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.