Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Presidential Revolving Doors

I've been following the Republican candidate shuffle for weeks now, so much that I dream about the debates. Regardless of which side of the fence you're on politically, you have to admit this has been comedy of the absurd. When the horses lined up at the gate, we had too many to name. I don't remember who all threw hats in the ring, but it was like a land-grab stampede. Hands waving in the air, all proclaiming "I'm the only one who can turn Obama into a one-term president."

Then we started seeing the bottom of the pack drop out. Names of people who weren't in the race floated around, but most didn't take the bait. We had Michelle Bachman leading for a couple of weeks. Ron Paul garnered some support, then faded, only to resurface recently. All the while, we had Mitt Romney smugly suggesting that the others were silly because he was the anointed one.

Rick Perry challenged Mitt. In spite of outrageous positions on many issues, Perry surged ahead, thereby proving the talking heads right. The public was desperately seeking Not-Mitt. Perry's mouth and lapses of intelligence all but doomed his hopes.

Herman Cain came on strong, crushed Perry and left Mitt looking a bit worried. Cain imploded on his lack of knowledge of international affairs, as well as a reported sexual affair. Bye, Herman. Mitt sat back, smugly thinking he'd get the Cain supporters.

And then came the Newtster. Gingrich to the rescue. Leading in the polls by lurking on the sidelines. The rush to embrace a man of complex flip-flops demonstrates one more time how desperate the early voting public is for Not-Mitt. Well, the Newtster is certainly not Mitt.

My opening comment was that one of the Republican candidates would turn Obama into a one-term president. I'm not sure that's the case. There is one certain way, however, that Obama could be a one-term president.

Following on a theory advanced in a Wall Street Journal editorial a few weeks ago, Obama could "do a Johnson" and announce he's not going to run. Hillary could announce that "for the good of the party and for the good of the country" she would. At 69% approval from both sides of the voting public, Hillary, not Mitt, not Not-Mitt, would be the Republicans worst nightmare. Just the thought would be enough for all the Republican candidates to send their clothes out to be dry-cleaned.

And then I woke up.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fakes, Shams and Exaggerators

Like most of my friends, I'm pretty fed up with fakes, shams and exaggerators. I don't think they are the same, but there is adequate room for overlap.

So the fakes first. I see them as people who have a job, take on a specific challenge and then back off from the challenge and don't do anything. Think about the super committee. These guys are fakes. They promised to write new legislation reducing our national debt and then rolled over and fell prey to the lobbyists and party muscle and did nothing. Oh, they met. They postured. They squabbled. But in the end, they didn't do the job they promised to do. Of course, they are members of Congress, as disfunctional group of elected officials as I've seen in a long time. Wouldn't it e great if We the People could lock them out, like the owners did the overpaid one-percenters who play pro basketball? Once again I have to remind Congress that you aren't doing the job of this "People."

Next are the shams. These people call us a dozen times a day trying to pry another dollar out of our pockets for some cause or other. Most of the causes may be valid, but so little of the funds donated by phone reach the cause. Those telephone beggars get paid, you know. I prefer to donate to a cause I can see face to face.

I realize that some of the shams believe they are doing good. There was a Catholic priest in New York City who ran Covenant House, a shelter for runaway and street teens. We donated to his cause for years. Then the newspapers broke the story that the priest molested several runaways. He got thousands off the streets but became a sham when he kept a few for his own purposes.

Let's look at the exaggerators. I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. I knew that Mortenson had been exposed for not keeping good records about the schools he built in Afghanistan. When CBS's Sixty Minutes sent a camera crew to many of the schools, they found many Mortenson claimed to have built never were constructed. Others were storage units for animal fodder. Millions poured into his Central Asia Institute, which is now under scrutiny. Great idea, good results when Mortenson was working small. But when he expanded, he lost control. His book is compelling. Too bad it's as much fiction as adoration. There must be facts there, but they are clouded by the facts.

I'll spare you my rant about politicians on this holiday eve. Oh, wait. Many fit all three categories. Especially when they are running for president. I may have to rethink sparing you the rant. That's material for another post on another day.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

He Sat Alone

He sat alone in a restaurant filled with friends and family honoring our veterans. Last night, he ate his free dinner slowly, measuring every bite. He drank nothing but coffee. He spoke with no one.

I watched him, wondering what his story was. He was neatly dressed in clean jeans, a shirt and zippered jacket. His hat rested on the bench seat beside him. Head and face shaved. I asked the restaurant manager if he knew anything about the man. "No, he's a veteran. He didn't want to sit with other vets, so I seated him alone."

Alone. Not on Veterans Day. But it was his wish. He could have been a Vietnam vet, but I didn't think so. He didn't look old enough. I passed by his table once, but he didn't glance up. Head down, he ate with complete concentration, lost in his thoughts. He paid for his coffee, asked for a go cup, and carefully dressed it with two creams and two sugars. He stirred, capped the cup, put on his hat and worked his way off the bench seat.

He passed our table. I asked him if I could shake his hand. He held it out. My husband and I thanked him for his service and asked which branch of the Armed Forces he'd called home. Air Force. Just like my Cold Warrior. Which base? Dover. And with that he nodded and walked slowly out of the restaurant, a black veteran alone in his own mind, his cup of hot coffee clutched in his hand.

I wonder what his story is.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Honoring Our Tween Veterans

Today is Veterans Day where we stop and honor the men and women who serve and have served our country. No matter which uniform you wear -- Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, Coast Guard, or National Guard -- our volunteers deserve our respect and intense gratitude. They are the ones who protect our way of life.

Most of the attention goes to active service members and those who fought in foreign wars. They are not the only ones who deserve recognition today. The hundreds of thousands of service members who served in peace time protected our way of life as well.

Terry, my dear husband of over a quarter of a century, is a tween. He volunteered for the Air Force in peace time. He served between two wars: too young for Korea, too old, too married, and with two kids, not drafted for Vietnam. Still, he served honorably, keeping radar systems operating during the Cold War. He often wonders how he would have behaved in combat. I've watched him in times of great stress and know he would have done his job with honor.

Chris, Terry's only son and my stepson, was in the Air Force for four years, and more than ten years in the Navy. He, too, is a tween, although he nearly got caught in the ramp up to Desert Storm. Desert Shield was going on while his fleet was in the Med. He was diverted off the coast of Liberia when civil war raged. For three months they steamed around waiting to airlift Marines into the capital to rescue Americans trapped inside.

I am so proud my husband and son are tweens. Being in the service was one of the best things that happened to them when they were growing up.

I'm taking Terry out to dinner tonight to thank him for his service. Laura is doing the same with Chris.

To all tweens out there, thank you for your service. You have done us proud.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I have a new favorite word. It's "how." I use it every time I hear a politician talk about his or her platform. "I'll cut taxes. I'll balance the budget." "I'll reduce the debt." And my favorite, "I'll create more jobs in [fill in the location]."

I want to ask each talking head one question: How. How are you going to cut taxes, balance the budget AND pay down the debt, all at the same time? All three are contradictory. Cutting taxes in the last administration got us into this mess. Keeping they unreasonably low hasn't done anything to stop runaway spending or to reduce the debt.

How, Mr. Candidate, do you intend to create jobs? Do you really think that by keeping income taxes low, people are going to go out and hire someone, create a job where there is no demand for the goods and services produced? And just how many jobs have been created in the past three years in [fill in the location] with taxes so low we can't pay our bills? Couple this empty promise with the earlier one about tax cuts and I have a question: With unemployment stubbornly hovering over 9%, how's that policy working for you, Mr. Candidate? How many jobs did your tax cuts create? How can you stand in front of us and tell us that tax cuts create jobs? Do you really believe this yourself???

I went to a rally for a candidate running for our state legislature. I asked him how he was going to create jobs. He looked panicked. Evidently, no one had asked him how he was going to carry out his platform. He bumbled and mumbled and stepped on his tongue trying to answer my question. When he passed the hat for money to continue his campaign, I kept my hands in my pocket.

Why would I want to put money in his hat when he couldn't answer my question? Widen the lens, and everyone running for office at all levels has the same credibility problem. They talk a good line, but when pressed, they fall back on familiar sound bites. Well, I'm not hungry. I refuse to rise to the bait.

Oh, yes, the group that invited me to hear our local candidate suggested that I might not want to return. Ya think?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Legalize Drugs, with Apologies to Jonathan Swift

Before you blast me for being an aging hippie and a liberal, hear me out. I have an idea that would:

  • Reduce crime in the US

  • Reduce crime across the border in Mexico

  • Provide a strong new taxable revenue source to the US

  • Let's take these in order.

    Reduce crime in the US
    If all drugs were legalized, it would not be illegal to buy and use them. We could create a series of distribution centers in every city, funded both by a new sin tax on drugs and diverting law enforcement funds to support the new centers. The centers would be privately run but licensed through each state. Revenues would be shared between the states and the federal government based on actual monies collected. Law enforcement would not need as much funding because drug-related crime would be reduced. Prison populations would decline and prison overcrowding would be reduced. Next door to each distribution center could be a privately operated clinic to help users kick the habit.

    Reduce crime across the border in Mexico
    If Americans were no longer buying illegal drugs, Mexican drug cartels would have to find other avenues through which to sell its products. Crime might be diverted to other areas in Mexico. The Mexican authorities might even be able to gain more control of their failed state. Border cities could become safer on both sides of the border. And Eric Holder might have less interest in supporting failed policies of sending guns to Mexico to trace where they end up. They end up in the hands of criminals. Idiot.

    Provide a strong new taxable revenue source to the US
    Can you spell sin tax? Prohibition didn't work, but taxing a legally available product did. Anti-smoking campaigns didn't work, but taxes on cigarettes and cigars added to state coffers. The same could happen with a sin tax on legal drugs.

    I realize this is a radical, liberal suggestion. If we start with legalizing marijuana in all states, the FBI wouldn't be put in the awkward position of busting legal medical marijuana shops in California.

    Yes, this could work. It's too logical not to work. Therefore, no one will put this idea forward. Wonder what the "super committee" would think about it.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Sumptin' Happenin'

    There's something happening. Thousands of people are gathering in the streets protesting. Protesting what, you may ask. You name it. Just protesting.

    Occupy Wall Street is a grass-roots activist protest movement without focus, without a leader. People are camping out in parks in various cities. People are getting arrested for disrupting traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. People are dancing and singing in the streets. And it's spreading across the lower 48.

    What's driving the protests? Who knows? Public ennui? Corporate greed? Joblessness? Poverty? Loss of the American Dream? Fatigue? Deep-seated fear?
    Some protesters want to stamp out corporate greed. Others are worried about what we humans are doing to the environment. Still others just want a job. Everyone wants something, even when they aren't articulating the collective angst that has driven them into the street.

    I watched several news clips of the protesters. I saw myself in many of them. In the young girls with their long hair and long skirts, I saw myself protesting the Vietnam war, for women's rights, and against Dow Chemical. In the older protesters, I saw friends who wanted to hang onto the American dream for one more generation. I saw people of all ages hoping to find a way to rediscover a moral compass, personal, corporate and national.

    We've lost our way. Our leaders in government haven't a clue how to take us up the next steps out of the mess we're in. We are floundering in deepening ruts of disfunctional government. We see our friends and neighbors struggling to keep going. Many are falling behind. Their children will fall behind.

    If Occupy Wall Street, with all its disorganization and energy, turns a new spotlight on our collective problems, then it has a benefit. If not, at least the protesters can say they tried.

    And they can vote next year. If they can find candidates who listen, then they should vote for them. If not, then they should vote for the candidate who is closest to their desires. And then they should continue the protests.

    If this is our US Autumn, then we need to join the protesters. There's something happening there. What it is ain't exactly clear. We can help make it clearer.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    I think we have a mouse

    Shortly after Mocha, our new kitty, came home, my husband Terry and I began to suspect we had a mouse in the house. Mocha sniffed and sniffed every corner looking for the furry intruder. We thought she had found the scent in the living room, but the trace vanished almost as quickly as it began.

    We'd hear Mocha chasing something in the middle of the night. At first we thought it was greeblings, those invisible critters that send cats on midnight rips across the room. We flipped on the light about three in the morning, only to find the most innocent looking pussy cat on the floor at the foot of the bed.

    We kept watching to see if we could find the mouse. After all, I didn't want to walk downstairs one morning and step on what remained. The more Mocha searched, the more we searched, the fewer traces of said tiny furry critter did we find. Mocha wondered if it were in her office bed. No, but she looked long and hard before she decided it hadn't invaded her hidey hole.

    I was about to give up and declare the house mouse-free, when one morning I came down to the office in the basement earlier than usual. Before it could flee, I captured the mouse in a digital image. All I can say is, "Eeek, a mouse."

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    What's in a name?

    Apparently, a lot, since it took us several days to decide on a name for our new kitty. Here's the tale of the naming conundrum.

    When the kitty selected Terry as her forever male human, the shelter named her Stella. Her six bright orange kittens were all named for different types of cheeses, Cheddar, Edam, etc. I knew immediately I could not go through life yelling "Stella" like Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. Just wasn't going to happen. I asked Terry what he wanted to name her.

    "Spike." Well, that would be different. I don't know too many kitties named Spike. My girlfriend Karen Wrigley happened to call a couple of days after we brought her home. Karen is an animal communicator and gave me a reading. She said the kitty was too soft to be called Spike. This was during the time she was hiding in the ceiling over my home office. Karen told me she liked high places. No kidding.

    We dumped Spike and kicked around Houdini, because she was an escape artist. Then, it was Cheshire, because she liked to vanish. Blondie came and went, as did Ginger.

    Finally, we said she looked more like a cup of mocha coffee than anything else. She's fawn-colored with spots where her stripes would be if she were a tabby. Almost looks like a fawn-colored Ocicat. Mocha stuck. When she's doing her midnight greebling chases, she acts like she's had too much Mocha Java before bedtime. Nicknames are MJ and Mocha Java.

    Karen was right about her being soft. She is. And now that she's settling in, she's with us most of the time. Still can be a boo-kitty when there is something new. She has to act scared, but it's all an act.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Generational Memories

    Every generation has its seminal event, that moment in time where you always remember where you were when...

    The Greatest Generation will never forget where it was on Pearl Harbor Day. Every living member can tell you what s/he was doing, what happened next, how many neighbors, family and friends went to the draft office on Monday following the attack.

    The Baby Boomers know what happened on November 22, 1963. It remembers the horror of a young president murdered in front of his wife and the nation, the funeral procession, John-John saluting his father's coffin. We remember how we cried and wondered what had happened to our country and what would happen next.

    The next generation remembers the Columbia shuttle disaster, as do previous generations. Our children can tell us what they were thinking when they watched the first teacher in space die and knew her students had just seen the same thing.

    The current generation has 9/11. Ten years ago we stood as a nation, united by an attack on our basic value system. The "bad guys" struck out symbols of our power. We hung flags in front of our homes and dared them to do it again. The world stood with us and said, "Today we are all Americans."

    I have flown a flag every day since the attack. My original 9/11 flag had to be retired when it became too ragged. It's replacement is nearing the end of its life as well. A new one waits in a drawer, knowing its call to duty will come.

    What happened? The world hates us. We hate each other. We can't seem to agree on anything. We need to work together, but don't want to. We know how, but I think too many find it too much work to try and fix our problems.

    Sigh. Can't we return to the unity and commonality of purpose we felt on Sept. 12, 2001?

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Smooth Operator

    Have all of you noticed the hypocritical stance our elected officials have been taking in the past week? I'm thinking of four natural events that have "encouraged" state officials holding out their hands for Federal handouts.

    Let's start with Eric Cantor, not to be confused with Eddie Cantor. Although... Cantor did a pratfall recently. The Grinch has a verbal tic. If you ask him about Federal funds for anything, his response is to say we have to offset a dollar spent with a dollar removed from the budget. Including relief money for FEMA for hurricane and earthquake damage. For his own state. I guess no one told him that Obama called Governor McDonnell with an offer of a few billion for Hurricane Irene and earthquake damage. McDonnell took the money. Oops.

    Rick Perry makes headlines about not wanting any Federal aid for anything. Part of his platform. Obama called him and offered aid to fight the fires and rebuild afterwards. Did that plank just get a little wobbly?

    He's still waiting to hear from the governor of New Jersey. My bet? When the call comes, the governor be wanting the money. Ya think????

    Is Obama a smooth operator or what? He reaches out to Virginia with Federal aid, thereby undermining Cantor. He reaches out to Perry, thereby undermining one of the larger planks of the tea party.

    Sunday, September 4, 2011

    Schizophrenic No Longer

    For a while now I've felt that this blog had a split personality. On the one side, I write a fair amount about writers, books I read, books I review and thoughts about what's it like to be an aspiring writer. As a result, I've attracted some followers of like mode.

    On the other side, I write about politics, the world around us, and cats. When my calico was writing for herself, she was properly snarky, as only a calico-with-an-attitude can be. Took after her female human.

    I decided to divide the blog. MadMaxisms remains political. It will often have a snarky voice, sometimes cranky, sometimes thoughtful.

    The new blog is the writing blog. Called WriteNowRightNow, it contains book reviews, thoughts about writing and rewriting, a chronology of my efforts to get Mad Max 1 published.

    Some of you may wish to follow only one blog. Others may wish to follow both. I hope you find something in each that gives you a view into the crazy workings of my mind.

    And to begin MadMaxisms's more focused life, has anyone else noticed that Republican governors who loudly screamed that we need less government in Washington were the first to hold out their hands for FEMA funds? If this isn't an ideological about- face, what is? Everyone is against "big government" until they need a handout.

    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    For What It's Worth

    Many years ago, back in 1967, people got right riled up about injustice. I was in the middle of the riled-up pack.

    One night that schizophrenic summer I went to a concert in San Francisco. Don't remember if it was the Cow Palace or Filmore West, but it was a big venue. The lead group was just beginning to get a little airplay. Something called Buffalo Springfield.

    Their set was okay, until they started a song written by one of its members. Stephen Stills wrote an angry anthem, "For What It's Worth." The crowd went silent, and then demanded the group sing it again. They did.

    I kept thinking about one line in that old song: "Nobody's right if everybody's wrong." Stills could have written it today, but for one thing. Where are the thousand people in the streets?

    Our country teeters on the eve of destruction (with all due respect to Barry McGuire) and no one seems to care. Why aren't my protest peers out there, contacting their elected representatives, demanding compromise? Maybe they are, but Tweeting and sending emails lacks the newsworthiness of a visual of thousands of people demanding common sense. Anyone know where we went?

    Must run and Tweet again. It's just so not satisfying...

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Introducing Mocha

    Meet Mocha, the kitty that decided she wanted Terry and me as her forever family. After Nikki died, we knew we wanted a new cat but not right away. When we began feeling something was missing in our family, we realized we needed a cat.

    I spent time on weekends on local no-kill shelter web sites looking for a calico or tortiseshell. I found several, so Terry and I began making the rounds. We found a couple of strays that had been surrendered, but none came to us, an important trait. I wanted a cat to pick us as much as I wanted to point to one in a cage and say, "I'll take that one, please. Wrap her up."

    Terry and I knew we wanted a spade female. I don't trust male cats not to mark their territories with spray, neutered or not. A shelter in Roanoke had a bright calico kitten and another calico cat. We went in with high hopes, only to be hit with a horrible smell. I've never been in a shelter that smelled so bad. Still, we looked at the cat first. Five years old, but the drawback was coming with a black litter mate. I want two cats, but not both older cats. The kitten was in surgery and we couldn't see her.

    A week ago we went to the shelter in Franklin County on the other side of the lake. The kitten room was full of action, with black and orange kitties bouncing off the walls. I howled at their antics. Then we went into the adult room. Orange tabbies. Gray tabbies. Long and short hair cats. We sat down and watched to see if any would approach. A tan tabby wandered over and jumped on the bench. She put her head in Terry's hand. Love at first sight.

    So, one week ago Mocha came home. In my next post, look for the naming challenge we faced.

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Fowl Weather Warning

    Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen. There's fowl weather ahead.

    On the one hand, we have a herd of ostriches. These are our elected officials who do not believe in global warming, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, compromising for the good of the country, or raising the debt ceiling. These same officials are at the center of the "Party of No." A minority with enough clout to change or block legislation. So far, it's hard to understand what this block of Republicans doesn't get about the debt ceiling. Even when the well-respected Paul Ryan explained the problem in terms of one syllable, several talking but empty heads denied there was a problem.

    Next, we have the Chicken Littles, who run around crying that the sky is going to fall on August 2 if we don't raise the debt ceiling. These same Chicken Littles demand a cut in spending, which most sentient human beings would agree is needed. They deny any need to increase revenues, saying that tax cuts for the wealthy will create jobs. I may not be the sharpest tool in the box, but I know that tax cuts for the rich create wealth for the rich. These CEOs line their pockets with tax cuts. It's their companies that should create jobs, but the companies are sitting on trillions. Why? Because there is no demand for the goods or services they provide. No demand, no increased supply.

    Next are the magpies, who screech and hog the cameras, spouting their well-rehearsed sound bites. Maybe if people like Eric Cantor say the same thing over and over, we will suddenly become smart it enough to get it. They want what they want and they want it now. Not flipping likely. And no, Eric, you can't have a cookie before dinner.

    Think about flocks of song birds. They compete for the same food at a deck bird feeder. They fly together and keep the flock stable. They look after each other. They sing at dawn in joy of a new day.

    We need more song birds in Washington than we do magpies. We need compromise. We need common sense. We need the Gang of Six to bring their ideas to a vote at least. We need our leaders to lead all of us, not just a small subset of the total population.

    Even buzzards have a use. They clean up carrion. I looked out the window this morning and saw about ten buzzards lazily circling across the cove, waiting for something to die. I hope it wasn't the United States.

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Shock and Awe

    "I'm shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on here!" So said Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca, as he pocketed his winnings from the illegal gambling going on in the back room at Rick's Cafe Americain. Sorry, wrong movie.

    I listened to several talking heads on news programs beginning Friday night after the latest jobless numbers were released. Until I became thoroughly bored with everyone saying the same thing, I couldn't help but laugh at the protestations of shock and awe from the politicos in Washington. OMG, the sky is falling. Jobless numbers went up. Only 18,000 jobs created. OMG, no one saw this coming.

    Ah, come on. Cut me some slack. Everyone should have seen this coming, that the June numbers would be bad. July is going to be worse. Why? Because many states balanced their budgets on the backs of layoffs. They had to cut services. They had to cut education. And those cuts had to come from somewhere. They came through layoffs and attrition.

    Anyone who professed shock that the numbers were bad were smokin' something funny. Anyone who even tangentially follows the news should have seen this coming. There will be more layoffs when the full impact of state budgets is felt.

    Wanna bet we have another round of shock and awe when that happens???

    And whose fault will it be? Why, Washington's, of course. Yeah, right.

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Ear Worms

    I can't get rid of my latest ear worm. You know what those are, don't you? The annoying songs that echo through your brain every waking moment.

    I remember years ago catching a new-fatal ear worm on a cross-country from between SFO and LGA. Five rows in front of me was an adorable child who sang an unadorable song for the entire flight. It took weeks to get "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" out of my mind. You can't ask a mother to make her child be quiet. I wanted to, but it wouldn't work.

    A couple of weeks ago I linked a nine-minute video to my Facebook account. No cuts, no splices, just nine minutes of Don MacLean's "American Pie." Yup, took a week to get rid of it. How did I do it? I bumped "American Pie" with the latest ear worm.

    I'm reading an advanced reader copy of Sharyn McCrumb's newest ballad novel. When I said I'd review it, I never, ever thought that "Tom Dooley" would about drive me nuts. Don't get me wrong. The book is excellent, and I'm a big fan of my old Kingston Trio song. Just not all day.

    I played a great joke on an elevator full of obnoxious strangers in midtown New York once. A group of tourists violated the elevator code: No talking. Locals in New York ignore everyone else in an elevator. You could be standing next to Paul McCartney, and you wouldn't say a thing. Just not done. Several locals hissed at the tourists, but nothing stopped their incessant yapping. When I got off, I left them an ear worm. I started singing "It's a Small World After All." Off key. Loudly. And I leave you with that little ear worm, because it is a small world, after all.

    Sunday, June 26, 2011


    I've been listening to many people complain about how their friends are treating them lately. Friends don't call or stop by anymore. They turn down dinner invitations. They don't come to group events. Few if any spontaneous potluck suppers on a deck overlooking the lake. And then they complain about not knowing anyone.

    Take yesterday, for example. Our homeowners association has an annual meeting/potluck barbeque every June. Fewer than 25% of the owners and their spouses turn out. This year, several new owners came to the end our our cul-de-sac. They got to meet other neighbors and found they had a lot in common with many of them. One owner, however, didn't show up. I was surprised, since she had been looking forward to the meeting, looking forward to connecting with her neighbors. I called her to see if everything was all right, and left a message on her cell. Nothing yet, although I know she's fine. She was out walking her new puppy this morning. Sadly, an opportunity missed to talk with neighbors.

    One woman recently told me that we would probably be close friends if this were a different time and place. Puzzling statement, since we live barely 25 miles away, share many of the same literary passions, and love a good cup of tea or coffee. Still, with all we have in common, we have tried -- and failed -- four times in the past four months to get together for girl talk. We are supposed to meet tomorrow, but since she hasn't responded to my latest e-mails on where to meet, I've made other plans.

    Two dear friends of many decades tell me I'm one of their best friends, yet when I need something, they are "busy." When one suffered a loss earlier this year, I dropped everything to be at her side, but when I needed a bit of consolation weeks later, she was too busy. Bridge, golf, you know how it is. Yes, I know. And I'm afraid this friendship may have run its natural course. The other invited himself up to visit, only to forget he asked to come. Fortunately, we know not to "hold his room" if someone else wants to drop in for a weekend.

    I wonder how many people think they are being friends when they forward jokes all the time, but don't take time to drop two lines into an email. At least the jokes tell me they are alive. And how many other people think they are being good friends because they post what they are doing on Facebook. I see Facebook as a public broadcast service. I love it when someone likes what I post, or responds.

    And I was very grateful to all those who sent condolences when my cat died. It meant a lot. It would have meant even more if some of my closest friends had called. But, hey, that would actually involve personal contact. Ooooh, maybe we have become a society where our human interaction is filtered through our keyboards. As a writer, I filter life thought my keyboard, but I still like sitting with someone and chatting. Face to face. Not Facebook to Facebook. I like being old school.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Summer Solstice

    Ah, the summer solstice came yesterday. I'd planned my normal Druid dance to celebrate. Because I was working all day, I wanted to dance at dark, several hours after the true solstice.

    I could have been dancing at 5 pm. Why? On the longest day of the year, it was almost completely dark by 4:30. Overhead was a thunderstorm. I don't dance when there is lightning. I thought I'd wait. Two and a half hours and two and a half inches of rain, later, it was still dark, still rainy, and still too dangerous to dance outside.

    So much for the summer solstice. So much for dancing. Pooh.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    People Behaving Badly

    I really wanted to avoid calling this post "Men Behaving Badly," because women behave badly too. What is it with people who have a lot of perceived power suddenly think they are God's gift to the opposite sex? I mean, it's probably been going on since the dawn of time, but we didn't have YouTube, blogs, Facebook and Twitter at the dawn of time.
    Why do these people think it's all right to have affairs? Look at a small number of those who did most recently. And look at what happened to their careers and marriages.

  • One former president had an affair in the Oval Office. His wife stood by him. They are still married. He's rebounded into a powerful role in society. Who saw that coming?
  • Several Congressmen and Senators got caught in the past few years with their pants down. Some are still in Congress; some resigned; some were divorced.
  • A former vice presidential candidate had an affair while his wife was dying of cancer. Yes, he's cute (if you like that type). Yes, he's coiffed. Yes, he's a jerk. And yes, he's with the woman he had an affair with. You could almost see that one coming.
  • There's that guy in New York who has three wives and several affairs. He thought he'd run for president, but his comb-over wasn't enough to overcome the types of questions he'd face on the campaign trail. Everyone should have seen this one coming.
  • Then there's a former Speaker of the House who divorced his dying wife, had several affairs, and asks the electorate to forgive and forget. Like, how's that going to work?
  • Don't forget the sports heroes who've cheated on their trophy wives, been divored, and seen their careers tank as a result. Small justice for the humiliation their families suffered.
  • And now we have a Congressman from New York who thinks he's not cheating on his gorgeous (and pregnant) wife when sexting photos of his crotch and engaging in sexual e-mails. What planet did he come from? And when will he leave the headlines?

    One thing we can thank two wayward husbands for adding to the American English lexicon. "I'm a sex addict" seems to be a new way of saying "I was horny." And "I was hacked" is a new synonym for "I was stupid."

    May they all think about their wives and families before putting themselves in positions where they first feel they have to lie, then have to 'fess up to lying, and then try to wiggle out of the consequences of bad behavior. May we not have to see their names and behaviors plastered all over the papers and news shows. Frankly, none of you are great catches.
  • Thursday, June 9, 2011

    A Grandson Balances Everything

    If you follow this blog regularly, you know Terry and I recently lost our cat, Nikki. Yes, only a cat to some, but a purry companion to us.

    And you know I am getting techy about getting sidetracked and letting what I feel is small stuff pile on. The sabbatical and saying no are two ways to get refocused.

    One new focus is Howard Marshall Eriksen, "Howie." We saw him for the first time two weeks ago and fell in love. At two months, his personality is developing. He's a lazy eater who falls asleep with the nipple in his mouth. He's happy and smiles a lot, particularly when he's on a lap or in his rocky, bouncy chair. He's vain, because his rocky, bouncy chair has a mirror tied to it. He can spend an hour staring at the cute baby. He melts down at the adult dinner hour, but calms down for bath and bed. He has the parents and all sets of grandparents wrapped around his little fingers.

    Howie has more outfits than any child can wear, but the Payne Stewart outfit was perfect. I hope he becomes a golfer, but more than that, I hope he becomes whatever he wants to be.

    Howie is lucky. He has so many sets of grandparents that we all had to sort out what we wanted to be called. Terry thought about his name and decided he would honor his father-in-law and be Pop-Pop.

    I write about Mad Max, who doesn't want to be called Grandma or any cute derivitive. I'm like Max. I picked a name that doesn't really mean I'm a grandparent. Oh, no, I won't tell you want it is. I can tell you it is not Mad Max.

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    R.I.P., Nikki

    If you are reading this, you should know that I, Nikki, wrote it. It's my obituary, and I wanted it to be in my words. I passed over today, May 25, at 10:30 in the morning.

    I had a terrific life. I came into the world in Lewiston, Idaho, in September, 1994. I was the offspring of a wild barn cat and a tom who was "just passing through." I lived in Uncle Glenn and Aunt Michelle's barn for a few weeks. During that time, Aunt Michelle captured me and began socializing me. I was about three weeks old when my permanent human mother, Betsy, saw me. I was so cute she decided to invite me to live with her and my human father, Terry.

    There was only one tiny problem. Uncle Glenn and Aunt Michelle lived in Idaho; Mom and Dad-to-be lived in Ohio. Not a big problem. Uncle Glenn got me a frequent flyer card and delivered me to Ohio just before Christmas.

    I loved my new home. My new parents fussed over me (what's not to fuss over with a calico?), gave me a nice house to live in, plenty of toys, lots of good food, and a seemingly endless supplies of mousies in the back yard. I became the mouse killer of the neighborhood.

    After a few years, Mom and Dad moved me to Virginia, where I had another nice house and more backyard mousies to eat. We were happy in northern Virginia, until both of my parents got restless and bought some land at Smith Mountain Lake.

    They built a house and began taking me to the lake almost every weekend. I had my own traveling condo, a nice cage Dad raised so that I could look outside. Mom says I was a really good traveler. I liked looking out the window, but I liked getting to one of my two houses more. How many cats do you know who have the suburban house AND the country house? Well, I did.

    I confess I was ready for my transient life to end. Four years ago it did, when Mom and Dad promised me I wouldn't have to move again. They were almost right. I grew mature and wise on the sunny deck and under my very own miniature Japanese maple tree. I slept in puddles of sunlight on the rug, lay under the Christmas tree and played "find the cat" among the presents, enjoyed drinks of shower water, and many lap naps and pats from my parents. I loved lying on Mom's tummy when she stretched out to read, and I loved lying on Dad's legs at night to watch TV. I didn't like being evicted from tummy and lap with complaints that I was too heavy. I wasn't heavy; I was fluffy.

    I declined over the past few months. About three weeks ago, my private friend, Karen, gave Mom a communication from me. I told Karen to tell Mom I was ready to go when I got too frail. She and Dad cried but listened to what I had to say.

    Last week, I got really sick, but no one knew it. I got attacked by the bully in the neighboorhood. This mean cat bit me on the shoulder, but I didn't know it. I knew he bit my ear, but no one knew about the shoulder. I grew a large absess that finally broke open this week. I couldn't fight this off, and I didn't want to. I gave Mom and Dad plenty of love the last two days. Then I asked them to help me go into the light, my last move. Today, they did.

    Please don't cry for me. I had a great life and left it much loved, with memories no one can take away. I hope Mom and Dad stop crying soon. Eventually, I want them to get another calico. It won't be me, but they have so much love to give any calico who came to live with them would be in Kitty Nirvana.

    Good bye, my friends. I had a great life. and I had the last word.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Terrorism after Osama bin Laden

    You knew a blog post about bin Laden was coming, if you know me.

    Ding, dong, the beast is gone.Terrorism isn't.

    Our Seals and the CIA may have taken out the titular leader of Al Qaida, but they didn't take out Al Qaida itself. Networks work differently than hierarchical organizations. It's probably been years since Bin Laden actually planned any activities. We know he planned 9/11, the bombing of several US embassies, and the bombing of the US Cole. He has so many cells around the world it's naive to think taking out the figurehead would take out the network.

    It won't.

    I see warnings coming from what the Seals did on May 1. First, you can hide, but we will get you. Somewhere, somehow, we will get you. We won't bring you to trial; we will take you out. As George W.Bush said, bin Ladin was "wanted dead or alive." Our team executed a near-perfect mission. They went in, found their man, killed him and brought out his body for confirmation. It was also fitting the Seals and the US Navy buried his body at sea. There will be no martyr memorials where people can trek and pledge further jihad.

    Second, we have to be on alert for the next set of attacks. They will come. Too many jihadists and others who hate the United States will continue trying to destroy us. This war on terror has no borders, no fixed battlefields, no end in sight. We can fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the war on terror will be fought anywhere a jihadist or hater of the United States can get his hands on bomb-making materials. We see the small guys all over the place getting arrested and shut down. We see the small guys targeting malls, train stations, large gatherings of people. That's why they call it terrorism. The battle is fought in the shadows, not in the glare of media spotlights. It's fought by children wearing suicide vests, by cowards who strap explosives to women with disabilities, by men on motor scooters who have no problem taking as many lives as possible, dying in the attack.

    Another warning. If you are a jihadist or are making headlines promoting violence against the United States and its people, we know who you are, and we will get you. You have targets on your back. We have the stomach to take you out. No warnings. No telling the local government we are coming in. We don't want you warned. We want you dead or neutralized. Make that dead.

    There's no room for negotiation here. We don't want to talk about your future. You don't have one. We don't want to offer you life in prison without the possibility of parole. We don't even want you in SuperMax where you will never, ever see sunlight again. We don't want you in Gitmo, outside scrutiny and barely covered by the rule of law. WE. DON'T. WANT. YOU.

    You started this war. We will end it.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Activism, Then and Now

    I have recently had the pleasure of a conversation with Nikki Giovanni, poet, activist, mother, daughter, black woman. Did I say activist and poet? Professor Giovanni is going to read poetry in our community on Thursday, Apirl 28th, in honor of National Poetry Month. My interview with her covered so much ground that I couldn't put it all in the article I wrote for Laker Weekly on April 22.

    Professor Giovanni talked about her continuing activism, which ranges from rights for black women, to rights for all women, to equality. She told me several stories about the Freedom Riders who came down from New York to the Deep South to register blacks to vote.

    This got me thinking about my own years of activism. Back "in the day," I was a class A-one protestor. I grew up in California, so I wasn't really involved in the civil rights movement first hand. I listened to Dr. King's speeches and watched the horrors unfold in black and white on nightly television, but these were images. They weren't my reality.

    My reality was getting our troops out of what I considered an unjust and illegal war in Vietnam. My high school graduating class was drafted nearly en mass, with over 80% of the boys being called up. The lucky ones came back - or never went because of exemptions. When the draft gave way to the lottery system, I thought my friends were safe. Not so, because my college graduating class got blitzed too.

    I counseled young men about legal ways to avoid the lottery or draft. I sat in. I marched. I stood silently to protest Dow Chemical recruiting on my college campus. I spent several nights in jail, arrested for illegal occupation of Federal buildings. Read: I sat in until the police finally decided to roust us from the lobbies of these buildings. I will never forget what it was like to sit in a drunk tank, so crammed in that we had no place for our legs. We had to wrap our arms around them to keep them close to our chests.

    I boycotted iceburg lettuce, table grapes and Gallo wine, because these were produced by agribusiness. The workers labored in deplorable conditions: no shade, no fresh water, no toilets. When Cesar Chavez began organizing marches in the Delano Valley for workers' rights, I marched right behind him. It was the first and last time I was interested in unionizing, but the results of our efforts were better working conditions, including such obvious benefits as shaded benches for lunch, fresh water tanks and porta-potties. I still have pellets of buckshot in my butt as a reminder that not everyone thought we were doing the right thing.

    That was then.

    This is now.

    I have lamented in recent years that no one has causes. No one is fired up about inequities. No one gives a damn. The Tea Party has disproved these thoughts.

    I do not agree with the Tea Party. I think most of them or their potential candidates are shouting about the wrong things. Birthers? Gimme a break. Obama not qualified to go to an Ivy League school? Neither was W but he went and graduated. Reproductive rights? Keep your paws and laws off my body. Family values? And these are what???

    What I would like to see protestors shouting about are the big issues facing our nation's future: What do we do about the failing banking system? How do we begin trimming our national debt, so that my new grandson has something to look forward to? How do we get Congress to stop watching the Home Shopping Network with our government credit cards in hand? How do we face the fact that Social Security wouldn't be in trouble if previous Congresses hadn't borrowed against it without repayment? How do we keep our pledges to our senior citizens for health coverage? How do we help the poor stay well and maybe break the cycle of poverty? How do we put people back to work? And why the hell are the Tea Partiers and the rest of Congress so pissy-scared about raising taxes?

    Now if any one of these issues became a rallying cry for the populace, you can count me in. I'll lace up my sneakers, grab a bota bag of water and get back to the front lines. But until that happens, I think we will be putting too much noise in the system worrying over funding Planned Parenthood, public television, the Army sponsoring a NASCAR car, and whether or not Obama was born in the USA.

    If people dig hard enough, perhaps they will find that Obama wasn't born anywhere, that he's a vampire and, therefore, immortal. Wouldn't that give the Tea Partiers something to sink their teeth into?

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Letter to the Editor

    Last week, I was motivated by a series of recent events to write a letter to the editor of the Roanoke Times. Because many of you don't see the Times, I am reprinting it here.

    "Hey world, are you listening? Over the past few weeks, both houses of the U.S. Congress, their leaders, and the Executive Branch engaged in an exaggerated game of “school yard bullying.”

    If you watched the news, you saw a succession of primarily guys in ties pointing the finger of blame at “the other side,” because the other side didn’t like what their side was advocating for budget reform. Forget the details. They were bad enough, but the name calling and blamesmanship were down-right embarrassing.

    If one more guy in a tie had yapped about speaking for the people, I would have run screaming from the room. None were speaking for me.

    Hey world, did you learn a lesson? Even with the egregious behavior of our elected officials, we actually got a negotiated agreement on the current year’s budget. If no one likes it, it must be all right.

    Hey world, did you notice? Even with all the bad behavior, no one drew a gun. No one tried to overthrow our government. No one walked out on the negotiations.

    Hey Wisconsin, did you learn a lesson?"

    I might add that democracy is messy, but I wouldn't trade it for any other system in the world today. Tomorrow, maybe, but not today.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Spam Filter

    Forget how much money I won today. Forget how many lost bank accounts await processing as soon as I turn over my personal bank information.

    No, my spam filter today gave me the chance to write a quick blog entry. I know there are two groups of dates waiting to meet me: hot Asians and big and beautiful women.

    Next, I was offered many different items for my body. I need new bras, according to one spam-o-gram, followed immediately in the list by a company offering discreet prosthetic boobs. Which was it: new boobs for a non-cancer sufferer or new bras? Make up your mind.

    Now, I need to lose weight and there's a spam-o-gram that will help. (I do need the lose some winter weight, but I'll do it my way, thank you very much.)

    Don't forget the government loans waiting for me, the new mortgages already pre-appoved (addressed to applcant), and a plea from a friend who was robbed in England just this weekend. Hmm, I had dinner with him on Friday and he didn't say anything about going to England...

    I can watch videos on my new satellite TV hook up, if I could only get a direct line of sight to any satellite.

    Then there were the spam-o-grams for class action suits against my bad hip replacement (don't have a hip replacement; don't need one); my terrible traffic accident (didn't have one); mesotheoloma (didn't work with asbestos); and for lung cancer because I was a long term smoker (one cigarette at age thirteen does not a long term smoker make).

    There were more, but you get the idea. I know if I wanted to weave a short story around a day's worth of spam, no one would believe me.

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Wishes for a Child New Born

    Terry and I are blessed. Our first grandchild has made his way into the world on his own terms. Howard Marshall Eriksen was scheduled to arrive by C-section on March 22, but when our daughter Aleta went into labor on Sunday, March 20, the doctors decided the kid was ready. So, on his own terms, Howie arrived.

    Mother and child are doing fine. Dad Neal is, too. All three are sleep-deprived. The doctors decided that Howie should eat every two hours around the clock. That meant someone had to bring the baby to Aleta so she could feed him. Neal's mother Mary lives nearby and stepped in to help. Aleta says Howie is a lazy eater and sometimes falls asleep at the breast. She has discovered breast-feeding is not for the faint of heart.

    Now that we have a grandchild, I made a few wishes for his future.

    1. I wish Howie live in a world where we no longer judge people by the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religion. Peel off the external trappings like skin and clothing, and we are all the same. I hope Howie is able to see the worth of each individual, not some external symbol someone says we must fear.
    2. I wish Howie live in a world without war. Probably not possible, but if he follows my first wish then he has a chance to live out my second wish.
    3. I wish Howie live in a world where rich and poor become closer together. If we can mitigate the broad discrepancies between wealth and lack of wealth, maybe the world can live in peace.
    4. I wish Howie live in a world that can feed its population. Without enough food and water for all, wishes one, two and three aren't likely to come to fruition.
    5. I wish Howie to have the love of family. That's pretty much a no-brainer. He has that and always will. It will give him strength and a sense of well-being.
    6. I wish Howie live up to his potential. No matter what that potential may be, Howie should have the chance to be his best. Maybe that's a president of the U.S. Maybe it's as an educator. Maybe it's as a laborer. I wish he have the choice and that he have the courage to live out his potential.

    I have other wishes, but these will do for now.

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    When Grief Leads to Introspection

    I hadn't expected to post two essays on grief back to back, if ever; however, events from the last two weeks overtook my planning. This post had to come out now.

    Backstory: I've known Art Elias, one of my dearest friends,for 35 years. We met in business, travelled to Japan together on business, shared a wedding anniversary when we both remarried, made move than 23 anniversary trips together, bitched at each other because of his unique stroke-counts in golf. He's a survivor: Pacific Theater in the Navy in WWII, bladder cancer, COPD, emphysema, bad golf (me), Kentucky basketball (his wife Betty), Alabama football (him). And I survived his mentoring.

    Two weeks ago, he wasn't feeling well: chest pains. A trip to the cardiologist led to three options: meds, heart catherization to see what was going on inside, and open heart surgery. The cardiologist said those were the "standard" options. My friend had one: meds. His body wouldn't have survived surgery.

    Last Sunday he felt worse. Betty called 911 and off they went to the hospital. ER and ICU docs said he needed more oxygen and a chest x-ray. Bad news from the x-ray: pneumonia in one lung. No wonder he was having trouble breathing. Going into congestive heart failure, but that could be treated. What couldn't be treated was a fairly massive heart attack. It was as if he looked at his watch and said, "Time to go." He went.

    The funeral was this week. His wife of 28 years attended to the business of dying without a plan. All Art had done was write his obit. Nothing else, because he was superstitious about death. He refused to talk about it. Plans made, friends coming in from all over the country, and no rabbi to say any prayers. Art didn't believe in organized religion, but he was very proud of his Jewish heritage.

    Over the years of fighting and winning against bladder cancer, Art and Betty came to meet a group of cloistered Carmelite nuns. Picture this: a New York Jew married to a Southern Baptist lady asking the Carmelites to pray for his recovery. They did. He did. He sent checks after every check up with the box score: Carmelites 1, cancer zero. They didn't have time to pray for his heart, but one of the order showed her heart by attending both the visitation and the memorial and reading a poem she wrote about their friendship. Not a dry eye in the house, including hers. No rabbi could be bothered, since he hadn't paid to be a member of a temple. The Carmelites knew the need. 'Nuff said.

    After the business of visitation and burial were over, and we were stuffed with food at the wake, we returned to the house. And that's where we bumped into little traps all over the place. His laundry in the bin. Friends washed it. Pill bottles everywhere. I took them home for proper disposal through the pharmacy. Bags of munchies. Given to neighbors. Smoked salmon. Eaten for breakfast. Little things that reminded all of us of the person who was no longer there physically.

    I drove the 500 miles home yesterday. I had nine hours to put my brain on autopilot, but my brain wasn't interested in being on autopilot. It was interested in thinking about what is (and isn't) important in life.

    What's important: Friends and family. Not much else. Showing them how you feel. Helping others. Being there when needed. Having your affairs in order so that your family doesn't have to make decisions when it should be grieving.

    What's not important: Acquiring stuff. Chasing the once-mighty dollar. Being captive to a job, if you can afford not to be captive. Sweating the small stuff. Keeping grudges. Anger.

    And my conclusion: time to make the changes in life I've wanted to make for a decade. More on the changes as I make them. Fear not, I will make them sooner rather than later.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Political Musings

    I've been piling these up for a few days. Today, they had to burst forth.

    1. Government Accountability Office finds duplicate programs. A rider to a bill passed last year requires the GAO to do an annual audit. The first one was released yesterday and found massive duplication of efforts among different government departments. For example, 15 different agencies oversee food-safety laws, more than 20 separate programs help the homeless and 80 programs provide for economic development. Do you think if we removed some of the bloat from the Federal government, we might be able to pay down the debt? I wish the voting public would stand on its hind legs and howl about this waste. I know my tax dollars would go further if we didn't have 80 programs for economic development. Maybe this is something the tea partiers should get behind. More money, small government. Seems like it would fit into that group's stated goals.

    2. Sitting in at the Wisconsin state house. Shades of the '60s when concerned citizens blocked access to government buildings to get their points of view across to their elected officials. This is democracy at work. Peaceful protests of serious issues, no National Guard called out (yet) to remove people, and a group of elected officials hiding in an adjacent state. A different kind of March Madness continues. Let it be a lesson to the countries looking for democracy. Democracy's messy and not always quick, but it's a better form of government than revolution.

    3. And speaking of revolution, what about the madman in Libya? Gadhafi says his people love him and will fight to their last bullet. Maybe, but he reminds me of the Iraqi who was standing in front of television cameras telling his people that Iraq had not fallen. And the tanks were rumbling down the highway behind him. Regardless of what we think aobut Gadhafi, his people don't deserve what he's doing to them. Unfortunately, after the fall may come a void into which who knows what will pour. We can only hope that calmer and wiser heads will prevail when Gadhafi falls. And he will fall. He can't continue slaughtering his own people without them getting sick and tired of it. And then, his promise to die on Libyan soil could come true.

    Enough ranting.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Better Living Through Chemistry

    My husband Terry can tell you I'm beyond stubborn when it comes to admitting I get sick. I coughed and snorted through a week of unpleasantness before I caved in. I kee\pt telling him that I know when I need to seek help, because I know my body better than any doctor ever will. I live in it, after all.

    I gave up on Sunday. After two nights of sleeping in fifteen-minute increments, and not being able to walk across a room without holding on and stopping for breath and spiking a fever, it was time to seek DRUGS. After all, Terry said, if Big Pharma didn't want us to live better through chemistry, they wouldn't make the drugs.

    Since I couldn't talk without going into a coughing jag that left lungs on the floor, Terry called our family doctor. When the receptionist stopped laughing, she said they were down two doctors on Monday and had reached overflow capacity in the waiting room. All patients were being shunted to the emergency room or to doc-in-the-box.

    We chose the local doc-in-the-box. Terry drove, since I have so little lung capacity that driving was out of the question. We drove into an empty parking lot. IN FLU SEASON? Based on the hours painted on the door, you can only need urgent medical help between one and eight pm. Back home to sit upright and cough. We returned at 1:10 and were fourth in line. When we left at 4 pm, the waiting room was full and sounded like an outpatient clinic in a tuberculosis ward.

    The doc popped out of his box, poked and prodded, asked me to cough (BIG mistake), looked at my electronic health record (all of my doctors are part of a single medical system, so he could pull up EVERYTHING). Then came the diagnoses. Plural.

    "You have cute sinisitis." I've never heard of cute sinuses. Then he said, "You have cute bronchitis." Kinda thick accent. Took me a couple of coughs to realize he meant Acute, not cute. And contagious as hell.

    Doc-in-the-box believes in throwing the kitchen sink at what's "going around." I left with four prescriptions, two over-the-counter recommendations, and instructions to rest and eat lots of chicken soup. It's good for the soul, he said. I understood got that. Even read the book years ago.

    One good thing about not being able to sleep: I got a lot of reading done!

    And, because my writing group meets in a retirement community, I'll skip Thursday's meeting. I do NOT infect people when I can avoid it.

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Mass Die Offs

    We've seen several mass die offs in the news this year. Birds falling out of the sky in Arkansas. Fish popping to the surface of a river, dead. Stink bugs murdered in my house, but the mass die off that flew below the radar screen happened in my chest of drawers.

    Over the past two months, undies and socks conspired to expire. One by one, not a pair, but one of two pairs, then two of three pairs, then three of four pairs, etc. Socks with no mates live in isolation, never to be worn again, because there are no matching orphans.

    Undies are a different matter. Bought at widely different times, as many as half a dozen developed rips, holes or tears within a couple of weeks. What's with this? Why did so many give up the elastic at the same time?

    I personally think it is a conspiracy designed to get women to go to their favorite shop and buy more socks and underwear. Thank goodness I had the forethought to ask for socks for Christmas and my birthday. One can never have too many pairs of socks. As for the underwear, I didn't think I needed any, so no letters to Santa for new "mentionables."

    How weird is it that the mass die off didn't extend to my husband's chest of drawers? Yup. It's a conspiracy.

    Monday, January 31, 2011

    Blind Drivers

    Terry and I took a week off in January and went for almost a week in Florida. We went to the west coast this time, flying into Punta Gorda and then checking out places to revisit in Ft. Myers.

    You may remember that Punta Gorda used to be a wonderfully historic town until hurricane Charlie whacked the heck out of it. Back in 2004, before Katrina and Rita, the hurricane center tracked a storm in the Gulf of Mexico. Charley was supposed to hit Tampa/St. Pete, so emergency crews evacuated people to Orlando. A few hours before Charley was due to make landfall, a local weatherman said, "Holy shit. It turned right."

    The storm went from a category two to a four in about an hour and slammed into Punta Gorda, all but blowing and washing it away. Today, there are lots of empty lots you can get cheap. Even in what used to be the historic district. There are giant swaths of land with nothing on it but concrete slabs and abandoned swimming pools full of green slime.

    What's this got to do with blind drivers? The hurricane did not blow them away. We put on our defensive driving hats and tried to anticipate which driver would turn in front of us, which would turn right from the left turn lane, which would stop on green and go on red. We were lucky, because we didn't hit anyone. It was close several times, but we returned the rental car with no dings or dents.

    We even talked with one woman whose husband refused to stop driving. Legally blind, he gets behind the wheel, and she tells him where to go, where to turn, when to stop. I don't think she can see three feet in front of her either.

    I don't think I could ever live in Florida. Not until I need a white cane. And only then would I feel comfortable behind the wheel. Otherwise, it's damned scary when you are the only driver who can see the obstacles.

    Friday, January 28, 2011

    Pissed Off Cat

    Get away from me! Shoo! It's my turn to send a message. And it's my turn to complain.

    Last week, my humans packed me into my carrier cage and took me to what they euphemistically call "camp." I've been there plenty of times before, but I have NEVER suffered the indignities that I suffered this time. When they picked me up, I was wearing a hat.

    No, I do NOT think I look cute. Do you think I like looking like an idiot--or a dog. I do NOT. I was just supposed to stay a couple of days, but my female human was worried about my weight (I'm fashionably thin) and wanted my thyroid checked. That means a blood test. I HATE blood tests. Oh yes, note the shaved leg. That's for the tests and surgery. My male human says I look like half a poodle. I hissed at him.

    And she alsw wanted a spot on my back checked. I'd been worrying it for a while and licking it and it had gotten hard. "Gnarly" the mean doctor called it. They decided it should be removed. Didn't ask me, thank you very much. I could have told them it was fine, but noooo, they had to remove it.

    That means, they put me to sleep. Then they shaved my brown spot. Then they cut me open. And then they cleaned my teeth before stitching me up. I'm bald! I'll be bald until spring. And I can't go outside until this nasty wound turns into a scar.

    I'm getting even. I won't leave them alone. Instead of ignoring my humans, I have decided I must be where they are all the time. In laps. Under feet. I'll teach them to leave me alone. And I'll teach them to do all sorts of bad things to me.

    My male human was pleased that the gnarly lump was friendly. At least, I think that's what benign means. No more medicines for me. I'm done. Nada. Zip. Nil. Don't even think about it.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Theater of the Absurd

    You all know I'm a news and political junkie. I watched some of the opening of Congress and loved the theater of reading the Constitution. I did bother me that one person was so ill-informed that s/he didn't know two pages were stuck together, but I chalked it up to plain ignorance. Maybe reading the Constitution will help some.

    Then, there is the non-debate over repeal of the health care bill. Oh, sorry, the Obama Job Killing Health Care Act. Two paragraphs that offer nothing to replace flawed law. Repeal would take away help for seniors in closing the donut hole, would drop everyone older than 21 from a parental health plan and would kick children with pre-existing conditions back into health care limbo.

    That's what this is all about. Drama. No plan. Just pandering to part of the populace. And it's only theater. It'll play in the House, not in the Senate, not even in Peoria.

    I got to thinking about plans and programs. No one seems to have a plan on how to fix anything. I do. I have an idea on how to fix the problem with the 99ers, those people who've been out of work for more than 99 weeks and who are drawing unemployment insurance.

    I want each of us who have a job to adopt a 99er. That 99er would move into my house, where I would supply room and board. The 99er would have chores and tasks and one more year to find a job. Any job. Any where. No more unemployment insurance during the adoption period. No food stamps. No drain on the Federal budget.

    Yes, it would be a drain on my budget, but no one in Congress gives a damn about my budget. After all, it doesn't have a debt limit. My budget would be my problem, not the government's problem. I would provide a clean, well lighted place to live, the same food my husband and I eat and encouragement to apply for and get a job.

    Simple solution. As easy as when I proposed we solve two problems with one program: we feed the homeless to the hungry. But that wasn't well received. Somehow, I don't think "adopt a 99er" will be well received either.

    At least I have a damned idea.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Buyer Beware - Mutts Customer Service

    The old saw is: If you like something, you tell a friend. If you don't like something, you tell the world. This is a complaint about the Mutts comic strip customer service. I'll post this entry on Facebook and tweet about it. I hope it is linked on other FB pages and re-tweeted.

    I ordered a print of a Mutts comic strip as a Christmas present to me. I followed the link on the Daily Mutts feed in my inbox. I clicked on "order this print," searched for the print I wanted, placed the order and received a strip from a week later. It was not the strip I wanted and think I ordered. I did not see the fine print at the bottom saying orders are non-refundable and non-exchangable.

    Customer support insists I ordered a print from a week later than the one I wanted. I can't prove who's right. It doesn't matter.

    I sent a note to customer service and received a cold-shoulder reply: "I have double checked your order and the print you ordered was from October 8, 2010. Kindly note, due to all Pick-a-Prints being custom printed, orders are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. I apologize for this inconvenience."

    Note that the link goes out to the print Mutts customer service says I ordered. Easy way to prove you are right. Would have been no problem if customer service had sent a copy of my order... So, Mutts customer service could have sent me to the print shipped -- or I could have ordered the wrong print.

    It is true that all prints are custom printed. They are. And there is an embossed seal on the paper. No signature by Patrick McDonnell, but I didn't expect that. And all prints are struck when ordered. It would be no problem to refund my money or let me exhange the print for the correct one.

    What is the upshot of this? I will never buy anything from Patrick McDonnell again. His customer service isn't.

    And what about the incorrect print? I haven't decided whether to use it as a fire starter, throw it away or toss it in the Goodwill bag. I will not keep it and I will never display anything from the comic strip again.

    Saturday, January 1, 2011


    Happy New Year! It's now officially 2011. Let the 2012 Presidential campaign begin.

    Oh, not that. Let it not begin.

    Here's how I ended 2010. Actually, I end every year the same way since I was a student in Japan when dinosaurs walked the earth. I picked up many great habits in Japan. One that I've never lost is ending a year with a clean house and no bills unpaid.

    I spent much of New Year's Day cleaning and putting away Christmas, all but the tree. That comes down today during the Rose Bowl. When I was a student, I would clean my tiny (9' x 9') apartment before going to my host family's house to clean with them. When we were done, we'd go out for a nice dinner, then come home and get dressed to go to temple at midnight. The girls would put on their kimono; I would put on a dress. (Nothing looks sillier than a 5'8" white woman in a kimono. Just not a pretty sight.) We'd walk through the cold and snow (usually) to wave incense smoke over our heads. Then we'd move to the temple altar and throw coins in for good luck.

    I can do everything except go to a temple. I doubt there is a Buddhist temple within 100 miles of where I live. Maybe more. Still, I can complete all but that of the ritual.

    The other part of the ritual is to pay all bills before New Year's Day. That means having them in the mailbox or in the postal carrier's hands, not sitting on a desk waiting a week before they can be mailed.

    There is something so satisfying about having completed these two seemingly trivial traditions. Part of is an enduring connection with my years in Japan. Part of it is knowing that I am starting a new year as fresh and "new" as possible. Part of it is an annual renewal.

    And now, with my resolutions posted on my cork board on my desk, it's time to begin working on one of them. Time for a health walk. See ya' later.