Monday, December 31, 2007

The year in review, or, at least, what I read in 2007...

Well, it is the last day of the year.

I haven’t made any resolutions (anyway, none that I’m willing to go on record with), and I’ll leave the “year in review” pieces to those who don’t get as depressed as I do looking back at this year of record stupidities.

But, I thought I’d at least share my reading list for the year.

At the beginning of the year I decided that I was going to read a book a week. I ended up short by 12. But that means that I did manage to read 40 books this year. Not bad in a year that was crowded with work, with taking care of my mother, with trying to be a more active writer, and with all the various activities that make up everyday life.

Some of this list might look familiar; I posted the list for the first half of the year at the end of June/beginning of July. Anyway, this is the list for the full year (the dates are the day I completed each book. Non-fiction titles are marked with an asterisk.

1. Rage, Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine Books, 2005) 391 pages (paperback edition). 1 January 2007.

2. Behind Closed Doors, Natalie R. Collins (St Martin Paperbacks, 2007) 322 pages. 8 January 2007.

3. The Lucifer Gospel, Paul Christopher (Onyx Books, New American Library, 2006) 357 pages. 4 February 2007.

4. Last on the Menu*, Sister Eleanor Quin, C. S. J. (Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969) 182 pages. 18 February 2007.

5. The Republican Noise Machine*, David Brock (Three Rivers Press, 2004; Afterward copyright 2005) 432 pages. 19 February 2007.

6. The Templar Legacy, Steve Berry (Ballantine Books, 2006) 487 pages. 24 February 2007.

7. The Republican War on Science*, Chris Mooney (Basic Books) 357 pages.
7 March 2007.

8. An Alphabetical Life*, Wendy Werris (Carroll & Graf Publishers) 292 pages. 12 March 2007.

9. Hotel California: The true-life adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and their many friends*, Barney Hoskins (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2006) 324 pages. 25 March 2007.

10. The Alexandria Link, Steve Berry (Ballantine Books, 2007) 462 pages. 26 March 2007.

11. Michelangelo’s Notebook, Paul Christopher (Onyx Books, 2005) 358 pages. 5 April 2007.

12. The Collar*, Jonathan Englert (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) 301 pages. 8 April 2007.

13. Tutu Deadly, Natalie M. Roberts (Berkley Prime Crime, 2007) 248 pages. 17 April 2007.

14. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus*, Charles C. Mann (Vintage, 2005, 2006) 541 pages. 4 May 2007.

15. All Saints, Liam Callahan (Delacorte, 2007). 7 May 2007.

16. The Last Cato, Matilde Asensi (Rayo, 2006; originally published in Spanish, 2001) 458 pages. 13 May 2007.

17. The Machine’s Child, Kage Baker (Tor, 2006) 351 pages. 22 May 2007.

18. Evolving God*, Barbara J. King (Doubleday, 2007) 262 pages. 30 May 2007.

19. Gods and Pawns, Kage Baker (Tor, 2007) 335 pages. 4 June 2007.

20. Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul*, Edward Humes (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2007) 380 pages. 22 June 2007.

21. By Their Father’s Hand: The True Story of the Wesson Family Massacre*, Monte Francis (Harper, 2007) 285 pages. 4 July 2007.

22. Rembrandt’s Ghost, Paul Christopher (Signet, 2007) 347 pages. 22 July 2007.

23. Dr. Mary’s Monkey: How the unsolved murder of a doctor, a secret laboratory in New Orleans and cancer-causing monkey viruses are linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the JFK assassination and emerging global epidemics*, Edward T. Haslam (TrineDay, 2007) 374 pages. 27 July 2007.

24. Echo Park, Michael Connelly (Warner, 2006) 427 pages. 30 July 2007.

25. The Ritual Bath, Faye Kellerman (Arbor House, 1986) 282 pages. 5 August 2007.

26. Straight Into Darkness, Faye Kellerman (Warner Books, 2005) 510 pages. 14 August 2007.

27. Gone, Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine Books, 2006) 365 pages. 19 August 2007.

28. Dress Her in Indigo, John D. MacDonald (Fawcett Crest, 1969) 301 pages. 26 August 2007.

29. The Garden of Eden and Other Criminal Delights, Faye Kellerman (Warner Books, 2006) 370 pages. 27 August 2007.

30. The Black Echo, Michael Connelly (Warner Books, 1992) 482 pages. 6 September 2007.

31. The Closers, Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, 2005) 403 pages. 11 September 2007.

32. The Concrete Blonde, Michael Connelly (Warner Books, 1994) 484 pages. 19 September 2007.

33. Lost Light, Michael Connelly (Warner Books, 2003) 385 pages. 5 October 2007.

34. Tapped Out, Natalie M. Roberts (Berkeley Prime Crime, 2007) 261 pages. 13 October 2007.

35. Trunk Music, Michael Connelly (St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1997) 427 pages. 21 October 2007.

36. The Overlook, Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, 2007) 225 pages. 30 October 2007.

37. The Last Coyote, Michael Connelly (Grand Central Publishing, 1995) 495 pages. 9 November 2007.

38. Angels Flight, Michael Connelly (Warner Books, 1999) 454 pages. 16 November 2007.

39. City of Bones, Michael Connelly (Warner/Vision Books, 2002) 421 pages. 23 November 2007.

40. The Prey, Allison Brennan (Ballantine, 2006) 395 pages. 18 December 2007.

I read a lot more fiction this year than I usually do, and as you can see, I went on quite a mystery tangent from about July on. This is not to say that I didn’t read any non-fiction in the last half of the year. I just got most of my non-fiction reading in other places than books, and most of the non-fiction books I dipped into were for research and I did not read all of any of them.

The tangent will likely continue, as the book I’m in the middle of now…actually two of the four books I’m reading now (yes, I read more than one book at a time)…are in the mystery genre. Of the other two, one is about trilobites and the other is about the opposing views of religion and other topics taken by Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. Interesting reading in all cases.

So, my question for you dear readers, is: What did you read in 2007? What do you recommend, and what do you recommend I stay away from? And, what is at the top of your to-read list for the new year?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I saw the real spirit of Christmas today...

I saw the real spirit of Christmas today.

It didn’t have anything to do with buying lots of presents or eating lots of food. It didn’t have anything to do with arguing about how to correctly greet people during the holiday season.

Driving home from checking on my friend Pamela’s dog…she’s on the East Coast celebrating with her family…I saw a woman (probably mother) and child standing on one of the freeway overpasses next to their bicycles smiling down at those of us driving on the freeway and waving big.

Obviously, I don’t know whether their motivation for giving this little gift of friendliness to the community had anything to do with the upcoming holiday or not. Perhaps they do this often. Maybe it is the halfway point on the bicycle ride they were taking, and they stopped to rest and just decided it would be fun to wave at the cars.

None of that matters. Often, Christmas cards carry messages with some form of the sentiment “Tidings of joy and peace on Earth”. Well, it seems like it would be fairly difficult to do anything harmful to peace while smiling and waving at people. And it brought me great joy to see them up there.

So, for me at least, those two individuals were the embodiment of the spirit of Christmas at that time and in that place.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mitt and Mike (don't) discuss Jesus and Lucifer...

I’ve been following this Mitt Romney-Mike Huckabee thing for the past few days, and I have to say that if they can’t find anything to do besides quibble about religion, they don’t need to be running for president. You might expect that sort of thing on the playground; I don't expect it on the campaign trail. Then again, I tend to be idealistic about these things.

But they are…running for president and quibbling about religion…and all of this gets spread out all over the media.

I won’t even discuss Mitt’s speech last week, or not much anyway. Suffice it to say that I know exactly what he was doing, who he was trying to impress, and I don’t think that throwing the atheists, the agnostics, and the non-monotheists under the bus in an attempt to gain the evangelical vote speaks very well for the man and his principles, especially after his line about a “symphony of faith”. Apparently he believes - or wants evangelicals to believe that he believes - that only monotheists, and preferably Christian monotheists, have a faith that is acceptable to him.

Not that it is all that easy to put your finger on exactly what Mitt believes, since he seems to change his mind so often on policy issues.

The more recent tempest in a teapot is more entertaining.

Apparently an article will appear on Sunday in the New York Times Magazine in which Mike Huckabee raises an interesting question of Mormon theology. Do the Mormons believe, he asks (rhetorically or not), that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers?

Mitt has come up sputtering that he thinks its dirty pool to attack his religion, and the LDS church has come up with a non-denial denial. According to a church spokesperson:

“We believe, as other Christians believe and as Paul wrote, that God is the father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are his spirit children. Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we worship him as the son of God and savior of mankind. Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for.”

All an accurate picture of LDS belief, as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go very far.

I was a Mormon for a long time. If I heard the story about Jesus and Lucifer once, I heard it a hundred times in Sunday School classes and Relief Society lessons and across the pulpit in a number of venues. It goes like this:

In the preexistence, Jesus was the eldest brother of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Their second son (or maybe the son of Heavenly Father and another of his plural wives; anyway, Heavenly Father’s second son) was Lucifer. Heavenly Father loved both of them exceedingly, and when the planning for this earth was in progress both Jesus and Lucifer presented their schemes for the Plan of Salvation. Jesus plan was that each spirit child (by then there were hosts of them, as Heavenly Father and his wives had been very busy) would come to earth for the mortal probation and have the free will to accept God’s plan and believe in him or not. Lucifer’s plan was that mortals would be forced to accept God’s plan of salvation. That way everyone would be saved, whether they wanted to be or not.

Heavenly Father put his seal of approval on Jesus’ plan. Of course, that pissed Lucifer off and he and his followers (generally numbered as one-third of Heavenly Father’s spirit children) rebelled. This resulted in the war in heaven, and Lucifer and his followers were ejected from Heaven.

Yeah. I know. But it’s what they teach. Whether they are willing to admit it or not. Which is why I don’t get why Mitt is going around now complaining about how Mike Huckabee has attacked his religion. Yes, Mike likely asked it in order to raise doubts about Mitt’s status as a Christian, or at least as a mainstream Christian. But, since it is something that has been widely taught in the LDS church for a long time, I find it fairly disingenuous of Mitt to act all offended. He said in his speech last week that “My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs.” He isn’t doing that if he isn’t willing to own all the teachings of his church.

Well, no. I do understand what is going on with Mitt’s protestations, just as I know what he was trying to do in his speech.

That story is not for the consumption of outsiders. There are a lot of things like that in Mormonism, actually. You see, Mormons, or at least the official church treasure the concept of milk before meat. That means that when someone is an outsider, or is investigating the faith, you don’t exactly tell them everything. You don’t talk too much about things like how Jesus and Lucifer are the eldest spirit children of Heavenly Father. You don’t talk about how Heavenly Father has more than one Heavenly Wife. You don’t talk about the story (a faith-promoting rumor, basically; read that as a specifically Mormon urban legend) that Jesus occasionally comes down personally to the temples to check the records and see that everything is being done correctly.

The things that fall into this category of “reserved for the believer” vary from time to time and place to place, and there are more of them now than there used to be. It has become somewhat of an in-joke among former Mormons how often the General Authorities (the leaders of the church) say, these days, “I’m not sure that we teach that.” This was famously uttered by Gordon B. Hinckley, the current president and prophet of the church in an interview with Larry King on CNN, when he was asked about the couplet that was repeated more or less constantly when I was active in the church that “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.”

Well, be that as it may, now it seems that Huckabee has apologized to Romney for asking the question, which is probably a good thing. He probably shouldn’t have asked it in the first place. But he did ask it, and it managed to attract the media’s attention and, likely, caused a few headaches in the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

How not to win friends and bring people into your church...

I’m puzzled.

Do the Mormons really think that the best way to get my mother and I back into the church is by telling us that we are wrong and that we need to repent?

It isn’t even just repentance that we need, according to an article that the visiting teachers* mailed to us (we asked them not to bother us in person, but said that they could mail stuff to us…I’m rethinking that decision at this point). We need, apparently, to change everything we do, think and say. Because we just aren’t good enough for God the way we are.

Great. Re-activate people by insulting them. That’ll work.


Don’t believe that they take this approach? Let me quote from the article, which was written by Russell M. Nelson, one of the church’s general authorities. I’d love to tell you what church publication it appeared in, but the quality of the Xerox copy is such that I can only make out a dim “May 2007” on the bottom of one of the pages. You can probably find it (it is titled “Repentance and Conversion”) if you search the church publications at the LDS church’s official website.

Among other things, Nelson writes:

“Yes, the Lord has commanded us to repent, to change our ways, to come unto Him, and be more like him. This requires a total change.” (Emphasis mine.)

There is a footnote attributing part of this statement, but the woman who sent this to us didn’t bother to copy the page that held that footnote. I guess we’re just supposed to take her, and the writer’s, word for it, get with the program, and be…somebody else.

Honestly, this was one of the (many) problems I had with the church. No one wanted me to be myself. Everybody wanted me to be someone else, namely like every other Mormon woman was expected to be: only interested in getting married and keeping house and in having children and knowing my place. I tried for years to be that person, by the way, but I finally realized that it was a losing battle and that there isn’t anything wrong with me the way I am. I should have known that I would never fit in, because there were a couple of problems there.

Problem number one: My only domestic quality, as a key chain I used to carry said, is that I live in a house. Well, this is not completely true as I can cook if need be; I can knit, crochet and do counted cross stitch; and I do keep the place reasonably clean. But cooking and cleaning are things I do because I have to, not because I love them and not because I think they are part of my "role" as a woman.

Problem number two: I’ve never been good at “knowing my place”, of sitting down, shutting up and behaving myself. Of going along to get along.

I’ve no doubt they’ll keep trying. Every month, we get a little note in the mail saying how much the miss us and love us. Which is kind of funny, since we’ve never attended that ward** and they don’t know us at all. Well, the visiting teachers came to the door once not long after we moved here, but that certainly doesn’t constitute a “knowing” extensive enough to either miss us or love us.

All of this offends me, this being told by people who don’t even know me that I must change or God won’t love me.

I know, I know. All of this will only feed into the stereotype supported by the church that people only leave because they’ve “been offended” or because they’re “too lazy” to live church standards. Or because they "want to sin".

Well, no. I did not leave because I was offended. If all it would have taken for me to leave was to be offended I would have been well and truly out years and years earlier than I was. And honestly, I’m not too lazy to live church standards. I just don’t believe that many of the “church standards” have anything to do with actually being a good person. For example, I fail to see how drinking coffee…or having more than one ear piercing in each ear…or men having facial hair…would make someone not a good person. Oh, and for the record, I don’t drink coffee and I don’t have pierced ears at all any more. Not being of the male persuasion, I don’t think the facial hair thing applies. And as for sinning: A) I know plenty of people who do plenty of sinning without leaving the church and, B) I don't do any more sinning now, out of the church, than I ever did in it.

They should probably just save their postage. The reactivation thing won’t work. I figured out some time ago that I just was not cut out to be a nice little Mormon girl.

*For the uninitiated, the church assigns women, usually in pairs, to go out and visit a certain number of women every month, ostensibly to make sure that they are doing all right and to see if they need anything. The problem with that theory is that it always seemed, when we had visiting teachers come to visit this, they were mostly busy looking at the house to see if we kept it clean enough and if there was any evidence that we had been doing anything we shouldn’t have been doing.

**That’s like a Catholic parish or a Protestant congregation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am a science fiction nerd...

I spent Thanksgiving weekend at a science fiction convention.

No, no, no...not like the one in Galaxy Quest. Well, not exactly like it. Although there were costumes, and silliness, and a good deal of fun. But as far as I am aware, there were no aliens who believe that a Star Trek-like show was real life.

As far as I am aware.

Part of the difference is that LosCon is more of a writers and artists con than a media con. That means that many of the panelists are writers and artists rather than actors or producers of science fiction and fantasy films and television shows. Although some of the writers write for those media as well as writing books and short stories, and some of the organizers and participants do sometimes act and work in other aspects of film and television. It's just that the emphasis is a little more literary.

Which makes sense. LosCon is presented every year over Thanksgiving weekend by the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS), which bills itself as the longest running science fiction club in the world. Which it very likely is, having had its first incarnation in the 1930s. It has been operating under the current name since March of 1940. Some of the biggest names in the genre have been active in the Society, as have a few of the most infamous.

They put on a great gathering...part literary discussion, part gathering of like-minded souls, part party. This was the fifth time I have attended LosCon since 1998, and each time I have had a great time.

Some of the highlights this year for me were the panels. No mere human can get to all the panels, and no one would probably want to because they cover a wide variety of subject matter from science fiction to fantasy to horror to anime to science to...oh, to lots of things.

The first panel I attended centered on the topic of "Horror and Religion". There were interesting perspectives, especially since one panelist was a Baptist minister and another is a Buddhist...his take was that horror and Buddhism is a non-sequitor, since the most horrible thing in Buddhism is delusion. The consensus of the panel seemed to be that it isn't the gore that makes horror horror, but that what is horrifying has more to do with the violation of the moral order of the universe and the relinquishment of control. It isn't the blood that is shed, but the soul that is stolen that creates horror, at least in the Western way of looking at things. There was also some discussion of the horror of H. P. Lovecraft and his portrayal of an uncaring universe and ultimate nothingness.

Attendance at that panel has spurred me to pick up Stephen King's Danse Macabre for yet another perspective on the effect of the horror genre on culture.

Another panel, a discussion of what books should be in the canon of the science fiction greats was interesting, not the least for the fact that it went from zero to argument in almost nothing flat when one gentleman in the audience took exception to the suggestion that A Canticle for Leibowitz belongs on the list. A lot of names of authors and books were presented, very few concrete conclusions were made, and I now have a much longer list of books that I need to find and read.

That is another consequence of attending these cons...I always leave with my list of books to find and read having been about doubled from what it was before I arrived.

My favorite panel of the weekend, though, was a discussion of world-building. That panel consisted of David Gerrold and Harry Turtledove riffing off each other for about an hour and fifteen minutes. I left inspired to get back to work on that novel, and with a lot of new perspectives to bring to it.

It was a good weekend. I bought a few books, I got a book I took down with me signed by the author, which is cool because he is one of my favorites. I had a lot of good conversations with interesting people.

And I came home with a cold, apparently, since I woke up with stuffed sinuses and a runny nose this morning. A souvenir of the weekend, I suppose.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Addicted....addicted, I say...

Yeah. It's happened again.

I found a new author.

Well, not new, but new to me.

Back in July I was in the grocery store and happened to steer up the aisle where the books are kept. I usually don't even bother, because they usually have a lousy selection. If there are five books that look interesting, it's a good day...and I've ordinarily read all five of them.

But on that day, I saw a book called Echo Park, by Michael Connelly. I'd heard of him, vaguely, and I knew that Echo Park is a section of Los Angeles, and having grown up in Southern California, I adore books that take place there. So I picked the book up and took it home.

Well, I bought it, but you know...

Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. And once I was done with it, I had to find more of the adventures of Hieronymous (Harry) Bosch, LAPD detective. I picked up the first book in the series, The Black Echo, and it was wonderful as well. The next one I was able to find (while I've been advised that it is better to read this series in order, I've been reading them as I can find them) was The Closers, which happened to take place in parts of L.A. County that I am very familiar with. Connelly even got the street names right. If I hadn't been hooked already, that would have done it.

So, now I've read nine of the thirteen Harry Bosch mysteries and I'm in the middle of another. Well, two more...but that's a weird story. One night I was in bed reading The Black Ice and happened upon a specific reference to the cemetery in which my father and much of his side of the family are buried. Kind of freaked me out. I had to put that book down and haven't managed to finish it yet. But I will.

I haven't devoured a mystery series in big gulps this way since I discovered Travis McGee in the late 1970s. By the time I had found my way to John D. MacDonald's knight errant, all but three of the books in that series were already in print. I likely would have done the same with Faye Kellerman's Rina Lazarus/Peter Decker mysteries when I discovered them, but I think there were only two or three of them in print when I happened on The Ritual Bath at the library.

Even in my preferred genre, science fiction/fantasy, I've only rarely been driven to search out all the books in a series immediately a few times. I read the first two Thomas Covenant trilogies, by Stephen R. Donaldson (which were all that existed then), one after the other in the space of about a month when I first discovered them. And I was entranced by Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality and Bio of a Space Tyrant series when I found them (even though I thought that the last couple of the Incarnations of Immortality books weren't quite up to the quality of the earlier volumes). After I came upon the first volume of Kage Baker's Company series, In the Garden of Iden, I pestered the library ladies until I got hold of all of those, even to the point of insisting that the library system order one of the volumes when it turned out they didn't have it in their holdings. To my surprise, they actually added it to the collection. There have been other sff series that I've read in their entirety, but in a much more leisurely fashion.

Which is a really long way around of saying that I've been spending my free time (what free time?) lately reading rather than blogging.

And also a long way of saying, if you like mystery novels and haven't read Michael Connelly, you really should make his acquaintance. that you've read this...Go. Read. A. Book.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A limo for a 12-year-old...

Okay. Up-front admission. I am, by choice, childless. So I probably don't have any right to have an opinion on anything having to do with parenting. But still...

A couple of nights ago the Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana concert tour hit my town. I probably wouldn't have known anything about it, but I live about two blocks from the largest concert venue in town. For those of you who are also out of touch with kids' culture, "Hannah Montana" is a comedy on Disney Channel about a teenage girl who is a pop star (sort of like Britney Spears before she became a bad girl, I guess), but no one knows this but her family and a few close friends and she appears to spend a lot of time trying to make sure the kids at school don't find out so she can be a "normal" kid.

I've actually seen the show a couple of times, and it is cute for what it is, but most of the fans are in the 6 to 12 age range from what I understand. Which is fine. It is a good thing that there are touring shows for those 'tweeners, I think they're called now - the kids who aren't toddlers but aren't teens, either.

But why...please, someone tell me why...when I happened to drive by the arena during the show, there were limos lining the curb in front of the arena. More limos than I've seen for any other event there in the over two and a half years I've been living in the neighborhood. Who spends the money (and I'll bet it is a lot, although having never rented a limo myself, I wouldn't know) to rent a limo to take a 12-year-old to a concert?

I don't know how much the tickets for the concert ran, but I'm betting they were in the $40 to $50 range for the cheap seats, if you could get them. I heard news reports that this tour is so hot that scalpers are getting $1000, $2000, and more for a ticket in some cities. Which brings up another question...who would spend $2000 dollars for one ticket for a 12-year-old to go to a concert.

I wouldn't pay $1000 to see anyone, and I'm a pretty big music fan.

Heck, the most I've ever paid for a concert ticket is about $35, and that was for (separately, of course) U2 and Prince. In San Francisco and Oakland. Okay. So it was a few years ago, in both cases. I've considered paying around $100 a couple of times for a concert ticket, but I got over it in each case.

But $1000? Or more? That's just nuts.

It's even more nuts, when the concert-goer is 12 years old and probably won't care that she saw the show in a year or two. Add the cost of limo for the evening. Probably dinner out. It adds up quickly.

Well. I was a 12-year-old a long time ago. And I understand that there is inflation and all. But I nearly didn't get to go to my first concert (very teeny-bopper - that'd be about the same thing as a 'tweener - but at least the opening act was a very young Steve Martin) when I told my parents that the price of the ticket was $5. I'm pretty sure that $5 in 1970 does not translate to $1000 today. I doubt it even translates to $50 today. Actually, as of last year, with inflation, something that cost $5 in 1970 would have cost $26.56 in 2006. I looked it up.

So, maybe I'm just old and don't understand a culture in which someone would give a kid $1000 to go to a concert, who would hire a limo to take them. But it just doesn't make sense to me. Not even a little bit.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Real time returns

Did you remember to set your clock back last night before you went to bed?

I did. Well, one. I traditionally change on clock on the Saturday night and the rest when I get up on the Sunday morning. I guess it's kind of like opening one gift on Christmas Eve and leaving the rest for Christmas morning.

And, yes, I really do look forward to the return of standard (what I think of as "real") time that much.

I don't know why it is, but I just feel more balanced with the sun rising earlier and setting earlier than it does during Daylight Savings Time. The rhythm of the day seems more normal when the sun is at least thinking about coming up when I get up (at 6 am during the week) and when it goes down when evening comes rather than waiting until 9 p.m. or a bit later to get full dark at the height of summer (in these latitudes, at any was even worse when I visited England and the sun didn't go down until around 10:30 p.m.)

Now, of course, none of this means that my inner clock will adjust to the time change automatically just because it has gone back to the way I like it. I'll still be off-balance for at least a week, maybe two, until the inner clock gets back in sync with the clock on the wall.

Still, it's moving toward evening now, and it looks like it outside the window next to my desk. And that is a good thing.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Another (tradition) bites the dust...sort of

Sad news (with a silver lining) from Hollywood, especially for an old parade-goer like myself.

I see in an article in today's Los Angeles Times, via Yahoo!News, that after a close call the Hollywood Christmas Parade, now to be known as the Hollywood Santa Parade, will go on on the traditional Sunday after Thanksgiving.

However, it will be much scaled back and will no longer be produced by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce after it washed its hand of the event after last year's parade lost $100,000. It has been rescued by the Los Angeles City Council, via council president Eric Garcetti, who represents the area of the parade route along Hollywood Boulevard, Highland Avenue and Sunset Boulevard. Garcetti, who got the council to act after protests from a private group which formed after it was announced that the parade would not go on this year, was quoted in the article as saying that he "couldn't in good conscience let die" at least in part because it is "one of the last free things families can do."

The plan is to build the parade back up to its former glory, but this year's parade will be just a shadow of its former self, with thirty-five bands signed up so far, plus some floats and equestrian units. Retired "Price Is Right" host Bob Barker has signed on, as has the cast of Disney's "High School Musical", slim pickings for a parade that once boasted the participation of some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. In fact, one of the reasons the parade was not able to make money recently was because broadcasters lost interest in showing the parade once ratings began to fall once "A-list" stars became more reluctant to appear in the parade. Much of the parade's revenues have come from broadcast fees.

Apparently the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce hasn't completely deserted the idea of a Christmas parade and is urging its members to support this year's parade. It is also offered use of signs and parade workers' vests if the new group putting the parade together, Pageantry Productions. Also, the Chamber has said it will consider letting the parade use the name "Hollywood Christmas Parade" in future years if this year's parade is of high enough quality.

This is all very sad for me. Growing up in Southern California, my family attended the parade several times in the early 1970s, when it was still known as the "Santa Claus Lane Parade" (which prompted Gene Autry to record the Christmas classic "Here Comes Santa Claus" know: "Here comes Santa Claus/Here comes Santa Claus/Right down Santa Claus Lane"). It was sort of the official end of the Thanksgiving weekend and the beginning of the Christmas Season.

I've got some lovely memories of going out on a cool (well, usually) winter evening to see the bands and the floats and the stars...who still participated in numbers at that time. There would be everyone from the old-time stars like Bob Hope to the casts of many of the network TV series then current. I'll never forget one time when the two elderly ladies next to my family on the parade route (I'd say they were probably in their seventies at the time) were there in their finest clothes, evening make-up and nicest jewelry, so excited because Cesar Romero was going to be in the parade that year. They were very cute ladies, just like a couple of teenagers. During the years I went to the parade, the tradition was that Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner (then on their second marriage to each other) and their children rode on the last float of the parade...with Santa Claus on his sleigh.

It was just a fun time. Not the big production the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day in Pasadena is, but a nice hometown Christmas's just that the hometown happened to be Hollywood and lots of the participants were very, very famous.

I hope the new version of the parade succeeds. I hope that the Hollywood community returns to participation in the coming years. I'd hate to know that this part of my growing up wasn't there any more.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What embarasses you?

Natalie, over at Trapped by the Mormons, tagged everyone who read her list of 10 things that embarrass her. Without further ado, then, here is my list:

1. Start with one that isn't too embarrassing. The Princess Diaries is one of my favorite movies, and I watch it every time I find it on TV. Yeah, I know. It's a teenager movie, and I haven't been a teenager in a very long time.

2. Sort of along the same lines: I still go back and read Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books from time to time. I think I'm mostly embarrassed about this, though, because of the TV series that was very loosely based on them. The books are nothing like the series. Still, I would never use one of these books as my carry-around-with-me-everywhere books.

3. While I'm being childish: I have a stuffed crocodile named Rosey that lives on my bed. Further, I sometimes talk to Rosey as if he is a live pet...or a human being.

4. I believe in precognitive dreams. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. No such thing. You're right. Except that I've had them from time to time.

5. I'm also seriously superstitious. Maybe it's because I'm a baseball fan (everyone knows that baseball players are probably the most superstitious people in the world, and it could have rubbed off). Except that the black cat thing doesn't bother me at all. But, for instance, if I spill salt I absolutely have to throw some salt over my left shoulder. And if I'm backstage in a theater (I am a sometime props handler) and someone starts to whistle I make sure they know not to do that.

6. I know all the words to the "Green Acres" theme song. All of them. I could sit here and type them out now to prove it, but that would be too embarrassing for words.

7. I was one of those thirteen-year-olds (back in the early 1970s) who had her bedroom walls plastered with pictures of the heartthrobs of the time. Yes, for awhile the walls were literally wallpapered with glossies from 16 and Tiger Beat and similar publications.

8. Even worse than that...I went to concerts and screamed, well, like a teenage girl. I ot over this by the time I was about fourteen, but's extremely embarrassing in hindsight.

9. I got a D in algebra in the 9th grade. Probably had something to do with the fact that I never did anything in class. Well, I did. I read Gone With The Wind and countless Victoria Holt gothic romance novels. I read everything but my math textbook. And I taught myself how to sleep with my eyes open. Really.

10. I used obscene mnemonic devices to memorize things for exams when I was in college. Well, not necessarily obscene. But definitely racy. It made things much easier to remember, but sometimes I could feel myself blushing when I'd be taking a test and had to run one of them through my mind to get to an answer. Before you, there is no obscene mnemonic device behind my being able to remember all the words to the "Green Acres" theme song, unless you consider it obscene that I actually watched the show enough times for that song to be imprinted indelibly on my mind.

So, you all, like Natalie said...if you read this, consider yourself tagged. Leave me a comment with a link to your blog when you post your list.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Getting cranky at lunch...

As I was reading at one of my regular stops in the blogosphere, (pilgrimgirl, and you should really stop in and read her someday…she’s a wonderful writer and a wonderful person whose posts are incisive and thoughtful), one of the comments a reader left in response to a recent post really struck me.

It was a simple thought: “It's always kind of entertaining to see what will out me as a complete crank case.”

I read that, and I thought, Yeah, rings a bell.

A case in point from yesterday, when my mother and I were out at lunch: There were two long tables of mid-to-late teens seated right next to us. About half of them, distributed among the two tables, were wearing t-shirts that said something to the effect that they were 100 percent members of the Army of the Lord. Which bothered me right there. First of all, I felt like that represented bad theology: as far as I can remember, Jesus discouraged his followers from establishing a kingdom here on earth, and armies belong to earthly kingdoms. Second of all, that sort of thing smacks of the willingness to convert by force, something I don’t approve of from any religion. And thirdly, although I’m not really a practicing anything at this point, I find it disrespectful to reduce who believers think of as God to the same level as a rock star, a football team, or a clothing label.

Still, I wasn’t going to say anything to them, although I grumbled about it to my mother all through the meal.

But then, as the group left, just as I was commenting that the whole bunch of them needed a keeper, based on their behavior, one of the girls started giggling as she took the ketchup bottle on the table and proceeded to empty about half of it into the melted remains of a bowl of ice cream that one of the other kids had left.

That was it. “Excuse me,” I said. “What are you doing wasting food like that? The t-shirts some of you are wearing indicate that you are religious, think of yourselves as godly people. But wasting food like that isn’t a very godly thing to do.” They just looked at me like I’d grown a third eye in the middle of my forehead or something and walked away.

I’m still not sure that I should have said anything. They were teenagers, for Pete’s sake, and teenagers act like that sometimes. But, you know, it seems to me that wearing a t-shirt that proclaims their religiosity like that, they need to learn at some point that such a public proclamation of specific beliefs and values carries some sort of responsibility, some sort of consequences, with it. It is something those kids need to learn.

It's almost Halloween...

...and, of course, someone took a poll. The headline news in the AP article, which I came across on MSNBC's website, is that fewer minorities allow their children to trick-or-treat than white folks do, 56 percent to 73 percent.

It seems to be a mostly safety issue, and actually shakes out along economic lines. While 86 percent of those surveyed overall said they believe their neighborhoods are a safe place to trick-or-treat, 91 percent of whites and 75 percent of minorities said where the live is safe for going door-to-door to ask for candy and treats. The numbers were almost identical when broken down according to how much money people make: 93 percent of those who make $50,000 or more said they think their kids can trick-or-treat safely in their neighborhood, 76 percent of those who make $25,000 per year or less felt that their neighborhood will be safe for their kids to trick-or-treat.

But that isn't what I found so interesting.

The survey also broke down the households which indicated that they will have candy available for trick-or-treaters this year. Overall, two-thirds said they would welcome trick-or-treaters. Liberals were the most likely to give out candy: 70 percent of those who identified as liberal said they would participate in the holiday. 67 percent of moderates said they would distribute candy, while only 55 percent of conservatives said they would do so. Those are interesting numbers, I think, and probably get at something deeper than just whether or not the respondents are willing to give candy to children.

Another interesting set of numbers from the survey: Only a quarter of those who said they would not let their children trick-or-treat said they take that position because they are concerned about their kids' safety, but fully half said that they would not allow their kids to trick-or-treat because they don't celebrate Halloween at all.

One woman from Pennsylvania offered this quote, about Halloween: "It's demonic. People are celebrating the dead. I'm not into that." It's an interesting point of view, and one that I'm familiar with. When I was attending a Christian (Mennonite Brethren) university, one of my classmates (not Mennonite) accused me of supporting "baby-killing" because I wore a costume (my Renaissance Faire costume) to school on the day. I asked here where she got that idea. Her pastor had told her church that, she said.

It makes we wonder what people with this attitude would do with Dia de los Muertos ("Day of the Dead") , which originated with pre-Columbian populations in Mexico but has been taken up by the Christian population of Mexico (and some areas of the United States with large Mexican populations) and really celebrates the dead rather than just focuses on giving candy to kids. Although there is candy involved, from what I understand.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Did you know...?

Did you know that football stadium full of screaming fans sounds very much the same as a jet flying over very, very low?

It's just amazing. I live about two blocks from a university football stadium that holds something more than 40,000 people. There's a game tonight. And every time the home team does something they like it sounds like there's a plane flying over my apartment at roughly rooftop level.

It's an easy comparison to make, since I also live a couple of miles from the local airport, right under the take-off pattern, and have the opportunity to hear all kinds of planes go over...all the way from one-engine puddle jumpers to fairly large passenger and cargo planes to Air National Guard jets. In fact, a jet just flew over a couple of minutes ago and it took me a couple of seconds to figure out whether it was the crowd or a plane. Then, I realized that it's halftime and there was very little chance that the marching band was getting that sort of a reaction.

The other weird thing is that tonight's game is being carried on ESPN 2, and it seems odd to be able to hear the crowd (and the refs over the public address system) direct from the stadium and also, if the television is tuned to the game, to hear them there, after the signal has bounced around a couple of satellites and back down to my cable provider.

It's probably just a function of my age...I can remember, when I was about 7 or 8 years old, watching the old Ed Sullivan tv show on a Sunday night and them making such a huge deal about the fact that they were carrying a performance by the Rolling Stones via satellite link-up from London. That was a very big deal then, brand-new technology that was rare and expensive and hardly ever used. Now, satellite link-ups are the bread and butter of broadcasting, especially for news networks, and most people rarely give them a second thought.

Oh, and no...I don't really care about the game. I'm not a football fan, and especially not a college football fan...I just like listening to the roar of the crowd.

Yeah, I guess I'm pretty much a nerd.

Progress? What Progress?

Can someone please explain to me how these two things are different?

I read two stories yesterday, one from the San Francisco Chronicle (and in this link, covered by Yahoo!News), concerns a teacher kidnapped and murdered in Iraq by Shiite Muslims because he was Sunni Muslim. The other, from Newsweek, is about a case in Los Angeles in which Latino gang members stand accused of targeting not only African-American gang members but any random African-American in what looks very much like homegrown racial cleansing.

I don't see any difference at all here, other than the fact that in one case the targeted characteristic was religion and in the other the targets were chosen because of their skin color. It is just unacceptable that in the 21st century people would even think about acting in such a...oh, I hate to use the word, but it is the only one I can think of...tribal manner, being willing to kill members of another group just because they look different or because they believe differently. Religion against religion, ethnic group versus ethnic goes on and on.

It is especially interesting to me that, in the case of the L.A. gangs, the point is made that this sort of "brown-on-black" crime, as they characterize it, is still considered an "anomaly", but two paragraphs later the writer reports that the most recent case is the third such case in the past two years.

In the case of the Iraq killing, the linked article makes the point that these sort of sectarian killings are becoming less common. Well, that might be true, but the article also points out that the killing of this teacher is "unremarkable" among all the violence Iraqis see on a daily basis.

Which is another place where the commonalities between the two cases come in. Living as I do in an area where gang activity is not uncommon, it frightens me sometimes that it seems like every time there is a gang-related shooting or killing, the general attitude seems to be, well, it's just the gangs. What can you expect. That sort of violence, whether aimed at other gangs of the same ethnic background, at gangs members of a different ethnic background, or at random victims, just seems to have become an accepted part of 21st century American life. Just as it seems to be expected...and accepted as a reality...that individuals can be targeted because of their religious beliefs in the Middle East.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

And the war of words goes on...

Updating yesterday's post on testimony before a Senate committee by CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding, on the health effects of climate change:

There have been a few developments in this controversy.

First of all, according to AP reports White House press secretary Dana Perino said that the CDC testimony was "not watered down" but that in an interagency review "a number of agencies" had "some concerns" about the contents of the written version of Dr. Gerberding's testimony and that some reviewers did not think the testimony matched up with a report on the same subject by the UN's Ingergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The White House also said that Dr. Gerberding doesn't think her testimony was censored. And, indeed, Dr. Gerberding is quoted as saying today that she is "absolutely happy" with her testimony and that she could and did depart from the written version of the testimony.

Despite this, California Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee (the committee in front of which Dr. Gerberding testified on Tuesday); Tennessee Representative Bart Gordon, chair of the House Science and Technlology Committee; and North Carolina Representative Brad Miller, chair of the House Science subcommittee on investigations and oversight, have all expressed concern over the changes in the written testimony and have requested copies of all versions along with all comments made on the drafts. All also asked for an explanation from the White House chief science advisor, John Marburger, concerning how the drafts of the testimony were handled.

In addition, Senator Boxer's staff evidently questioned the characterization that some parts of the written testimony did not match the IPCC report, and Representative Gordon claimed that some of the deleted sections of the testimony were similar to the IPCC report.

And so it continues. Of course, the climate change skeptics will call this a partisan attack on the White House because all three members of Congress who have called the administration to account on this are Democrats. As far as I'm concerned, that is pretty much beside the point. This concerns every person in the US, every person in the world, and we deserve to hear all sides of the question, not just the side that the Bush administration wants us to hear. If the White House really wants us to get a balanced view of the issue, then it wouldn't be going around changing testimony that doesn't match its own view.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Don't confuse them with the facts...

The Bush administration is at it again, editing out real science from reports and congressional testimony when it doesn't fit "the national priorities of the administration." That quote is from an AP story as carried by Yahoo!News* and is credited to Office of Management and Budget spokesman Sean Kevelighan. Yes, he actually admitted that "lining up well" with the goals of the administration is one of the considerations involved when the OMB reviews reports written by government offices.

If you've read The Republican War On Science by Chris Mooney (and if you haven't, you should), you won't be surprised that this has happened again, this time in a report from the Centers for Disease Control on the effects of global climate change on human health, about which CDC director Dr. Julie Geberding testified before a Senate committee today. According to a CDC official familiar with the report, it was originally fourteen pages long. By the time the White House, via the OMB, was done with it, it was four pages long. As finally presented to the committee, it was six pages long.

What was missing? Specific examples of how climate change will impact on the health of Americans. A CDC spokesman (not the same person, presumably, as the official who commented on the various forms the report took) minimized the importance of the administration cuts in the report and said that most of the information that the CDC wanted to have heard was presented in the course of Dr. Gerberding's testimony. Things like the effects of increased heat on health; injuries and deaths that can be expected from an increase in severe weather events such as hurricanes; and an increase in water-borne and vector-borne diseases such as cholera and malaria respectively.

That's just great. They're finally realizing that they can't deny that the global climate is changing, so now they've decided that they'll just play down the effects the changes will have on the human population. Because if people realized what global warming will do to them, to their children, and to their grandchildren, they might demand that something be done to try to stop...or at least Which might inconvenience some of the administration's rich corporate friends.

Well, for awhile now the right wing has been making snide remarks about the "reality-based community", making it clear that they themselves are not a part of that. I guess they really believe that all they have to do is say something...something, oh, like that global warming doesn't really exist and even if it does it just means more warm weather - "And how can that be a bad thing?"...and it will be so.

I guess they don't want to be confused by the facts.

*As so often happens with Yahoo!News, the link I originally included didn't work. I'd try to fix it but I'm tired, I think I'm coming down with a cold, and I just don't feel like doing it right now. Maybe tomorrow. If the story hasn't completely disappeared into cyberspace by then, as this sort of story so often seems to do. Sorry.

Monday, October 22, 2007

True confessions time...

I hate infomercials.

I want to say that right up front. An infomercial comes on the tube, the channel gets switched. I think the things should probably be illegal.


Except if they are selling CD compilations, especially of music from the sixties, seventies, and eighties, I'll sit there and watch the stupid things all the way through. And not in the casual, watching while I"m doing something else way I usually watch TV. No, I sit there and watch the things like they are a real TV show.

I probably should be ashamed of myself.

I think I know why I do it, though. It certainly isn't because I'm planning on buying the CDs...I can't afford 5 equal payments of $29.99 or whatever they usually are. That's a lot of money.

No. I do it because I like the old clips they show of the bands back in the day. Before all the artists got fat or bald...or dead. It's like watching videos from before MTV was even a glint in some TV executive's eye. Not that most of them are even vaguely video-like in the way someone born after the advent of MTV would recognize them. Mostly they're performance clips from the various network shows that featured bands and singers.

But, you know, I'm getting old, and that nostalgia thing is very powerful.

And I've been thinking...if they would package and sell a set of DVD's of the performance clips, I just might buy those.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Do those winds really originate in Santa Ana? I think not.

It's October, and Southern California is on fire again.

It doesn't happen every year, but when the east wind blows, often the fires are not far behind.

Sometimes, the fires start when the winds get strong enough to knock down power lines. And sometimes the wind brings out all the idiots with a fire fixation. But whatever the cause, for those of us who grew up in Southern California, fall is fire season. That is just a fact of life in SoCal, just like earthquakes and film shoots. And, honestly, the fires are a natural and healthy part of the region's ecology.

Of course, the fires are regarded with fear and loathing. Through the years they have caused untold damage and not a little loss of life. And often the wind gets the blame, even when it doesn't cause the fires but only spreads them once they've begun.

This makes me sad, because I have always loved wind in general, and the Santa Ana Wind, as it is officially called in SoCal specifically. Wikipedia has a little bit to say about this regional phenomenon here. I've never really liked that name for the wind, though. When I was growing up in Simi Valley, we just called it the east wind.

Yes, in one way I associate the east wind with fires, just like everyone else. I can remember my father spending the night on the roof of my grandmother's house (the house I lived in the first six years of my life) fighting the wind from knocking him off and wetting the roof down with the garden hose so that flying embers wouldn't set the wood building aflame. I can remember our small valley being completely cut off from the outside world, the sky above completely clouded over with smoke. Those were frightening times.

And the fires were not the only trouble the winds would cause. Legend has it that teachers in SoCal don't even try to get their classes to do anything when the east wind is blowing, because it makes their students hyper to the point of mania. Well, it wasn't quite that bad in reality, but I know the wind had an effect on me.

It was sort of a natural high for me, when the east wind was blowing. It made me feel energized, like I could do anything. Being out in it, hair whipping in the 50, 60, 70, 80 mile per hour winds, where sometimes it was almost impossible to walk against the wind, was exhilarating.

One bit of the Wikipedia article linked above that struck me was this:

A Santa Ana fog is derivative phenomenon in which a ground fog settles in Southern California during the end of a Santa Ana wind episode. When Santa Ana conditions prevail, with winds in the lower two to three kilometers (1.25-1.8 m) of the atmosphere from the north through east, the lower atmosphere continues to be dry. But as soon as the Santa Ana winds cease, the cool and moist marine layer forms rapidly. The air in the marine layer becomes very moist and fog occurs.
It can work the other way, as well. I remember when I was about five years old, not long before Christmas, I was scheduled to be in a holiday pageant at church. But when it came time to go to the church for the pageant, it was so foggy out that you could barely see your hand in front of your face. But, in the best show-must-go-on tradition, my mother and father and I set out for the church anyway. We found the driveway to my grandmother's house when we stopped by to pick her up but my father left the car on the side of the road and walked down her long driveway to get her rather than pulling into the driveway because he was afraid he would drive off into the walnut orchard trying to back out again.

We made it to the church, maybe three or four miles away, without incident, but as we started to go inside the fog was still thick. My father looked up, laughed, and remarked that it would be funny if it was clear by the end of the show. Everyone laughed and sort of said the early-1960s version of "Yeah, right," and we went inside. The show went well, I suppose. I don't remember too much about it. I was five years old, after all. But I clearly remember emerging from the church building an hour or hour and half later to the east wind blowing and a crystal clear sky strewn with stars that looked so close that you could touch them. We just all looked at my father like he must have had a crystal ball concealed somewhere on his person.

Where I live now, the wind almost never blows, and when it does it rarely blows very hard. Yesterday we did have wind, not from the east but from the north, not warm but cold, and only up to gusts of about 40 miles per hour (as reported; it didn't seem nearly that much to me). Still, it felt so good to have it. And it made me miss SoCal and the east wind, despite all the trouble it sometimes exacerbates.

So, as I watched the CNN coverage of the fires this morning, I felt bad for those people whose homes were burning or in danger of burning. But there was also a part of me that was very homesick for my east wind.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah...and no, I'm not talking Beatles' songs

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. It's been nearly two months since I've posted here.

No excuses, except as Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, via Gilda Radner on the real Saturday Night Live, "It's always something."

First of all, late August to about this time of year is always my worst time of year for allergies, and by the time I've been finished with my work writing (yes, I do get paid for some of my writing...Believe it or Not!) my brain has been hurting too much from trying to look around my poor aching sinuses to write much else.

In addition, I take care of my mother (a full-time job, that, even if "taking care" mostly just means being here for her on a continuing basis), which takes up a certain amount of time. This has been taking more time since she was in the hospital a few weeks ago. She was only there for two days, but there have been extra things for me to do since she's been home...making sure she takes her meds, that she doesn't overdo, that sort of thing...which take up time.

And then there's just keeping a household running. I never realized, until I started taking care of my mother and handling her affairs just exactly how much time it takes to keep a household running.

Well, I've been thinking about it, and I think I want to make this a more active sort of blog...not just for whenever I feel moved to write about something, but as a regular witness to the world around me.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quiz time...

There's Not a Violent Bone in Your Body

You're cool and collected, even when someone really gets under your skin.
And while you don't blow up when you're angry, you know how to express your anger calmly.
You don't bottle emotions up or let them get out of control. For you, violence would never be an option.

I sure hope this is accurate.

I can honestly say that I have never hit anyone in anger. The only physical fight I've ever been involved in was in between tap and ballet classes at dance school when I was in about fifth grade, and that consisted of Evelyn Gruen clocking me on the side of the head with her Ballet Box (the carrier for her dance shoes) and then running away. I still don't know what made her so mad at me. And I can't say that I wouldn't have fought back if she had stayed put, but I was so stunned that all I could do was stand there and watch her run. The weird thing about it all was that we never got along in dance school, but we went to the same school in junior high and while we weren't really friends, we were friendly.

Just one of life's little mysteries, I guess.

Another thought that this quiz brings up is the fact that I've never really understood the resort to violence. It just doesn't make any sense to me. Especially in this day and age when it seems like more and more people, almost as a first response to getting angry or frustrated, go out and kill a few (or a lot of) people. I'm talking about terrorism (of all stripes and from all points on the political and religious spectrum, because it isn't just adherents of Islam, folks), but I'm also talking about "going postal" in the workplace, going on shooting sprees at school or in random public places, and the people who decided that it is just a wonderful idea to get back at an estranged or ex-spouse by killing the kids, or the spouse and the kids, or the spouse and the kids and then him or herself.

Really. What is up with that? Maybe I'm just old fashioned. Or old. Or really, really naive. Or maybe it's my upbringing. There was no "domestic violence" in my house growing up. Heck, there wasn't even any yelling or name-calling. Yeah, I got a swat on the butt a couple of times, but it wasn't meant to hurt, just to get my attention when I was off in "I'm-the-center-of-the-universe-land". But my parents didn't fight. They didn't yell at me or at each other. A friend once told me, when I explained all this to her, that she felt sorry for me because I had never developed any defenses against what she called the "real world". But violence and verbal abuse wasn't used and wasn't approved of in my family. We had a neighbor who was abusive to his family when he was drunk - and he was drunk a lot - and he was used (quite without his knowledge) as an object lesson in how one doesn't conduct themselves in their relations with others. I could never understand why that neighbor did that, and I still don't understand it, and I guess maybe I'm glad that I don't. Because I think that if I understood it, I might be more likely to be susceptible to it.

Which, apparently, according to the quiz, I'm not.

Thanks, by the way, to Sister Susan Rose over at Musings of a Discerning Woman for pointing out this quiz. She got the same result as I did, by the way.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tag, you're it...Jobs I would never want

Natalie Collins, over at Trapped by the Mormons, posted a general tag for a list of the top ten jobs you would never want to have to do. And so, my list:

10. Construction worker - I can saw a board and drive a nail - I am the daughter of a father than never let the fact that he didn't have a son stop him, so he taught me well - but my friends also know me well enough to realize that I'd make a wonderful vampire. I don't do sun, in other words. Which is probably a good thing since I have exclusively Northern European pale-skin genes and have never been close to tan. I burn, I peel, and then I return to pale. Well, except for the freckles. So I'd never make it in construction.

9. Waitress - I've seen the crap waitresses often have to put up with. I'd probably get canned inside a week for slapping men with wandering hands.

8. Telemarketer - Been there, done that, got the headache from being hung up on so much...and I wasn't even exactly selling anything, but just informing people of a sale at a local jewelry store in the small town where I used to livev.

7. Fruit grader - This is something else I've done and would prefer not to do again. It involves standing for long hours, watching fruit go by on a conveyor belt and throwing out the rotten peaches or plums or whatever fruit you happen to be grading. I used to get dizzy watching the conveyor belt to by. That, or I'd realize I was leaning in the direction the belt was traveling, sometimes to the point of nearly toppling over. Which can be really humiliating.

6. Gift Wrapper - No talent at this one. There's always something wrong with the presents I wrap. They look like...well, there is no adequate description. One Christmas season when I was still a good little church-going girl, my church had the gift-wrap and Santa Claus-photo concession in the local Sears store in order to make money for the church. I volunteered to help out. After about half an hour in gift-wrap, they sent me to take pictures of the kids (and others) with Santa. Which was fine with me...that was a fun job.

5. Sales - Especially door-to-door sales. This is something I have no talent for at all. I did the candy-sale thing as a school fund-raiser in junior high. This was back in the day when you didn't set up in front of the local grocery store or Wal-Mart; you schlepped the candy door-to-door. I think the only candy I sold was to my parents. I did the Girl Scout cookie sale thing when I was a Junior Girl Scout. Same result. When I was 10 or 11 or so I tried selling Christmas cards door-to-door. I couldn't even sell those to my mother. I was even an Avon lady for awhile not long after I got out of high school. That job finally got it into my thick skull that I'm just not cut out for sales.

4. Food-samples presented in grocery stores - Sort of in the sales vein. I hate having people try to force food on me in stores, so I wouldn't want to do that to anyone else, either.

3. Press secretary to any politician - I'm a lousy liar. Enough said.

2. Retail customer service - This is something else I've done - during the Christmas season. Yikes. Everyone I talked to was already pissed off before they ever go to me. I don't do well with people yelling at me. When the holidays were over I begged to be returned to cashier work. I liked being a cashier. Sure, you get someone stupid through your line once in awhile, but most people are nice and you can get into some really interesting conversations when there aren't many customers and have time to chat.

1. Anything in the medical professions - I have this horrible phobia of anything even remotely medical. I can't even watch hospital shows on television through an entire episode without my anxiety levels rising out of control. So, no, I wouldn't do well in a hospital or doctor's office setting.

So there you have it, ten jobs I would not want to a couple of comments on jobs I've actually enjoyed. Instead of tagging anyone specific, I'll just tag anyone who happens to read this and feels moved to share. If you decide to do so, drop a link in the comments section so I can see what jobs you can do without.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

We're all in our places with sunshiny faces...yeah, right

So, its just after 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and here I am cruising the Internet and looking out my window.

Why am I up so early? Well, for the second time in three days there were people out in the alley outside my bedroom window having a loud conversation. At least they waited until almost six this time. Thursday morning they were out there at 4:45...wonderful thing to be startled awake by conversation even before the butt-crack of dawn on one's birthday.

Not that early is always a bad thing. I'm up and at my desk by 6:30 or 7 on weekday mornings to start my day's work while it's quiet and cool. And since I do work at home, my commute is sixteen steps from my bed to my desk (yes, I counted) and I can work in my nightgown if I want to, getting up that early isn't really that bad. It would be better if I could work straight through...I'd be finished by noon or earlier...but the nature of my work is that I have to wait for specific information to become available before I can finish each component of the day's tasks, so it usually takes a couple of hours beyond that. That, and the fact that the downside of working at home is the inevitability of getting interrupted by people who think that because I work at home I'm not really working, or that I can take as much time off in the middle as I want. I'm not sure what part of the word "deadline" they don't understand.

Still, this is very early to be up on a Saturday, when I don't have to work, especially for someone like myself who doesn't do mornings and doesn't do caffeine. I mean, the birds aren't even up yet, or if they are they are being very, very quiet. There are beginning to be more cars out and about now, and I just heard someone sneeze across the courtyard. And some fool still has their air conditioner on rather than throwing the windows open while it's still cool. Granted, it is supposed to hit about 101 degrees F today, but it will still be window weather until at least the middle of the morning. Maybe they have more money budgeted for the PG&E bill than I do. Oh, and someone just flew their puddle-jumper over (ah, the joys of living near the airport)...and now another one that I can hear but not see. Must be flying lesson day. Or they just woke up over at the I hear a larger plane. There it the flight path, I'd guess it's on its way to Vegas.

Well, I think I'm going to make some breakfast now. I didn't have much for dinner last night, and I'm absurdly hungry. And then I might go back to bed. Or else finish that scarf I'm knitting...or that book I'm reading...or work on one of my writing projects...or do the grocery shopping.

Isn't that what the weekend is for? To rush around doing all the things you don't have time to do during the week?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Marking the passing of a true original...

Sad news to report today. Tom Snyder, journalist and interviewer, has died at age 71.

Snyder hosted Tomorrow, a late night interview show from 1973 until 1982. The antithesis of Johnny Carson's Tonight show, which his show followed, Snyder interviewed a wide and deep variety of the famous and not-so famous, presenting real conversation that sometimes could not have been shown on broadcast television any earlier in the evening during that era.

I was a fan from the beginning Tomorrow's run, often dragging myself to school in the morning with my eyelids at half-mast because I'd been up until 2 a.m. watching the show (at that time, Tonight ran for an hour and a half, from 11:30 p.m. until 1 am, with Tomorrow following from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.). The interviews were often serious, sometimes hilarious, and almost never run-of-the-mill.

Snyder hasn't been on television for awhile, but his presence has been sorely missed, at least by me. In a time when "talk show" has become synonymous with tabloid trash like that presented by Jerry Springer and Maury Povich, or with politically correct interviewers like Oprah Winfrey, I wish someone like Tom Snyder would come along again and inject some reality into the genre. He wasn't always politically correct. Some of the individuals Snyder interviewed could likely find a place on some of the tabloid shows. And some of those he interviewed (such as Charlie Manson) were likely presented at least partially for their value in gaining ratings. Still, Snyder's show was never sordid like so many of those shows are today.

Sadly, I doubt we'll see his like again.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The first half-year (plus a month) or, What I've Been Reading...

I meant to do this at the beginning of the month, as an inventory of the books I read during the first half of the year but never really got around to it. So, almost a month late and a couple of books longer, here is the list of books I've read so far this year:

1. Rage, Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine Books, 2005) 391 pages (paperback edition).

2. Behind Closed Doors, Natalie R. Collins (St Martin Paperbacks, 2007) 322 pages. 8

3. The Lucifer Gospel, Paul Christopher (Onyx Books, New American Library, 2006) 357 pages.

4. Last on the Menu, Sister Eleanor Quin, C. S. J. (Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969) 182 pages.

5. The Republican Noise Machine, David Brock (Three Rivers Press, 2004; Afterward copyright 2005) 432 pages.

6. The Templar Legacy, Steve Berry (Ballantine Books, 2006) 487 pages.

7. The Republican War on Science, Chris Mooney (Basic Books) 357 pages.

8. An Alphabetical Life, Wendy Werris (Carroll & Graf Publishers) 292 pages.

9. Hotel California: The true-life adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and their many friends, Barney Hoskins (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2006) 324 pages.

10. The Alexandria Link, Steve Berry (Ballantine Books, 2007) 462 pages.

11. Michelangelo’s Notebook, Paul Christopher (Onyx Books, 2005) 358 pages.

12. The Collar, Jonathan Englert (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) 301 pages.

13. Tutu Deadly, Natalie M. Roberts (Berkley Prime Crime, 2007) 248 pages.

14. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann (Vintage, 2005, 2006) 541 pages.

15. All Saints, Liam Callahan (Delacorte, 2007).

16. The Last Cato, Matilde Asensi (Rayo, 2006; originally published in Spanish, 2001) 458 pages.

17. The Machine’s Child, Kage Baker (Tor, 2006) 351 pages.

18. Evolving God, Barbara J. King (Doubleday, 2007) 262 pages.

19. Gods and Pawns, Kage Baker (Tor, 2007) 335 pages.

20. Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul, Edward Humes (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2007) 380 pages.

21. By Their Father’s Hand: The True Story of the Wesson Family Massacre, Monte Francis (Harper, 2007) 285 pages.

22. Rembrandt’s Ghost, Paul Christopher (Signet, 2007) 347 pages.

23. Dr. Mary’s Monkey: How the unsolved murder of a doctor, a secret laboratory in New Orleans and cancer-causing monkey viruses are linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the JFK assassination and emerging global epidemics, Edward T. Haslam (TrineDay, 2007) 374 pages.

Non-fiction titles are in bold. I kind of hesitated before bolding the last title on the list. It is non-fiction, but it is also one of those conspiracy-theory books that make interesting if fairly questionable claims about how history really happened. But, since it is presented as non-fiction, I decided that it qualified as such.

Actually, Dr. Mary's Monkey was in interesting book. I love conspiracy theories even if I can't ultimately buy most of them as presented. The best ones present their claims in terms that make logical leaps that you at least have to think about before dismissing them, and this book managed to do that. Yes, the idea that several people whose names are linked with the JFK assassination (primarily Clay Shaw, Guy Bannister and David Ferrie...the New Orleans contingent, in other words) were also caught up in clandestine research that might have grown our of an adulterated early polio vaccine that is now causing soft-tissue cancers in many of those innoculated with it as well as being the ulimate genesis of HIV takes a fairly big gulp to swallow. But Haslam manages to weave the story in such a way (and with plenty of references to follow up if one is so inclined) that it doesn't seem completely out of the question on first read.

This statement, of course, doesn't mean I believe a word of it. But as a conspiracy theory it certainly does better than the story, for example, that Elvis is alive and well and living in Cleveland or wherever.

I get a new desk...

It's new to me, anyway. And I'm quite excited about it.

What? You think I'm just too easily enthused?

Well, you might be correct, but this has been a two-and-a-half-year odyssey (more than that really, but that long in this location), and I can't quite believe yet that I have a proper desk.

I haven't actually had a proper desk in years. In fact, my current computer has never had a desk before. But, when I moved into my current apartment I was determined to get a desk, all the more so when I began working from home, about a month after the move.

For all that determination, my computer was ensconced firmly on the floor for about the first six months in the new place. Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, honestly. Surfing the net while lying on the floor can be quite comfortable. On the other hand, having to work on the floor for several hours per day gets old quickly. Finally, I got frustrated with it.

Because I didn't have any way to get a proper desk home (not being willing to pay for delivery), I went down to my local Wal-Mart and bought a round, green plastic patio table to use as a desk. And it served well enough, although I've had a permanently sore shoulder on my mouse arm for the past two years because the mouse cord wasn't quite long enough to be in a position to reach easily due to the shape of the table.

Awhile back, my best friend acquired a new desk and offered to give me her old one. Which was fine, except that she didn't have any way to get it across town to my place until yesterday, when friends of hers were in town from southern California with their pick-up (they were bringing her a love seat that they no longer needed). They offered to deliver the desk, and so now it is here right next to my favorite window so that I can still look out and contemplate the trees when I'm waiting for updated information for work. I now have room for my printer on my desk, so that it isn't living on the hearth in front of my fireplace anymore.

So, thanks to Pamela for finding her dream desk so that she didn't need this one anymore. And thanks to Karen and Scott for venturing up into the unbearably hot (but not as bad as last year's) Central California weather and offering to bring me my new desk. The old green plastic table I've been using will be living with them now.

Now, all I need is to get a good desk chair, because this metal folding chair that I'm sitting on now is ruining my back.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's all about me or, the 8 Things About Me meme...

I was tagged by Miko at Mind on Fire for this “Eight things about me” meme. So here are eight things about me that may or may not be interesting and that you might or might not know about me. But first…

The Rules: “Each person posts the rules before their list, then they list 8 things about themselves. At the end of the post, that person tags and links to 8 other people and then visits those peoples’ sites and comments letting them know that they have been tagged, and to come read the post, so they know what they have to do.”

1) I have specific memories from before I turned 1 year old. Yeah, I know…the psychologists say that isn’t possible. They’re wrong.

2) I am terrified of anything medical. I get anxiety attacks if I have to go into a hospital or even a doctor’s office. In fact, it is so bad that I can’t even sit through a one-hour medical drama on TV. Which is kind of too bad, because I always thought Dr. Luka (on ER) was awfully attractive.

3) My Very Brady Moment: When I was in the ninth grade, I briefly shared a stage with Robert Reed, Maureen McCormick and Barry Williams, who of course played Mike, Marsha, and Greg Brady on “The Brady Bunch”. This was right at the height of that iconic television show and the occasion was Shakespeare Festival. I was dressed in Elizabethan costume and taking part in the pageant at the awards ceremony at the end of the day, and the three of them were the guest celebrity award presenters. Me? I wasn’t impressed, as I never like the show very much (although I adore “The Brady Bunch Movie” because it is so evilly funny).

4) I’m a professional props handler…or, in my preferred job title, props mistress. I’ve worked with the Central California Ballet for several years on a number of productions. It has been an occasional opportunity for my inner theater geek to come out and play, and I’m still amazed that they have paid me to do any of this.

5) Mortifying confession: I got a giggling fit in the middle of my grandfather’s funeral. The minister (Southern Baptist) had this really bad southern accent, obviously fake as it occasionally faded away (think Kevin Costner’s accent in “Robin Hood”). After awhile, it just got to me and I started to giggle. Fortunately, I was able to disguise it until it finally passed.

6) When I was young, I lived near the Santa Susana Field Laboratory where they tested many rocket engines, including the Saturn rockets that took the Apollo missions to the Moon. For a long time, it seemed like they did a test almost every night. Sometimes, when the tested the largest engines, it would sound like the whole mountain was going to take off. There was also a nuclear meltdown there just before I turned three (and when I lived within a couple of miles of the place, as the crow flies), which could be the reason that I have a screwy thyroid gland.

7) I once attended a school for just five days. When I was in elementary school, my father’s job required him to work away from home for a month or six weeks at a time. At first, he would stay out of town during the week, leaving my mother and I at home, and he would come visit on weekends. But after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 he decided that when he had to be out of town, we would travel with him, just in case…(cue ominous music). Well, when I was in fourth grade he had to work down in Coachella Valley, and so we found a motel room with a kitchenette in El Centro and I was put in school there. However, a few days later, my dad happened to find a very nice apartment for a good weekly rent ($44 per week, as I recall) and we moved to Brawley, where I spent a bit longer in school…almost a month and a half, I think.

8) My favorite place in the world is Disneyland. Yeah, I know. Not politically correct in some circles, and considered immature in others. But I love Disneyland. I still clearly remember parts of my first visit there, when I was almost 2 years old, and I’ve pretty much lost track of the number of times I’ve been there. I think the reason I love the place so much is that it is the only place guaranteed to allow me to lose every bit of my anxiety and stress…a wonderful thing for someone like myself, who is prone to anxiety attacks. The lines don’t bother me; people cutting in line don’t even bother me. I can just chill and enjoy myself and forget the rest of the world. And that is a rare and wonderful thing.

Well, I don't know 8 bloggers to tag for this, and almost all the people I do know who blog have already been tagged for this, so if you read this and wish to join the fun, consider yourself tagged and drop a link in the comments when you get your list up on your blog.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hello. My name is lma, and I am a nerd...

I am such a nerd.

I sat watching tv coverage of the landing of the space shuttle today down at Edwards with tears just streaming down my face. Part of it was because it was so beautiful. The sky was so clear and blue. The desert was lovely - I love the desert anyway, but it seemed particularly beautiful today. And despite the well-publicized shortcomings of the shuttle and its program, and the way that some people describe the vehicle as a flying brick, it seemed so graceful to me as it glided in there, the landing gear slipping out at the perfect moment and then the vehicle touching down almost delicately.

Another part of it was just the idea that just a little while before it had been in space, orbiting the earth, free of gravity. That thought just always floors me. Almost no one, it seems, even thinks about the fact that there are people living up there on the space station on an ongoing basis and have been for years. I look up there every once in awhile, especially into a starry night sky, and think about how cool that is. And this will really up my nerd quotient - I don’t ever look at the moon that I don’t sigh and think, “People have been there.” I was raised following the space program and I still think the idea of traveling and living in space is cool and romantic. I am such an admirer of the folks involved with the Space Ship One project and its follow-ons. They are actively engaged in seeing that more people get to go up there, even if only for a little while. Yeah, it’ll be pricey, but not anywhere near the millions that the so-called “space tourists” are paying now to go.

Part of the reason for my tears was that I was a little upset that the shuttle had approached Edwards from the south, so that Southern California got to hear the sonic boom. If it had approached from the north, we would have gotten to hear it.

Yeah, I know. Weird. But I love sonic booms. We used to get to hear them all the time. Probably had to do with the fact that I grew up in Southern California, close to places like Edwards where they tested supersonic aircraft. That was back in the days before sonic booms were deemed to be “environmentally unfriendly” and planes were banned from flying about the speed of sound over land. Okay. I’ll concede that there probably is some harm from the booms if there are too many of them. Still, I found it really sad, some years ago, when I had to explain to some college students what a sonic boom is.

That was one of the times that one of the shuttles did approach Edwards from the north and we did get to hear the boom. I knew - since I actually pay attention to what is going on in the world from time to time - that the shuttle was going to land at Edwards that day, that it was going to come over the Valley, and about what time it was scheduled to land. I was listening for the boom. I happened to be standing outside a classroom, waiting for another class to get out so that I could go in for my next class. There were quite a few others waiting as well. The boom came - the double boom that is the signature of a vehicle traveling faster than the speed of sound - just about when I figured it would. It made me smile, likely a goofy smile, but that’s okay.

I noticed, however, that some of the people around me looked alarmed, and I think someone said something like, “What the hell was that?”

I volunteered that it was a sonic boom.

“A what?”

They didn’t know? I sighed, then I explained that it was a sonic boom, that the shuttle was landing down at Edwards right about then, and that the sound was the shuttle passing over us on its way down there. I’m pretty sure that some of them didn’t believe me. I was just disappointed that there are whole generations out there in what is purported to be the most technologically advanced culture in history, who don’t even know what a sonic boom is, much less what it sounds like.

Ah, well. I’m not just a nerd. I’m an old nerd.

Monday, June 04, 2007

A good book, a comfortable chair, and a cool beverage...goodness, I'm easy to please

I've been reading.

Well, that isn't anything new, I guess. I've had a book in my hand pretty much constantly since I was three years old. But recently I haven't been really taking the time to read as much as I customarily do, and I've missed it. So, I finally decided that I'm going to take the time to read, try to catch up to my self-imposed schedule of one book a week, and read some fun stuff as well as things that are "good for me". I don't know if I'll manage to catch up to the schedule...I'm something like four books behind at the moment. But I'm going to give it a good try.

I've especially made good, the past couple of weeks, on the promise to read something fun. Of the three books I've finished in the past two weeks, two of them have been from one of my favorite writers, Kage Baker. The first, The Machine's Child, is the latest in her series of science fiction novels about The Company - for my money the best science fiction series in years. It tackles two of my favorite sf subgenres, time travel and immortality. I recommend the whole series highly.

The other "fun" book - which I just finished reading this evening - is also by Ms. Baker, a collection of shorter fiction. All the stories in Gods and Pawns also take place in the "Company" universe but don't necessarily require a knowledge of the series of novels, and might not be the worst way to be introduced to the series and to Ms. Baker's writing.

The third book was more serious, an exploration of the evolution of religion from a biological anthropologist. Barbara J. King's Evolving God, is an interesting look at how religion might have become a virtual universal among human cultures. Of course, Ms. King doesn't necessarily define religion in terms that Western monotheists would immediately recognize, but gives it a much wider application that includes various forms of spirituality that don't even necessarily involve belief in a God or gods. And, since her speciality is primate behavior, she begins by looking at what sorts of clues the behavior of chimpanzees might give us about how religious behavior took hold. There are four precursors of religious behavior, according to Ms. King: empathy, meaning-making, rule-following, and imagination. She insists that she sees all of these components in chimpanzee behavior. Ms. King concludes that religion evolved as a response to the primate need to feel they belong to a group of some sort. This sort of belongingness, she says, is a universal need. It is not, however, innate or genetic. It has more to do with intimacy, and begins with the first moments after birth when a child bonds with its mother.

After beginning with chimpanzees and other apes, Ms. King examines the evidence left behind by various primates in and near modern humans' ancestry and finds some interesting indications that symbolic behavior of the type that indicates some sort of religious or spiritual practices go back at least 200,000 years...interestingly enough, about the same time that anatomically modern humans are believed to have first appeared in Africa. There are hints of some sort of symbolic thinking going back much farther than that...she mentions the 3 million year old Makapansgat cobble, for example...but the nature of the evidence is such that there can only be speculation as to what particular very ancient artifacts such as this manuport might really mean.

Evolving God is an interesting book. I'm not sure that I see the logic of everything that Ms. King proposes, but she makes some very good points and supports them admirably with evidence rather than mere speculation. As an interesting sort of final word, she takes on those who see religion as hardwired into the genes as well as both the current crop of militant atheists...Dawkins, Dennett, et al...and and militant anti-Darwinsts. None of them withstand her scrutiny very well.