearing to do very dangerous things, or being killed or whatever. "OH, did you hear-Fear Factor? They did it with mirrors!"

"From 1999 to 2005, breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. decreased by about 2% per year. The decrease was seen only in women aged 50 and older. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk."
When I read, back in October, that the incidence of breast cancer is decreasing in this country, I got happy. Shortly after that the book "Our Bodies, Ourselves," published by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective was celebrating its fortieth birthday. It occurred to me that when women get involved, we get shit done. Before Our Bodies, Ourselves," there were very few books that dealt with women's health, and now that we have begun to be treated as different human beings from men, we are getting healthier. But then I also realized that every republican political candidate, the tea party candidates who were elected in 2010, and many right wing organizations are devoting themselves to taking back women's control over our health, and I got sad. If we can't control our own health choices, what will be taken next?  It seems that every time women begin to take any kind of power for our own lives, men get scared and try to take it away. Yes, I'm talking about choice, but I'm also talking about access to information about reproductive health, which may or may not include the choice to terminate a pregnancy. Rick Santorum says that he would outlaw all birth control. Now why would he do that? Well, he is one of those Christians who want to sublimate women, to be sure. And his holy book does say that women should submit to their husbands. Where that comes from has been addressed by me in a much earlier post. But it is also a fact that when women  have some control over the number of children they have, they tend to become something other than baby-making machines. They improve their educations, and their productivity in their societies. They thereby threaten the power of men. (Who, our current world situation should prove, have done such an AWESOME job with all their power.) How any smart woman can listen to these candidates and then go out and vote republican is utterly beyond me. I'm not saying there are no smart women who are republicans. I'm just saying that in order to cast a vote for someone like Santorum, or Romney, or Cain, McCain or Gingrich, the smart ones must really have to hold their noses in the voting booths, and I would love to know the fiercely compelling issue that forces them to do that. 

Meanwhile, I'd like for anyone who knows me well to sit down. Take a deep breath, and possibly keep your smelling salts handy. I agree with Herman Cain. Partly. Only on one issue...he was partially right when he said this week that candidates aren't supposed to know about foreign policy. Remember CANDIDATE Obama saying that he would close Guantanamo, end rendition, ET CETERA, ET CETERA? But what happens when a person becomes president, and gets up every morning for a national security briefing? He (and hopefully soon, she) see the world, and the threats against us in a different, less rhetorical way. I still believe that Guantanamo should be closed, and that rendition is wrong. We either believe in torture, or we don't. If we don't, then we should not render prisoners to other countries to do our torturing for us. I think we've been in Afghanistan way too long, and we never should have invaded Iraq. I'm deeply disappointed in President Obama for these, and some other reasons. But when he actually moved into the White House and the Oval Office, he saw a very different picture of the world than any candidate is allowed to see, and that has contributed to the breaking of some very important campaign promises. It's easy for John McCain, candidate, to sing "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran." President McCain would very likely have made quite different choices. While the level of ignorance that Herman Cain (or Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman or Rick Perry) show about the world we live in is disgusting for someone who aspires to be the most powerful politician on earth, Cain had a sliver of a point when he said that candidates aren't supposed to know about foreign policy. What I would recommend for candidates of every party is a little circumspection when asked about foreign policy decisions. It is easy to be bombastic and dramatic when there are no lives on the line...yet.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nein! Nein! Nein!

Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Bob Packwood, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, John and Robert Kennedy,  David Vitter, Anthony Weiner, Christopher Lee, Newt Gingrich, Arnold Schwazzenegger. What do all these people have in common? They are white politicians. But they, among many others I'm sure, were either caught or accused of sexual misconduct of some sort. More than one of them tried paying off the women with whom they misbehaved. So in what way is any conversation about Herman Cain's paying off women about allegations of sexual misconduct "a high tech lynching," or race-driven in any way whatsoever? There is no racial component to men's behavior being driven by sex, and there is no racial component to lying about it, or trying to pay off the women to keep them quiet so that either the wife or the public don't find out about it in the case of public figures. I am angry that anyone, in particular racists like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, and yes, Herman Cain himself, would play the race card here.

Sexual misconduct aside, and with a full understanding that the only reason that Herman Cain is doing so well in republican polling is because he (like Sarah Palin) doesn't talk like a politician. Which leads to a problem I had with a quote from him last week-because I like it when people who know stuff run for office. "How would I deal with China? I believe in peace through strength and clarity." I wish I had heard him speaking with clarity since he's joined the public conversation. But this is the guy who answers every question with, "That's apples and oranges." Even when it's not. 

I'm also wondering who is going to pay for the double wall that Michelle Bachman wants to build? Isn't she against federal spending? We know she's against the government creating jobs. 

I was just watching a round table discussion on "Up with Chris Hayes," on MSNBC, and he played a quote from an ob-gyn named Dr. Freda Bash in Mississippi, where an important vote on a "Personhood Amendment" will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8. She said, "Science has proved that from the point of fertilization, and egg is both fully alive and fully human." Really? I've seen fetuses up to the point where human features begin to appear, and while they may indeed be alive, they are not viably, definitively human. In fact, they look a lot like fetuses of almost every other mammal. If shown side by side, I would defy science, and certainly evangelicals to tell the difference between them. I know that a woman't right to choose will never be a resolved issue between people who see things in a completely emotional way. But, as our current chief justice, and some presidential candidates have stated, Roe v. Wade was decided more than thirty years ago-it is established law that we do not have a police state in the wombs of American women. We need to leave it alone. 

Away from politics-someone I know had a blowout on the street next to her home. She was safe, and had a neighbor to help her. And I heard her and one of her friends agreeing that "God was watching over you." "Yes, God is always watching over me!" Really? So why are there accidents in which believers are hurt or killed? Is God not watching over "THOSE" people? I find fault with the argument that her incident had a happy ending for any reason having to do with "God watching over her."

I've been reading a novel in which there is a council meeting in the town in which the action takes place. There are people who clear their throats during the conversation of the town council. As I read this, I found myself clearing my throat. Just like yawning when someone else yawns. Does that happen to everyone? Are you clearing your throat now? 

Was the guy who invented nachos name Ignacio?

Does anyone but me have a problem with THE SCIENCE CHANNEL showing a program called "Punkin Chunkin?" In particular, is it really, really, really stupid to refer in their commercials for the show to the participants as "athletes?" I guess it's no stupider than referring to participants in food eating contests as athletes. But it makes me very sad for our culture. 

I was at the grocery store yesterday and saw a product called "gluten free ham." Isn't gluten a wheat product? How can ham contain gluten unless it is between two slices of bread? 

As I rode down the highway yesterday there was a billboard for "The Rad Law Firm." While there was a photo of a guy who had hair like a televangelist on the bottom corner of the billboard, I couldn't help but silently chuckle at the name "Rad," like it was a hipster add from the 1980s. 

We live in an apartment complex on one of the busier streets in our large city that has a long fence behind it, and behind that fence was a wonderful field. My dog and I have found our way through that fence and taken nice walks along the creek in that field. We've seen lots of city wildlife-some rabbits, some coyotes and lots of different birds and plants that you just don't see along developed roads. Two years ago a large swath of that field was torn up because of a huge highway project that may be completed soon. I was sad then, and I'm even sadder when I approach the resulting access roads to that highway. For miles this construction has torn down trees and green stuff, and has replaced it with packed, gray concrete. It is ugly and desolate-like a moonscape. Or like a mountain top removal coal mining activity. I'm sure when they finally get the highway finished, they'll put out some grass and bushes. But it is depressingly ugly, and one more example of humans displacing animals for highways. Yes, we need the roads (or as it is referred to now, infrastructure.) We also need the jobs. But, "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got til it's gone. They've paved paradise and put up a...." new highway. (Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi, 1970)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

WE'RE DOOMED!!!!!!!!

 "(CBS News)  
The U.N. says the world's population will reach a milestone this Monday -- 7 billion people. Since 1927, our population has soared from 2 billion to 4 billion in 1974, and 6 billion in 1999. CBS News correspondent Russ Mitchell talks about the population increase with demographer Joel Cohen of Rockefeller University."

The speed with which we have reached this number is staggering. According to Wikipedia, at the beginning of the first millennium BCE, the world population was around 300 million. Some say the maximum population that the world can sustain is NINE billion. How quickly will we get there? In the same Wikipedia article I took that 300 million number from predicted that the seven billionth person would be born in 2013. We are a bit ahead of schedule. The pressure of human population growth and resource use is already leading to water problems and a shortage of land on which food can be grown. There are millions of people starving in the world, and millions going hungry in the U.S., while Las Vegas and parts of Arizona take water from the water tables to their desert residential areas and golf courses to keep them green for their wealthy residents and the great casinos and twenty-four hours of electric lights in their cities. Here's the thing, though: there have been five mass extinctions in the four-billion history of earth. There are lots of arguments about what caused them, but climate change is said to have caused some of them-climate change caused by volcanic activity, or caused by things that we can't even know because there was no life form present to record what was happening. There are more extinctions to come. In fact, there are many taking place right now-human population growth is part of the reason. There are some creatures that no longer have a place to live because we have taken over their habitats, cemented them over, redirected the water they drink, and left them no place to go. Some animals are adapting to this pressure, coyotes come to mind, and some can't. Those animals will die off. Yes, I know that some of my friends and family don't believe in evolution, but evolution simply means the ability to adapt to one's environment in order to survive and pass on one's genes. 

This is exactly why I think humans are doomed. We've made ourselves soft. We don't adapt to our environment-we force our environment to adapt to us, which is not sustainable...nature will win out, and we will go extinct. Humans have a terrible arrogance about our dominance of the earth-many theists believe that our dominance was ordained by God, and have used this as an excuse to rape the earth and destroy unpopular species such as wolves. Science has consistently demonstrated that when top predators are removed from an ecosystem, that ecosystem is thrown out of balance and is harmed. Another reason humanity is doomed is because we put too much carbon into our atmosphere, and it is disrupting climate all over the world. This is causing droughts some places, and terrible floods in others. Both floods and droughts create problems with growing food, which is pretty tough when we are so close to such an astronomical population number. But another way of looking at the spewing of so much carbon into our environment is to look at how oxygen breathing life is believed to have arisen to begin with. The first life that appeared on earth did not breathe oxygen. It gave off oxygen as a by-product, just as we give off carbon when we exhale. So what is going to happen is that life forms will take over that use carbon, and we oxygen breathers will become extinct-taken over by plants, possibly just like in the horror movies of the 1950's. 

I get very annoyed at people who live in fear of bacteria. Yes, I wash my hands regularly, but I don't keep gallon jars of hand sanitizers on my desk and wipe my hands every ten minutes. I think it has been fairly well proven that our overuse of antibiotics has allowed the evolution of bacteria that can withstand the most powerful antibiotics we can come up with. But I still hear people at the first sign of a sniffle say,  "I've got to call the doctor and get some antibiotics." Antibiotics are given to our food animals, put in every soap on the grocery shelf, and given to us for mild infections, and even viruses, against which antibiotic don't even work. We are doing absolutely nothing but weakening our ability to fight off bacterial infections; we did evolve an immune system that is designed to help us fight infections. Fevers are one way that our bodies do that-but too many of us call the doctor when our temperature goes to 98.8. Our immune systems are lazy and weak, while the bacteria become stronger and more immune to our weapons against them. Bacteria are the largest biomass on earth; they were here before us, and will be here when we are gone. Bacteria paranoia is not making us stronger, it is making us weaker.  The Harvard entomologist, E.O. Wilson, in his book "The Diversity of Life," disagrees with the notion that evolution will take care of the damage we've caused with our environmental damage because it will not take place in any meaningful span of time that we can grasp-which may be true, but so is the original premise. If we ignore the damage we are doing, the human form as we know it will be altered dramatically. The thing is, there will be great suffering-starvation, diseases and wars over resources that will happen first. 

Our climate has been warming since the nineteenth century-basically since the beginning of the industrial revolution started spewing fossil fuel emissions into the air, then we added automobiles, etc, etc, etc. But even during that time, there have been hot and cold periods of the year. People of the past found ways to make themselves more comfortable-using hand held fans, building breezeways on their homes, wearing hats and scarves, natural fabrics that breathe, more clothes in the winter, less in the summer. But we have now created ways that we don't need to adapt to the weather-we have central heating and air, both of which contribute to climate change because of their emissions. When we have severe heat or cold spells, there are always deaths; there would be more deaths if we did not have these machines that both contribute to the problem and allow us not to adapt to our environment at the same time. This is also true of antibiotics and vaccines. Yes, I know that the death of any child to influenza or small pox or tuberculosis is a tragedy. But illness and death are also a part of life, and a way of controlling population. At the risk of sounding extremely cold hearted, if the weak were allowed to be culled from the population, and the strong, who can adapt to extremes of environment our population would be smaller and stronger for it. But our hearts and heads don't always act in concert-we like to play God and decide that the weak and sick should survive. And that will, along with our choice not to adapt to our environment, but to try and force our environment to adapt to us,  speed our extinction. I can only hope that in millions or billions of years, after the carbon breathers give off enough oxygen for the cycle to begin again, that we will have left something behind that will allow the next rise of humanoids to learn from our mistakes. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Don't Look Back...

"Driving down the road today I saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac. A little voice inside my head said  "Don't look back, you can never look back." Don Henley; "Boys of Summer" 1984

As I drove to work the other day I saw a Toyota Prius with a sticker on the back that said, "Paul Jr. Designs." I wondered if that bumper sticker seemed as incongruous to anyone else. Paul Teutle, Jr, and the whole Orange County Chopper family seem about the most anti-Prius group I can imagine. 

I hate the term "invasive species." Life as we know it originated in Africa. And invaded from there. We are all invasive species. When one species goes extinct, another one fills its niche. Sometimes an organism moves into a place that has no niche for it, and it drives out its competitors and takes over there niches. That's the law of the jungle, Folks. Kudzu and zebra mussels are only as invasive as their competition allows them to be. It is all about adapting to an environment, or adapting an environment to one's needs. It's not always pretty, it's not often kind, but the cycles go on. 

I've been seeing some disturbing commercials about the EPA and how it is killing jobs with its overarching regulations. I wasn't sure until the other day who was putting this garbage out-I figured it was one of the republican candidates for president-especially Rick Perry. Then I saw the end of the commercial a few days ago, and the sponsor was "The Coalition for Clean Coal." Sure, wasn't it cool when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969. Actually, that river has caught fire thirteen times, but the one that sort-of triggered Earth Day and the current environmental movement was in 1969. Do we really want to go back there? Don't pregnant women get enough warnings about eating fish because of mercury poisoning? Don't enough babies spend time in the emergency room and hundreds of thousands of dollars in health care costs because of air pollution? America, do we really want to elect a bunch of people who think all regulations on industry are bad? They keep telling us that removing regulations will cause job creators to come back to the U.S. to put people back to work. Why not create "quality control" jobs that hire people to see that a company isn't poisoning us? If an industry can't live up to environmental protections, how about the government giving tax breaks or "stimulus funds" to companies that update their factories to improve their environmental impact? So you create jobs and a cleaner environment all at once. Then the "job creators" wouldn't be demonized, and wouldn't have to set aside so much of their income for lobbying. It all seems so simple to me.

Rick Perry stays on my mind a lot, and  I cannot help but comment on the story of how he shot a coyote that menaced his family dog while on a run. Everything about this story rings false. I know that coyotes can be a problem for small dogs or cats left outside unattended. I know that with urban sprawl, coyotes have fewer places to hide and avoid contact with humans. But the governor of Texas, running with a golden retriever, which would outweigh most coyotes by about thirty pounds, and a cadre of security men running with him...well, there is no reason whatsoever that safety was the reason that coyote had to be shot. Coyotes are afraid of people, and unless they are pack hunting, which is a rare event,  and fairly new evolutionary step for them, a solitary coyote would not approach a group like that-certainly not in a menacing way. Perry was trying to show what a tough Texas hombre he is. And from that point forward, no matter if he stopped every war, created a job for every American, paid down the deficit, and stopped all pollution in the world, I could never, ever respect him again. Yes, my reaction here is extreme, and says more about me and my attachment to wild animals and my fervent belief in their right to exist and survive than it does Mr. Perry. But I have also studied canines (all canines) and this is just camp fire talk from someone who thinks he is on a cattle drive from the nineteenth-century. I was born and raised in Texas, and I am familiar with the Texas macho ethos. It is an unnecessary, ugly anachronism. We certainly don't need it in the White House. 

Mitt Romney. Business man, job creator, executive experience. What he actually did is increase the bottom line for shareholders by sending jobs over seas. I can't imagine anyone voting for such a Stepford Candidate. But then, if I were a republican I would be in utter despair right now. But then, I'm not a republican and I'm in despair now anyway over the direction of the country. 

I remember hearing over and over and over about George W. Bush saying "nookyooler." Then I heard many, many smart people, including respected news anchor Bob Schieffer say the word "nuc-lear" the same way. So I've tried not to let that one bother me anymore. But I just don't know if I could ever vote for a candidate who wants to eliminate a "def tax." Not that I  knew we had a special tax on people who can't hear. 

In the meantime, I have a solution to the rich-poor divide. It seems that every single small company is actually owned by some giant corporation. So all that is necessary is to have that one big company-I'm thinking it's probably General Electric or Goldman Sachs, take a minor cut in pay, and cut the shareholder dividend by a tiny percent. Give the people below them a raise in pay, and cover a bit of their benefits. Problem solved. The business will still be profitable, but the salaries of the ninety-nine percenters would be better, they would be happier and we could be the UNITED States of America again. It is sad to me that we are all so angry at each other all the time. 

My husband has been off work with a worker's comp injury since February. He was recently told that when he goes back to work he will have a three-percent raise. Then he got a letter saying that his insurance rates will go up more than ten percent. In the last forty years, the poverty rates in this country have gone up, not down. In the last ten plus years the salaries of the so-called ninety-nine percenters have gone down seven percent. Fuel keeps going up thirty cents, and down two cents at a time. When fuel goes up, everything that is delivered by fuel-driven machinery goes up. So, why are people angry and protesting? I can't imagine. 

As anyone who knows me knows, I am an atheist. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with one of my sisters, who shares my non-theism. She was about to get married to a wonderful man, but was uncomfortable saying to me that she felt "blessed." Is it okay to say one feels blessed if one doesn't believe there is a magic man in the sky dispensing said gifts? I think it is perfectly understandable to feel "blessed " when something unexpected and wonderful comes one's way. I'm still not sure how I would be sworn in if I ever had to go to court. 

Well-I guess maybe we have to look back sometimes. 

"Ahh, these times are so uncertain, there's a yearning undefined and people filled with rage. We all need a little tenderness; how can love survive in such a graceless age?"  Don Henley 1989, song, "Heart of the Matter," album, "End of the Innocence."

***Based upon a 1972 movie, "The Stepford Wives," in which the women of a community are made robotically perfect by husbands who wish to be waited on by beautiful, "perfect" women.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Not All That Spins Becomes Cotton Candy

When I was a child, I hated naps. I suppose I was afraid of what I might miss if I slept in the middle of the day, Now it is my habit to take a nap on Sunday afternoon whether I'm tired or not. The problem with that is that if I'm not really tired I just lay there with my brain spinning. If I do doze a bit, it is full of dreams that sometimes spin  bizarrely as if to simplify chaos theory. Typically I can follow a line, however crooked or fractured, and connect the dreams to something that has happened recently-though that doesn't always explain some of the people who populate the dreams. Every single time I have a disagreement with my husband, I have a dream about my first husband. Why is that? My first husband and I have been apart longer than we were together, and there are almost no similarities between the two men. Recently I talked to my friend who has an Italian boyfriend, Frank from Jersey, and I dreamed I had an affair with one of the characters from the television series, "The Sopranos." (Sorry, Frank!) Once, when I was sick with a high fever I dreamed I was being spun ever tighter in some sort of cocoon-it turned out I was wrapped in my blanket. I'm not sure that dreams really mean anything, but they do connect to our daily lives. When I married my second husband, in January of 2000, we moved from the town in Texas where my family lives to a small house in a small town in Illinois where he grew up. He knew one thing about me-that I love dogs. To the extreme--to a point sometimes where some people have accused me of liking dogs better than people. Which is not exactly true-I love most dogs better than I like some people. But after living in this house without a dog for a little more than a year, I asked him if we could get a dog. This was in March of 2001. Time passed, and still no dog. I started going back to school, along with my full time job, my eyes open all the time to the right possibility of the right dog for our family. On September 11, 2011 we still didn't have a dog-but after the terrorist attacks of that day, there were suddenly other things on everyone's mind. But, as we were told by our president, if we didn't carry on our normal lives, the terrorists won. On November 6, 2011, I went to have a fairly normal thing done-getting my teeth cleaned. My husband and his son who lived with us were at the fall sports banquet celebrating the football season. As I was lead to the cubicle of the hygienist, whom I had never met, but who had known my husband since he was a kid, it was lined with photos of dogs. I asked if these were all her dogs, and she said that she was involved in dog rescue and fostering. I asked if she had any that were adoptable, and she said yes, she had two that had been orphaned by the 9-11 attacks. One she thought was ready for a home, and one might never be. Did I want to meet them? I was her last client of the day, and I "followed her home."

Years before I had picked a name for the next male dog I got; he was going to be "Nestor," after the character played by Antonio Banderas in the movie, "The Mambo Kings." The dog I took home with me that night had been called "Louie," since no one really knew anything about his history. He was beautiful-a border collie mix, with a full black mask instead of the Harlequin mask that one sees on many border collies, and much more white on him than black. I took him home, and when my husband and step son arrived home from the sports banquet, we were sitting in the floor of the living room. I had my arm around him, we had already begun to bond, and my husband said, "Did you get a dog?" Since we didn't have a fenced in yard Nestor had to be walked twice a day. Every day-seven days a week. That duty fell to me, since I was the real dog lover in the house, and we walked all over the little town. I lost forty-five pounds, and Nestor and I were attached at the hip. I was, no doubt, his human. We later did get a fence, and I injured my sciatic nerve, and had to have help with the walking, but Nestor and I were almost psychically, and probably in an unhealthy way, connected. If we were walking and met up with someone who would talk to me, unless it was someone else with a dog, Nestor would snap at them. He did also chase things that moved, like the bicycle of our next door neighbor's daughter. When he, in true border collie fashion, nipped at the back tire and caught her ankle, it caused a neighborhood kerfuffle, to be sure. I was not familiar with the breed before I had fallen in love with this dog, but had I known more about them in advance, I probably would have known that we didn't really have the lifestyle for such an active dog. Sometimes if he was left alone he would tear things up-like the blinds, not just papers and small things. We replaced the blinds several times. The lady I had adopted him from attributed it to boredom and possible separation anxiety, considering he had been orphaned by the 9-11 attacks. I often called him my little orphan boy. His biting became more serious, and despite the fact that he was healthy and had all his shots, he had to be quarantined four times because of biting people. Once I went to visit him at the vet when he was in quarantine, and the vet said that he had never once shown any sign of aggression. Then when I started to leave, he bit the vet. The vet looked at me and said, "This is about you." I was getting more and more hopeless that I would ever be able to stop this behavior. I contacted a trainer who advertised that she could help with aggressive dogs, and we agreed to bring him back. But in April of 2007, I noticed that when a UPS man knocked at our door, he went psycho. I knew that if there had been no glass between him and the delivery man, there would be some real damage done. A few days later, he bit the hand of the neighbor who lived behind us, drawing blood. I will say, that man was not very nice, and I'd been tempted to bite him myself a time or two. But I knew it was the end...I called our vet, and took him to be put down. We couldn't afford the liability of an aggressive dog-and we couldn't risk small children coming to the house and being bitten. He was also prone to nip our guests if they hugged me; I had no choice left but to put him down. We went to the vet, and were placed in a room while the tech discussed with the vet, seemingly forever, how this euthanasia was to be handled since he had just bitten someone. I was falling apart, he knew something was up, so he was going psycho-hound all over the room. The vet finally came in and gave him "the shot." He was wobbly, but still walking around-I was still hysterical, and told her that I was close to changing my mind. She said, "Boy, he's not going down without a fight." They had to give my little orphan boy twice the regular dose, but he finally laid down in my lap and went to sleep. That was the first time I'd experienced this. I'd had other dogs put down before, but I could never bring myself to be there. I'd say my goodbye, and wait outside. But with this dog, I had to be the one to do it.

At the time this happened, April 12, 2007, I was in graduate school; right in the middle of the big project. I can imagine that someone might think the death of a dog would be something to move on from, but I basically fell apart, and wound up flunking out of graduate school. My job was temporary-a grad assistantship that now had to be changed to an 'academic hourly' and would only last until January. My life, and family became very difficult as I tried to deal with the grief over Nestor, and the still unremitting feeling that I had failed him. Bad owners make bad dogs; there had to have been more that I could have done. We had adopted a lab, Maddie, to be his friend, and she and I were the only ones who really grieved for him. I didn't think I would be ready for another dog for some time, but I didn't expect her to be as sad as she was. In fact, I thought she would be happy as an only dog. But she wasn't. In January of 2008 I was out of work, and the economy struck Central Illinois WAY before it spread through the rest of the country, so I could only find part time work, which was not near enough to support our family. My grief and feelings of failure regarding Nestor and school had started to come between my husband and me-things were really spinning out of control. On May 31 I got on a train and moved home to Texas. Supposedly there were lots of good jobs in Texas, my family kept telling me. So I moved, not sure if my husband would join me, but he and Maddie moved down in August of that year. I was glad to be close to my side of the family, but it was hard for Jim to be separated from his side of the family, especially his three sons. Maddie died the following February-at the age of 12, which is pretty old for a lab. Life goes on.

On May 15, 2010 I wrote a blog post, "To Ian, With Pride." Ian is the son of my youngest sister. The night she went into labor, all my siblings were gathered at my house. At that time I was a practicing Christian, and Teresa, Ian's mother, and I were the only ones in the family attending the Episcopal church. As a result of that, and the particularly close relationship we had, my first husband and I w ere Ian's godparents. So, despite the fact that my religious world-view has changed completely, I have always felt a special bond with Ian. May 14, 2010 was the night he graduated from college and received his commission as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force. I remember telling my sister that night that one hope I'd had was that by the time Ian graduated from ROTC we would no longer be at war. Last Sunday, as I took my nap, we were preparing to go to a going away party for Ian, who left for the Middle East, his first post after tech school, on Tuesday. On Thursday the news media were announcing that it was the tenth anniversary of our invasion of Afghanistan. As I cried on the shoulders of my mother and youngest sister Sunday night about that baby boy whose birth is so etched into our lives because his placenta tried to come out first, and his birth was an emergency Cesarean, leaving my apartment where it all started looking as if an axe murder had occurred there, was a grown man, a military officer, going where it was WAY more than a couple of hours to come home for a visit. The spin of dreaming about my dog began to make sense. I wouldn't have had Nestor if not for the 9-11 attacks, because of the 9-11 attacks, we are still at war, and Ian was going to the Middle East. I will add that he is going to a friendly country, and has a fairly safe job-but suddenly it all made sense how much our lives have become defined by the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01.

So, we can take the events of our lives, blend them into the pensieve of our subconscious, turn on the spinnaker and the heat and spin a single thread into something that resembles a full life. It may be completely connected, but it won't always be sweet.

Pensieve-a device used in Harry Potter books, written by J.K.Rowling, which allow a person to see into the memories of another person. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Not My Cup of Tea

The world is making me tired. There hasn't been a day go by in the last few weeks that I haven't been shaken by something happening somewhere. I need a day of happy news. Just one. Is that unreasonable?

When I was in grad school, studying Environmental Policy, I was introduced to Thomas Robert Malthus. Malthus was an English scholar who proposed a theory of overpopulation, saying that at some point, the earth's population would grow beyond its ability to sustain itself. Once the earth reaches that point, the population would be checked by starvation, war and disease. Most of the twentieth century, economists and philosophers spent suggesting that Malthus was wrong; we were able to exponentially increase food production, and send minimum sustenance to every corner of the globe and prevent death by starvation. We are now in the third desperate famine in Africa that I can remember. We are doing the best we can to send enough food to the people in Somalia to prevent the slow, dreadfully suffering death by starvation and disease, despite the fact that many of the violent and corrupt regimes of the region are preventing some of the aid from reaching those most in need. Yesterday it was announced that on Halloween day, Sunday, October 31, 2011, the world population will reach seven billion. The world is on the downward slide with regard to potable water. Much of the farmland in Africa has been rendered un-arable because of war, drought, and the race for resources such as gold, oil and diamonds. Once the aid workers are gone, the same corrupt war lords will begin to kill with impunity again, using religion and race as an excuse, when resources are actually the reason for the brutal attacks. Malthus wasn't wrong, he was just early. We can increase our food production to a point, and we've come through so far. But those increases require more water and good land, which is becoming more and more rare as the population rises, the climate warms, and drought prevents the rain from watering the farms...and the circle is infinite.

Back in the 1980s I read several books by Stephen King. I loved the fact that, much like the television program, "The Twilight Zone," there was just enough reality to make his plots seem plausible. One of my favorites was "The Dead Zone." It was a story about a man who was in a terrible car crash and went into a coma for a long time. When he awakened, he could touch people and tell the future. One of the people he touched was a politician who was running for president. He touched the man, and knew that a nuclear conflagration would be the result of the election of that candidate. Something eerily like the feeling I got reading that story came over me when I saw this picture on the cover of Time magazine this week:

I'm sorry-there is just something frightening to me about this man. Despite the fact that, as Bill Clinton said, "He's a good lookin' rascal." It's not enough to make him un-scary to me.

I am an unabashed liberal. But I understand some conservative positions, and I come from a very conservative family. When political topics are broached, especially since I am usually outnumbered, I've become a master of the smile and nod, and the, "That's certainly a point of view," reply. But a conversation I had early in the Obama administration with a friend who is just as proud of her tea party activism and anti-Obama passion that was very telling to me as I look back. This particular friend lives in a very closed society-fundamental Christianity, in the deep south, and all of her world view is colored by that giant wall. I tend to believe this is true of all tea party members, including my mother. Most of this group decided that they hated Obama, and anything he might stand for well before he was elected and attempted to do anything. They have held their beliefs, no matter how often President Obama has done exactly the opposite of what anyone would expect of a liberal. But my friend exclaimed to me, when I asked her why, exactly and specifically, she disliked Obama so much, "He wants to CHANGE America." This remark has come back to me time and again, puzzlingly; and in the last month or so, it has come back to me again and again. I have realized that what the tea party wants is a return to an America that never really existed in the past, and certainly could not survive in the twenty-first century. In the days of fuzzy memory, blacks and gays didn't demand their constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. In fact, a black man walking down the street who looked at a white woman, or looked a white man in the eye, did so at his own peril. Homosexuals didn't want to get married-they wanted to hide their true natures so that they could keep their jobs. They never had "partners," they had "roommates." But the white folks lived well, and went to church every Sunday. They were there for their white neighbors, and their white neighbors were there for them. No one knew that George Washington didn't really chop down a cherry tree and tell his father the truth about it. No one ever questioned the Disney-fied history books, or dared to suggest that any of the founding fathers were promiscuous or flawed in any way. Men went to work, and good mothers stayed home and provided clean houses and good meals for the family. Freedom of religion was okay because everyone was Christian or Jewish. There were no atheists or agnostics, and certainly no Muslims or Hindus. There were no illegal immigrants-just gardeners and people who traveled around the country to pick fruit for a pittance that was impossible to live on. That was their problem though-white people had the right to make profit and do well. No one questioned that. But that world never truly existed, and most definitely does not exist now. American businesses can't make profits without going international. But in order to go international, we must learn something about the cultures with which we wish to do business. That may mean we can't steamroll over everyone in another country with the assumption that the only good country is the U. S. and the only good religion is Christianity, and the only good business model is the American one. Facebook and Twitter and the internet in general have made isolationism impossible. And the fact of the matter is, the world has changed, and was changing long before Obama was born in Hawaii. I've been told all my life that "Change is the only constant in life," and anyone who refuses to admit that is burying his head in the sand. Obama didn't cause this, but as the first president we've had in some time who is open to it, rather than trying to deny it, or forcefully and belligerently stop the change, he is still WAY ahead of any tea party candidate.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Time Spent Just Shaking My Head

The last few weeks have given me many, many opportunities to shake and scratch my head. I don't think I've ever seen anything as strange as the republican candidates for president in 2012, or the people who follow them. But personally life is just strange as well. For example, for the last forty years environmentalists have been complaining about the amount of packaging used to sell the products we use. But every day something is being introduced that is bringing more and more trash to our landfills. Now every coffee company is packaging coffee in plastic containers for individual servings. Even allegedly green companies are doing this, and I've contacted a couple of them-they admit that their individual serving cups are not biodegradable. We now have pieces of fresh fruit in glass jars and prunes in a waxed-paper container, then wrapped in individual cellophane wrappers. Grrrrrrrrr! Helloooooo-ooooo? Anybody out there?

I LOVE R&B singer John Legend. At times he's seemed to me the reincarnation of Marvin Gaye. He's touring this summer with Sade, whom I also like. But in a list published in my local newspaper recently, SHE was listed as one of the top grossing concerts this summer. Shouldn't he have been on that list as well?

How can we say we know what prevents cancer? There is a new story almost daily about something that prevents some kind of cancer-but people keep getting cancer, even though,as long as that list is, there can't be much left that everyone on earth does. So it seems that cancer rates should be going down.

I wonder if we set politicians up for corruption and arrogance when we talk about their looks. I can think of two who are about as smarmy and dishonest as any politician in history, Rod Blagojevich and Rick Perry, who have commonly been called "Governor Good Hair," that believe their crimes are not even wrong doing. Maybe good looking people in our world just get away with way too much, and come to believe that the rules don't really apply to them.

Who said that dogs don't really have a sense of time? When I recently babysat a dog for a friend who was out of town, interestingly, his behavior began to change about one and a half days before she returned. Nothing else that we could explain had changed.I  believe he knew "Mom" was coming home.

In Texas 2011, we have had the hottest summer on record. We even beat the dust bowl summer of Oklahoma in 1929. If we had a breeze this drought stricken summer, there was fire danger. If we didn't have a breeze, the heat created pollution alerts. I couldn't help wondering how President Obama, Eric Cantor, and other legislators in this country could reverse anti-pollution rules. Aren't they parents? Don't they know how many children are affected by pollution? I don't want to talk about global warming and its long term consequences. I want to talk about what we are doing to ourselves right now. We are making ourselves sick, and I don't want to live in a dirty world with dirty air. I have two grandchildren, and one more on the way. I don't want them to spend their childhoods in the ER getting breathing treatments because of the oil and coal lobbies.

This past Wednesday there was something called "The Tea Party Debate" with the republican candidates for president. Several years ago there was a giant kerfuffle in Texas when Governor Rick Perry made it mandatory for pre-adolescent girls to get a vaccine against the human pappiloma virus, which has been proven to cause cervical cancer. We have been vaccinating children against communicable diseases for about a century. Some of these diseases have been all but eradicated. But people got angry with the governor for this one. One reason was because of financial connections to the big-pharma company that provided the vaccine-reasonable argument. But I can't help but wonder if a part of the anger was because there might be something like "S-E-X" attached to this one. That certainly seemed to be the case with Michelle Bachman in her criticism at the debate Wednesday. And then she came back with a story of a crying woman who came to her and said that the HPV vaccine "gave her daughter mental retardation." Sigh. Yes, anecdotes are now science, right? So Rick Perry said-he attacked Bachman for taking the woman's story as fact when she had "no science to back it up." The explosion in my gut was hard to contain on that one, when just two weeks ago, Rick Perry was talking about the science on evolution and climate change not being in. Since when does Rick Perry know or care anything about science? He suggested that the pope who imprisoned Galileo was a scientist who just disagreed with Galileo's scientific theories at another debate. The far right of the republican party has been consistently anti-science and anti-intellectual for years. That's exactly why Sarah Palin has the following she does; she suggests that smart people who consider facts before they speak or pick a position are not real American "Joe Six Packs." I'm sorry, Governor Good Hair, you can't have it both ways. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Milk of Human Kindness

I work on the phone. Sometimes I get into long conversations with the people on the phone.  This happened last week, with an older woman who, like me, has family members in both the military and law enforcement. We talked about whether or not there are people in the world who have absolutely no good in them. I commented that I don't think so-even the most depraved people have some good in them, though it is buried beneath so much garbage that it can't be seen. She responded, "I can tell  you are a Christian." I honestly didn't know what to say. Obviously I couldn't say much, being in a work setting. But I wonder, as I have for years, where the notion comes from that to have a kind outlook on humankind comes from Christianity. I can point to so much evidence of Christians who definitely do not have a kind attitude toward their fellow man, and I know many non-theists who do. In fact, atheists sometimes refer to themselves as "humanist," and for most of the atheists I know, ethics is very important...after all, this world is all we believe we have, and how we treat each other is of high importance. 

There have been some articles recently about the "Christian Dominion" movement on the right wing fringes. This idea that fundamentalist Christians should run the world isn't anything new. The "K-Street" apartment house, at which some of the sleazier politicians who've been caught with their pants down, so to speak, is a part of this movement. They believe that it is okay for some politicians to screw around on their wives because King David did and God allegedly said David was "a man after my own heart." The thing they forget is that Christianity is supposed to be based on the NEW Testament, and King David was an Old Testament king. Nor was he allowed, by God, according to the myth, to build the temple because he committed adultery and murder. Nor was Moses allowed to enter the promised land with the Jews because he had committed murder. So the whole dominion movement is just a bunch of creeps who cheat on their wives and want to rationalize that their bad behavior qualifies them for leadership. Not only is every bit of this movement ridiculous, it is wrong headed in its alleged adherence to biblical values. It is also scary as hell and needs to be kept on the fringe. 

Speaking of politicians who've been caught with their pants down, I think it is noteworthy that none of them were wearing skirts. 

One legend about St. Patrick says that he used a clover, the three-leaved variety, to explain to the Celts about the trinity-three from one. So why is the four leaf clover considered to be good luck? 

In the last week or so I've heard several pundits referring to the Tea Party movement as "patriotic anarchists." Funny thing, on July 23rd, in my blog post entitled "Demagogue Is Not a Verb," question number 7 went this way, "7. Do the anti-government right-wingers realize that people who hate the government and wish to dismantle it are called "anarchists?" Anarchists used to be considered left wing. Does anyone but me see the irony in that? Anarchy in the USA!! Brought to you by Sarah Palin." So, can I get a little credit for pointing this out first? In fact, if you are going to read my blog and steal my ideas, please become a follower. I need more followers. 

So all this talk about the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution being a rationale for ending anything the federal government wants to do that they don't like. Candidate/Governor Rick Perry, of my state, Texas, likes to call on "State's Rights." He does it all the time. When the state of New York approved of allowing marriage equality, he said that it was fine for New York to do that-in his opinion that day, he said it was a matter to be decided by individual states. But yesterday, August 26, 2011, it was announced that he had signed a pledge to a marriage inequality group that he would support a new amendment to the constitution stating that marriage in the United States under a Rick Perry presidency would be that it is only between one man and one woman. Just one example of how conveniently the Grand Ole Party uses and rejects the Big Tenth Amendment. Which simply says nothing more than, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." That's it. Which demonstrates why it is so easy to find so many different interpretations.  And why its multiple uses must be carefully considered before it is used to reject every proposition from the federal government that any particular governor or candidate might like or dislike at any given moment. (Or in front of any particular interest group or donor!) I do remember a line from the Bush administration, quoting Reagan claiming that "government is not the solution, government is the problem." It was said that the second Bush administration believed that government is the problem, and then spent their whole time in government proving it. 

So, speaking of tea, there is an entire shelf now at the grocery store from which shoppers can buy gallons of tea in the ubiquitous plastic jug. Why would anyone pay from $2.95 to $4.29 for a gallon of premade tea? It doesn't make good economic sense. I pay a bit over $2.00 for a box of 100 teabags, and that makes 20 gallons of tea. Have we become that lazy? Nevermind. Except that lazy doesn't even do it for this one-it takes less energy to put some water in a kettle, boil it, add the bags and let them steep, then top off the jug with water and slip it in the fridge than to drive to the store, shop, maneuver around the aisle hogs, find where it's kept, put it in your basket, take it to the register, wait in line, pay, walk to the car, drive back home, carry in all your bags, put away all the groceries you just bought, etc. Make your own damned tea! We don't need all that many more plastic jugs in the landfills, on top of your soda and water bottles. And don't insist you recycle them; only about three-percent of Americans recycle their recyclables, and there have been billions and billions of plastic bottles placed in landfills in the last fifty years. We don't need unnecessary tea jugs on top of them. 

Since when is "nevermind" not a word? I just had to add it to my dictionary-as far as I know, nevermind is just as much a word as "alot." Which my computers keep lining in red as if they are not part of the English language. Where do they come up with this crap?

Has anyone noticed the evolution of the Exxon-Mobil commercials? First it was just that they are spending lots of money on R & D to find more eco-friendly ways to produce energy. Now they are talking about trying to frac without damaging ground water supplies. And there is one in which the spokesperson actually talks about the tar sands program in Canada, and he honestly says, "We can access this energy with about the same emissions as other forms of energy." WWWHHHHHHAAAAATTTTTTT???? The wording of commercials can be very instructive, and it is quite clear that it takes so much energy to remove the oil from tar sands that it is much worse for the environment than traditional oil production. Interestingly, I heard the Canadian CEO of the company building the tar sands pipeline say that all the protests in the US will only hurt us by sending 25,000 jobs to Canada, and that the oil will be produced anyway. And we always carry on about how "nice" Canadians are-now we are being held hostage by the guys who beat baby seals on the head with clubs.