Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's own rewards...

I'll admit it.

I often complain about living here in the cornucopia of California, the San Joaquin Valley.

There isn't often a lot to do, although I will admit that things have been getting better on that count for the past few years. I can think about lots of jokes about watching the raisins dry.

But sometimes living here is its own reward, especially if you like a good laugh.

Take last week.

Friday, I was driving down McKinley Avenue and passed a yard sale. Not unusual around here. But the sign in front sure was. In big black letters, on a piece of poster board attached to a shopping cart, was a sign that read: "Fuck it sale".

I imagine that whoever made that sign was feeling very frustrated at the time...the economy sucks right now, after all. But when I saw that sign I started laughing so hard that I nearly had to pull to the side of the road.

Fast forward to the next morning.

I was up entirely too early, on my way to a 9 a.m. middle school football game.

I don't know anything about football, but my best friend teaches middle school and I go out to their football games because hardly anyone else does and I figure that someone needs to support the kids in their activities.

Anyway, I had the radio on and I heard an advertisement for some bars. The names of the bars? The Bar. The Other Bar. The Next Bar. Again, I thought I was going to have to park the car until the giggling fit passed.

And then tonight, as I was coming home from visiting my mother, there was a car stopped at a light in front of me with this license plate frame: "Grow dope. Plant a man". Sexist? Yeah, sure. But would you have thought of it?

The imagination (the license plate frame and the yard sale sign) and the lack of it (the bar names) around here just amaze me sometimes.

Monday, October 06, 2008

How quirky am I?...I got tagged.

McMGrad89, over at So I Was Just Thinking, tagged me to list seven quirky things about myself.

So, here goes:

1) There are days when I have no attention span whatsoever. Those are the days when it takes me six or seven hours to get 4 hours worth of work done. Is there such a thing as adult-onset ADD? If so, I've got it, because I never used to be this way.

2) I am unreconstructed news junkie. Which probably explains why I've been writing so much about politics here lately. Since that's all, aside from the credit meltdown, that the media is reporting about these days and all. The only reason I don't write about the credit meltdown here is that it's what I've been writing about - constantly - for work.

3) I'm obsessed with the weather. Part of that comes from living in a place where I hate the weather all summer (which lasts about 6 months most years) and a good part of the winter (which lasts pretty much the other six months), and part of it comes from growing up with a father who was similarly obsessed. He could predict the weather more accurately just by going outside and applying trends than most meteorologists can with all their satellites and fancy computers. It's a talent I wish I had.

4) I want to go back to school. No, really. I earned by BA in 2002 and I wanted to go on to work on my Masters then, but real life intervened and I wasn't able to do that at the time. I don't know if that qualifies as quirky, except that it seems kind of odd for someone my age - and who should know better - to actually miss homework.

5) I forget to eat sometimes. I get started doing something interesting and just...forget. One would think this would help me lose weight, but it apparently doesn't work that way. This forgetting does not happen, of course, on those no-attention-span days I mentioned in item #1.

6) When I'm really tired, my internal censor shuts off. Completely. When that happens, whatever goes through my mind comes out my mouth. When I used to work in retail and worked closing shifts, my co-workers always had to explain to new hires that, no, I wasn't crazy or dangerous. I'd sing along with the songs on the in-store P.A. system, sometimes changing the words around since I'm a writer and words are my playground. I'd make silly jokes. I'd answer questions that were not addressed to me. Generally, when this happens to me I just babble. I always think I'm making intelligent, relevant, important comments. Those around me, not so much. I think it is my way of keeping awake when I'd rather be sleeping.

7) I love lemonade, but I will hardly ever drink it unless it is fresh-squeezed. Okay, so I'm spoiled. When I was a little girl, we had a lemon tree in our front yard that bore fruit all year long, so I had fresh-squeezed whenever I wanted it. But, since lemons cost so much these days, I spend a lot of time going to Hot Dog on a Stick, where they have fresh-squeezed all year 'round, just like when I was little. Fortunately, there's a mall with HDoaS, just down the street from me. Even better, they get all their lemons from Ventura County, where I grew up - and where that magical lemon tree was. But, you know, that's the only reason I ever go into that mall...since they got rid of the two bookstores they used to have, there is no other reason to go in there.

Okay. I'm supposed to tag seven people to do this, but since I can't think of seven people to tag, I'm tagging everyone who reads this. Just make sure that after you blog your seven quirks, leave a comment here so that I can come read. Except...John and xJane over at Mind on Fire - consider yourselves tagged.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Oh, for Pete's sake...

This is what I'm hearing from the Republicans, just after the failed bailout vote in the House:

"Well, we were going to vote for the bailout. But then Speaker Pelosi made a partisan speech, so we voted against it."

Number one, how is that not partisan? And, number two, if they felt like a bailout or something was necessary, are they really ready to imperil the whole US economy because they didn't like a speech?

How stupid is that?

Oh, and just for good measure, one of them (sorry, can't remember who said it), blamed the upcoming Jewish holidays for "rushing" the vote.

And the third thing, the Republicans keep saying that they want this thing to be "truly bipartisan", but then someone (again, I wasn't taking names, just watching MSNBC coverage) said that they didn't vote for the bailout because they hadn't been able to push the provisions "far enough to the right".

Bloody fucking idiots. No matter if you're for or against the bailout, that's what the Republicans are acting like.

I've got to go back to work now.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I've been reading...

Just finished reading Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause, by Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel. Incredible book. Oh, it has the gossip that you would expect in a book like that, but it also has some fresh and interesting insights into the making of the film and the personalities that made it possible in the first place.

It sets the film in its time, but also looks at how it has come down through the years, continuing to speak to generation after generation of kids and adults.

I didn’t see Rebel until I was well into my 20s. I’d avoided it purposely, fairly sure that it couldn’t ever live up to its hype. But then it came on a local television station one night, and there was nothing else to do, so I watched it. Actually, I had it on in the kitchen while I was baking something, convinced that I wouldn’t actually watch the thing but just glance in on it every once in awhile. Good thing there was a timer on the oven, or I would have very likely let whatever it was I was baking burn.

I was mesmerized by the film. It was really that good. James Dean really was that good. It was impossible, but there it was.

Of course, there was the extra added attraction of the role played by the Griffith Park Observatory, a place where I had grown up and have always adored. I hadn’t realized it was in the movie, just as I had had no clue when I was a kid going there on Sunday afternoons that something so amazing had gone on there. I had been up those steps. I had leaned right there. I had stopped to get a glimpse of the planetarium controls, just as Jim Stark, James Dean’s character did in the film.

But, even absent that echo of my own childhood, I would have loved the movie.

Yeah, it is very ‘50s, and awfully cheesy in places. But for all that, it is perhaps the most authentic piece of film making I’ve ever seen, am ever likely to see. It soars. It aches.

Maybe it speaks to me because I was the outsider as a teenager. Not in the same way as Jim Stark or Judy or Plato, but an outsider all the same.

So, when I found this book in the library, I had to check it out and read it. It doesn’t sugarcoat any of the people involved in the production, but it makes it clear that while most of them had the usual foibles and faults inherent in those who practice a self-absorbed art like film making, those same characteristics helped make the movie what it is.

My recommendation? If you have ever seen Rebel Without a Cause and loved it, this book is probably your cup of tea.

If you haven’t ever seen the film? What are you waiting for? Get thee to a DVD rental or sales outlet, or to your local library to borrow a copy and watch it. It’s one of the greats.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick and Pigs, Part 2...

Yeah. I can’t let it alone. Wish I could, but I. Just. Can’t.

Not after seeing clips of Senator McCain and Governor Palin both using the same phrase they are tearing Senator Obama a new one for using.

I don’t like hypocrites. And that is what the McCain campaign is made up of, apparently, in light of the fact that McCain has used the same phrase at least once in specific reference to some of Senator Clinton’s initiatives. So, arguably, McCain could be accused at least as directly of sexism as Obama can for his comments.

If, that is, what was said was sexist, which it clearly wasn’t.

And even if it were, I think we all need to calm down and back away from the political correctness.

PC isn’t good for anyone. It makes well-meaning people paranoid to say anything that might possibly be misinterpreted, which is most things depending on the situation, and it doesn’t stop the people who say really malign things from saying them. Personally, I’d prefer that people who are prone to saying unpleasant things to just feel free to say them. Then I can know who I want to avoid keeping company with more easily.

The right wing of the Republican party condemns political correctness as so much censorship, but when someone who disagrees with them, say the Democratic ticket in the upcoming election, the right-wingers use political correctness as a club to beat the Democrats about the head and shoulders.

Like the McCain campaign is doing to Obama today.

And that, my friends, is rank hypocrisy.

Issues, people. There are issues in the campaign.

It would be nice if someone would talk about those rather than acting like a bunch of sixth graders calling each other names.

Now we know why...

Yeah. Now we know why John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Every time someone criticizes anything she says, or says anything that can be remotely interpreted as a criticism of her, the Republicans can jump up and down and yell, "Sexism!"

The latest is how Obama characterized some of the McCain proposals as "putting lipstick on a pig", and the Republicans are trying to turn that into "Obama called Palin a pig."

Jeez. Are you falling for that? Because I'm not.

Well, Mr. McCain, you need to put that sexism card away, along with the POW card. They are both old and tired. But, I suppose you are afraid that you'll lose on the issues and have to cobble up some kind of controversy in order to try to gain the sympathy vote.

I've got to go back to work now, but I had to get this said.

I think I need to quit watching the news; it gets me too riled up.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Good Will? I think not...

At the risk of sounding strident for three posts in a row, I’ve got to ask this question:

When did Goodwill become Bad Will?

With my mother now living in a board and care home and using a wheelchair provided by her insurance, there was no reason for me to keep the transfer chair (a wheelchair, but with all small wheels) that she used when out shopping or visiting before she broke her hip recently. Instead of just trashing it, as it is in fine shape, I wanted to donate it so someone else could benefit from its use.

The first organization I thought of to donate the chair to was Goodwill Industries.

So I went down to one of the local Goodwill stores and inquired about donating the chair.

A male employee snapped at me: “We’re closed for the day.” Which was kind of strange, since people were still shopping in the store and the doors were still unlocked. And then he added, “And anyway, we don’t accept medical equipment.” As he said “medical equipment”…he fairly spit out the words…he wrinkled his nose as if he had smelled something bad. As if the chair must be contaminated or something.

Fine. I managed not to rip the guy a new one and just said that I would donate the chair to someone who would appreciate it, in that case.

The chair has since been donated to Amvets.

But it is an interesting thing. I looked up the websites of both the national organization of Goodwill Industries and the organization in the region in which I live. The national site does not say anything about what is or is not accepted, as far as I could find. And the local organization’s website has a list titled: “Due to environmental regulations and/or safety concerns, we are NOT ABLE TO ACCEPT the following items [capitalization theirs]:”, followed by a list of items that will not be taken by the organization. The closest to wheelchairs any of the ten or twelve categories of items on the list comes is this: “Food, beverages, medicine or vitamins”. No mention of medical equipment in general, and no mention of wheelchairs or transfer chairs specifically.

So, the guy was not only rude. He was wrong. Not a way to build good will, is it?

I don’t think I will be donating anything to Goodwill Industries anytime soon.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Who?

He thinks we’re all fools, doesn’t he?

John McCain thinks all women are fools, and that’s why he has chosen Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate.

He thinks that just because he put a woman on the ticket, women will come running to support his campaign for the White House against Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Well, this woman isn’t falling for it. Not for the blatant tokenism this choice is.

If the choice of Governor Palin weren’t tokenism, if McCain were really committed to putting a woman that can step into the presidency at a moment’s notice- which, after all, is the real reason for the vice-presidency in the first place - you would think he could have found a woman with just a little bit of foreign policy experience. Maybe a woman who is more than two years away from having been the mayor of a very small town in Alaska.

Such women do exist, women with domestic and foreign policy experience. They exist in the Republican party. Can anyone say Condoleezza Rice?

Ah, but she probably turned him down, if he even asked. She has said before that she has no interest in the vice-presidency. And McCain was clearly not looking for a running mate who has actual qualifications for the job.

Although I have to hand it to McCain. At first glance, Palin looks like the perfect token. The obvious first: she’s a woman. She’s a mom. One of her children has Down’s Syndrome. She’s married to a man who is one-eighth Eskimo. He’s also a union member. She’s a member of the National Rifle Association. She’s a Christian who is against abortion and in favor of teaching Intelligent Design in the public schools.

How many interest groups does that appeal to? By my count, that’s at least eight, and there are probably more than I’m not aware of.

But she isn’t the perfect candidate, it turns out.

It seems that Palin has some ethics problems back in Alaska.

As I understand it, Palin’s sister was married to a state trooper, key word being “was”. Apparently the divorce was messy, and Palin wanted her ex-brother-in-law fired from the state police. When the official in charge of the state police refused to fire BIL, Palin fired the official. And it isn’t the first time she’s fired someone who didn’t please her. When she was mayor of that town in Alaska, she apparently fired the police chief and the head librarian of the town because they didn’t support her election. The firing of the state police official hasn’t been resolved yet…the report is due on Halloween, less than a week before the election.

And then there is the experience question. Just how is Palin qualified to be vice-president, much less president if, God forbid, something should happen to McCain? Besides having to foreign policy experience at all, as far as I’ve been able to see, she isn’t even on record with any opinion at all on anything even remotely connected to foreign policy. She’s been a mayor. She’s been governor of a very few state with a very small population. Alaska has a population of less than 700,000. That’s less than the county I live in. And that’s way, way less than the population of the United States. There are significant differences between running an entity with around 684,000 people and running a nation with a population of over 300 million.

Above and beyond the experience issue, where did McCain get the idea that all those Hillary Clinton supporters who were disappointed that Barack Obama got the Democratic nomination are going to come running to support him because he chose Palin to run with him? She’s seriously anti-abortion, something that most Clinton supporters likely are not.
Oh, and then there’s the husband problem. Anyway, I see it as a problem. Palin’s husband works…wait for it…for a multinational oil company. True, his position with the company is reported to be “non-managerial”, but still. What is it with vice-presidents and potential vice-presidents and ties to the oil industry? Is it a job requirement now, according to the Republicans? We’ve been there, done that, and it hasn’t really worked out that well for the nation.

What McCain got in Palin, and probably what he was mostly looking for, was a cheerleader. In her remarks when she was introduced as McCain’s choice for the bottom of the ticket, mostly what Palin did after she introduced her family was how great she thinks McCain is. And like all cheerleaders, she is there to look pretty - she came in second in the Miss Alaska pageant in 1984, after all - and make the man in her life, in this case McCain as the top of the ticket, look good and strong and smart.

It remains to be seen whether this choice of McCain’s will benefit him or hurt him. Polls taken since the choice was announced seem to indicate that the key demographic…undecided voters…are not especially impressed. And there is a great deal of speculation that not only is Palin not qualified to be vice-president, she is not prepared to even campaign for the office, in an environment where her every word and action will be looked at under a microscope and analyzed endlessly. That could be a problem for the ticket, what with all the misstatements that McCain has already produced all by himself.

Personally, I feel insulted that McCain thinks that people like me are so easily swayed. And I’m a little insulted, too, that Palin, who must know that she isn’t qualified for this position, is letting herself be used in the way she is by accepting the invitation to run.

Then again, I’m just a heathen Democrat and, according to McCain’s campaign, not qualified to even have an opinion.

Think I’m kidding? After an analysis of McCain’s pick in which several presidential historians criticized Palin’s qualifications to be vice-president, the McCain campaign issued a statement that criticized the scholars for criticizing Palin because the scholars had supposed either worked for or contributed to the campaigns of Democrats.

Interesting. So, the Republicans think they can say whatever the want about Democratic candidates and elected officials, but anyone who has ever contributed to, worked for, or…what…voted for a Democrat has no standing to criticize a Republican?

But that’s another rant for another time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The POW card...

John McCain is playing the POW card.

No, really. Did you see his appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno?

Leno asked him a question relating to his apparent inability a few days earlier to recall how many homes he and his family own. Instead of addressing that question directly, McCain went off on a whole tangent about how he was a prisoner of war for five and a half years and that he not only didn't have a house, he didn't have a table or a chair. I really expected fifes and drums to begin playing under his words.

Or, perhaps, the world's smalled violin, playing "My Heart Bleeds for You".

What in the name of all that is holy does his being a prisoner of war have to do with how many houses he (or his wife) owns now?

Nothing, that's what. It was just typical political misdirection, only even more disgusting than usual.

The whole theme of McCain's campaign seems to have become that because McCain was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict, he is a) entitled to become President and b) immune from any criticism on any subject.

Both are contentions are, you'll excuse my language, a load of crap.

I mean, I'm sorry that he had to go through that experience of being a POW. I'm sorry anyone who has ever had to go through that, has had to do so. But, mostly, those who have been POWs, in whatever war or conflict, don't go around acting like it makes them somehow immune to any sort of correction or criticism and that it entitles them to get whatever they want.

And lest you think I'm being disrespectful of the experiences he had, let me add that my father was a prisoner of war during World War II, a "guest of the Nazis" as he used to put it. And it was no picnic. He didn't talk about it much, and most of what he talked about made it sound more like an episode of "Hogan's Heroes" than anything. About the worst thing he spoke of was that while he was playing baseball one day, he forgot where he was and chased a batted ball and started to go over a fence to retrieve it and got shot in the leg for his troubles. And he talked about being marched from the camp to another location as the war was drawing to a close and the Russians were approaching.

What he didn't tell me was that the march was several hundred miles across most of Austria (that's where his camp, Stalag 17b, was located), in bad weather and with nearly no food. Or that as the war started going badly for the Germans, the prisoners got less and less food and were treated more and more badly. It wasn't like "Hogan's Heroes" at all. It was a real war, and they were real prisoners, and it wasn't a fun time.

And, although my father went through all of that, he never acted like that experience made him somehow better than anyone else, or that it meant he could do no wrong, or that he was entitled to special stuff or more privilege because of those two and a half years of, well, pretty much hell.

I daresay that, were he still with us, my father would be appalled at the way McCain and his supporters are using McCain's POW experience in the campaign. If there are any small earthquakes centered anywhere around the far northwestern corner of San Fernando Valley in the next little while, that'll be my dad, rolling over in his grave.

But, my dad isn't here to protest the rhetoric coming out of McCain's campaign. So I feel obligated to do it for him.

Mr. McCain, cut it out. The use you are putting to that admittedly horrific experience as a POW which you endured in Vietnam is offensive. You are not entitled to do or say whatever you want, and get away with it without any criticism or questioning, just because you were a POW. You are not ordained from above to be President just because you went through that.

Why should you be entitled to be President of the United States just because you went through that? You know what my father got out of being a POW? Some shrapnel in his leg, and a Purple Heart in consequence. A grave marker. And a certificate signed by President Carter, who was in the White House when my dad passed. Or, anyway, a certificate signed by a machine in place of the then-President.

Well, my dad never wanted to be President. But even if he had wanted that, he couldn't ever have even been president because he was a naturalized rather than natural-born citizen. But he went and fought for his adopted country anyway, and never asked for anything in return. Not even to be treated with kid gloves because of his experience during the war.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Goodbye, Olympics...Hello, Bread and Circuses (aka political conventions)...

I'm sitting here watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games and, frankly, I'm glad the games are over.

Not that I don't like sports, or the Games. I do.

It's just that two weeks of nearly non-stop athletics leaves me exhausted, just from sitting and watching all that activity. Not to mention that with the Games in Beijing this year, I've been having to stay up until all hours to see coverage. Last night I was up until 2 a.m. so that I could watch the gold medal game in basketball and the awarding of the medals afterward.

That was fine, since it was Saturday night/Sunday morning and I was able to sleep in until about 9:30 this morning. But there were nights I was staying up until one to watch the swimming or the gymnastics and then having to be up and at my desk working by 7 a.m. There was some serious sleep deprivation going on around here.

At least the Winter games in two years are in Vancouver, B.C., which is in my time zone, at least.

Okay. Now that's just surreal...what in the world is Jimmy Page doing playing guitar in the closing ceremonies while some woman sings "Whole Lotta Love"?

At any rate, I'll probably be wishing the Games back in the next couple of weeks, however, as the political conventions get under way, after which the campaigning will get more serious...and probably dirtier. Those few athletes who got caught doing performance-enhancing drugs are not nearly as icky as the mud that will be thrown as the candidates get serious.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Still here...

Just a note to say that, no, I haven't gone anywhere.

Life has been in upheaval around here for the past month and a half or so, and I just haven't had the time or, mostly, the inclination to blog about any of it.

I hope to have this place up and running again soon, however, so keep checking back. I mean, there's a presidential election coming up in a couple of months, so that should be good for some material, at least.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I love baseball...

You know that if you've read this blog in the past.

I’m so glad my dad raised me to be not only a baseball fan, but also specifically a Dodger fan. They do the most strange and wonderful things sometimes.

Yesterday, in an interleague game, the Dodgers beat the L.A. Angels (and how it galls me to write “L.A. Angels”; they not only don’t play in Los Angeles, they don’t even play in Los Angeles County) by a score of 1 to 0, even though the Dodgers didn’t get a hit. Apparently, it was only the fifth time in modern major league history that a team has won a game without getting any hits. It doesn’t count as a no-hitter by the Angels, however, because the game was played in Dodger stadium and with the Dodgers leading, they didn’t have to bat in the ninth inning.

Ain’t it cool?

And in more baseball news, here in Fresno baseball fans are still walking about a foot off the ground after the Fresno State baseball team won the College World Series, beating the other Bulldogs (the ones from Georgia) by winning two games in a row after losing in the first game of the three-game championship series.

Now, I’m not a big Fresno State fan. I went to school there for a couple of semesters before fleeing to a school where I would have more of an intellectual challenge. But I can fully get behind a team that wasn’t given any chance to win the CWS and had to actually win their conference tournament to even get into the CWS and survived the most possible elimination games and still win the series.

All that, and every senior on the team either graduated on time or needs only one more semester to reach graduation. One news report called the team a collection of goofballs. But, hey, these are goofballs who know how to pull together as a team and pull out the wins when they have to.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

On Father's Day...

I’ll admit it. Father’s Day irritates me.

It isn’t because I don’t think fathers deserve a day just as much as mothers do. A good father is a thing to be treasured. I should know. I had the best.

It’s just that my father died shortly before Father’s Day in 1977, and ever since then the day only serves to remind me of just how much I miss him. Still, even after all these years. I won’t lie and say that I think about him every single day. But not a week goes by, even now, when I don’t see something or hear something or read something that I wish I could share with him. And, I often make decisions based on whether what I end up doing would have made him proud of me or not.

So, in remembrance (because I can’t bring myself to call it a celebration) of Father’s Day, a little bit about my father.

He was born in Germany and came to California with his mother and father at the age of two and a half. World War II found him back in Germany as a “guest” of the Germans in one of their prisoner of war camps. Oddly enough, much later on “Hogan’s Heroes” was one of his favorite TV shows. One would think he wouldn’t have wanted to be reminded, but he really got a kick out of it.

I got my love of reading…and especially of reading science fiction from my father. He was the sort of person who, if there wasn’t anything else at hand to read, would pick up a volume of the encyclopedia or a dictionary and read that. It goes without saying, considering that, that he knew a lot about a lot of things, and I never knew him to meet a person with whom he could not have an enjoyable conversation.

And, indeed, I don’t think he ever met an enemy. It was uncanny. We could be traveling somewhere where we didn’t know anyone, and inside of five minutes after going into a restaurant or a store or somewhere he would he would be deep in conversation with someone.

Something else my father gave me was a love of learning. He did this by convincing me that everything is interesting, on some level at least. He also had a habit of setting up educational experiences for me, everything from taking me to museums, to arranging for a tour of the projection room one time when we went to the drive-in movies.

The fact that his only child - that would be me - was a girl stop him from trying to teach me all the things he would have taught a son. Not all of it took…I can’t do anything but check the oil under the hood of a car…but I can use a saw and a hammer if I need to, and I know how to handle a fishing pole, including baiting the hook. He raised me to be a baseball fan, something that did take and that continues today. But he didn’t just teach me to like the game, but also to throw and catch a ball and handle a bat.

He also taught me some even more important things. He taught me that everyone deserves respect until they prove that they don’t deserve it, and that such respect doesn’t have anything to do with how rich or poor a person is, or what kind of a job they have. He taught me that hard work isn’t something to be afraid of, and that if you say you’re going to do something, you do it, even if it becomes inconvenient.

But he also taught me to hold strong to my own convictions (and to have convictions, in the first place), even if that means being unpopular or going against the grain. That might be the most valuable thing he ever taught me, especially in the current culture of “go along to get along”. I credit that with keeping me out of a lot of trouble through the years, although it has gotten me into a few arguments along the way, as well.

Monday, April 21, 2008

this is a test...

My internet access is all screwed up this morning. Some stuff...this blog, for example, comes up right away just as always. Other stuff...Yahoo, for instance just sits there and spins. The info line at the bottom will say something to the effect that the website was found, but nothing ever comes up. Then there are places like Ravelry, which will come up, but no graphics to speak of appear on the monitor, just the written content.

So, I'm just trying to see if this will post. Is anyone else having this problem? Anyone whose provider is Comcast? I've done all the virus scans and everything, and no problem there. So, I don't know what's going on, and I am very frustrated right now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The check is in the mail...

Just a friendly little reminder…if you haven’t filed your tax return yet, you’re almost late. As I write this, if you’re in the Eastern time zone, you’ve got 22 minutes left. Adjust accordingly for the other US time zones.

Mine was in the mail yesterday…yes, I procrastinated. And my mother’s was mailed this afternoon…yes, I procrastinated even more on hers. But she wouldn’t have had to file at all except that this year, there’s that rebate that Congress voted, and to receive that she had to file. Until I was preparing her form last night, by the way, I did not realize that people over 65 have a higher standard deduction than non-seniors. Go figure.

While I was doing all of this thinking about taxes, I started to wonder exactly when April 15 became Tax Day. It was in 1955, as it turns out. Taxes were originally due on March 1 (starting in 1913) and then the due date become March 15 in 1918. (Hat tip to Ask Yahoo for this bit of trivia.)

But, I’m sure you are all tired of thinking about taxes, so I did a little more research and found out a few things about April 15 in history.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, thus breaking the color barrier in major league baseball.

General Electric was formed (from Thomas Edison’s Edison General Electric Company and the Thomson-Houston Electric Company) on April 15, 1892. Now, that event has probably generated its share of taxes down the years.

Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865.

Infamous outlaw Butch Cassidy was born on April 15, 1866, and much longer ago, Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452.

So, next time (probably next year), when someone says something about April 15 being Tax Day, you can tell them, “Actually, what it is, is Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday.” It’s much less depressing.

Oh, by the way…all of you on the East Coast…you now have 6 minutes to get those tax envelopes postmarked. But keep in mind, in a lot of places, my town included, the post offices have decided that since so many people e-file these days, they are only going to run the special tax-return mail collection until 8 p.m. instead of until the traditional midnight.

Wait…don’t throw things at me…I’m only the messenger.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Play Ball!...

It’s baseball season.

That’s why I have this big smile on my face. I’m sitting here watching a baseball game on TV even as I write this. Not so thrilled with the teams…it’s Boston and Toronto…I’d rather be watching my Dodgers, but at this point in the season, any game will do.

Now, to be sure, I haven’t followed the game that closely the past few years. I try, but I don’t live in a major league city anymore, and where I do live the predominant team is the Giants. We’ve got their triple-A team, the Grizzlies here, in fact. But because I was raised not just to be a baseball fan, but to be a Dodgers fan, it’s really difficult for me to get excited about anything Giants.

I think there is a radio station that carries the Dodger games here locally, but I haven’t been able to find it. If I could do that, I suspect I would follow the game more closely. It would be even better if I could get to a game once in awhile, but with a five-hour drive to Dodger Stadium (in good L.A. traffic), that isn’t a real option. When I lived 11 miles from Chavez Ravine, back in the days of the legendary Steve Garvey/Davey Lopes/Bill Russell/Ron Cey infield, I was able to see at least a few games a season. And I listened to pretty much all the games on the radio. Made it to a few Angels’ games a season (back when they were the California Angels, before all the name changes…but don’t get me started on how the Angels don’t even play in Los Angeles; they don’t’ even play in Los Angeles County…grrrr) back then, as well, since it wasn’t much further to Anaheim Stadium (or whatever they’re calling that these days) than it was to Dodger Stadium.

Actually, I even have vague memories of a Dodger game my parents took me to when I was about three years old and the team was still playing in the Coliseum before Dodger Stadium was built. I don’t really remember much about the game, but I do remember giving a hard time to the little kid who was sitting in front of us. I feel bad about that now, but I treasure the memory of having been at that game.

There are other sports I like…basketball and tennis (which has gotten awfully boring, I think)…but I will always be a baseball fan most of all.

Now, I’m going to watch the game.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

In which I attempt to become more domestic...

I used to have a keychain that read: “My only domestic quality is that I live in a house.”

And that’s pretty much the truth. Oh, I do the domestic things that I have to do, but I don’t take much joy in them. I don’t mind cooking, but I’m not very good at it. Baking is a little better, but I don’t do that much anymore because I don’t need to eat the stuff. Cleaning takes me forever (and probably never gets completely done) because I’m always getting sidetracked by more interesting things…usually something I find to read.

And I loathe grocery shopping. That’s probably because between the things that I can’t eat and the things my mother can’t eat, it’s difficult to find anything to buy. So, between that and little detail that my mother doesn’t really like my cooking (she says that’s not true, but I can tell…she always eats more in restaurants), we eat out a lot.

But…I’m making an attempt to become a little more domestic. I’ve taken up knitting. Again.

You see, I learned how to knit when I was a teenager. I played around a little bit with it at home, along with crochet and embroidery. I even took a needlecrafts class when I was a senior in high school. Knitted a pair of slippers (that didn’t fit, as I recall). But most of that went by the wayside as I got older. I went through a period when I did a lot of counted cross stitch, and I’ll still pick up a project once in awhile.

But I hadn’t knitted in years when my best friend told me about a class at the knitting shop where she spends a lot of time (Ancient Pathways, in Fresno, CA). It was an easy class, to learn to make a feather and fan scarf. That was last summer. I took the class, finished the scarf, started another one, and…let it sit for months.

Recently, however, I got to thinking that I should have kept at it. So I got the project out and started to work on it again. And promptly screwed it up. So, I pulled it all out and started it over. Or attempted to: I discovered that I had forgotten how to cast on. A visit to Ancient Pathways (where there is always a place at the knitting table to sit and work and chat) set that problem right, and I’m almost finished with that second scarf. I’m thinking about making an afghan based on the same pattern. And I’m signed up to take another class, this time to make a bag for my laptop.

I’m determined this time. I’m going to learn how to knit more than just scarves.

Monday, March 17, 2008

No, this has not turned into "meme central"...

Here's a challenging meme for you. You must answer with one word and one word only. Reading this? Tagged.
Have fun, and let me know when you post.

1. Where is your cell phone? Ledge
2. Your significant other? None
3. Your hair? Long
4. Your mother? Cute
5. Your father? German
6. Your favorite thing? Writing
7. Your dream last night? Weird
8. Your favorite drink? Lemonade
9. Your dream/goal? Published
10. The room you're in? Living
11. Your fear? Earthquakes
16. One of your wish list items. Travel
17. Where you grew up? California
18. The last thing you did? Eat
19. What are you wearing? Clothes
20. Your TV? Documentaries
21. Your pets? None
22. Your computer? Compaq
23. Your life? Strange
24. Your mood? Mixed
25. Missing someone? Yes
26. Your car? Green
27. Something you're not wearing? Earrings
28. Favorite Store? Book
29. Your summer? Hot
30. Your favorite color? Brown
31. When is the last time you laughed? Today
32. Last time you cried? Today
33. Who will/would re-post this? Dunno.

Remember, let me know when you've played.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tagged again...

Tagged again, this time by Jana over at Pilgrimsteps.

Same rules as before. Go to page 123 of the book closest to you; find the first five sentences, then quote the next three sentences. Tag five people.

This is from Arguing the Apocalypse: A Theory of Millennial Rhetoric, by Stephen D. O’Leary which looks at apocalyptic thought in the history of the United States. The relevant passage is part of a long quotation from a 1842 editorial calling into question the predictions of imminent apocalypse by William Miller, a Baptist minister who predicted that the Second Coming would occur in 1843 and then in 1844:

“It therefore follows that the coldness of the clergy and church is one of the signs of that day. We also learn that all the signs which were to mark the approach of that day, the fulfillment of prophecies and the termination of prophetic periods, will be so little different from those which have been in days previous, that they will not catch the attention of any but those who are with humble prayer looking for the approach of that day….If then the church and world were all expecting the second advent of Christ immediately, we should know that that event would not now come, because the world would not be in the condition that we are assured it will be when Christ comes.”

I’m still reading about apocalypse and conspiracy as research for some writing I’m doing, so it might look like I read a lot of very heavy, very serious things a lot of the time. And it is true that I sometimes do.

On the other hand, just to prove that I’m not only about serious scholarly reading, my relaxation reading currently is a YA novel, Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. It’s a vampire novel in which a seventeen-year-old girl moves to Washington state to live with her father and falls in love with the seventeen-year-old vampire who sits next to her in her biology class. Of course, as he says at one point, he’s been seventeen for awhile. If I was using that book for this meme (as I could have, as it was only slightly farther away from the O’Leary book when I wrote this), the relevant passage would have been:

“That’s Sam - he’s nineteen,” he informed me.
“What was that he was saying about the doctor’s family?” I asked innocently.
“The Cullens? Oh, they’re not supposed to come onto the reservation.”

Well, that’s actually four sentences, I guess, but close enough.

Twilight is a good book, by the way. It might be classified as a YA novel, but it’s keeping this definitely-older-than-YA reader turning the pages. I stayed up reading much later than I should have last night because I just couldn’t put it down.

Oh, yeah. If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What are you reading right now?, or a book meme from John...

I’ve been tagged by John over at Mind on Fire to respond to this book-related meme. The rules are as follows:

1. Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. No cheating!
2. Find page 123
3. Find the first 5 sentences
4. Post the next 3 sentences
5. Tag 5 people

The book closest to me happened to be A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, by Michael Barkun (University of California Press, 2003). The relevant sentences are:

“His elaborate and sophisticated Web site contains a large section called ‘The Reptilian Connection.’ A similar site, maintained by John Rhodes, is called simply
“The interrelationship of inner-earth and reptilian themes is complex."

Probably not so fascinating as John had hoped, but if the meme had been for page 122 rather than 123, things would have been very different, because then the relevant sentences would have been:

“In addition, closely related material has been published under the names Bruce Walton and Bruce A. Walton, some of which has been cited by Branton.
“By his own account, Branton is a former Mormon in his thirties, who grew up in ‘the Southeast corner of Salt Lake Valley.’ He claims to be an abductee who has had contact through ‘altered states’ of consciousness with human beings living in the inner earth.”

Considering some of our backgrounds as former Mormons, that would have been much more of a hoot, I think.

Anyway, the book itself is an interesting look at religious and secular conspiracy theories. I found it in the ‘further reading’ section of another book I read recently, Have A Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans are Looking Forward to the End of the World, by Nicholas Guyatt (Harper Perennial, 2007). I found Guyatt’s book quite by accident at the library and had to read it, just based on the title. I’ve found some of my favorite books that way, incidentally.

After reading it, I realized that it was relevant to my research into how people look at the world and how they arrive at those perspectives, so now I’m reading quite a bit about apocalyptic thinking and conspiracy theories. Barkun’s book is especially interesting as it looks at the intersection between the two.

So, I’m not really sure who to tag, as John and I seem to run in very much the same bloggy company. So, I’ll violate the rules just a little and tag anyone and everyone who happens to read this. Just drop me a comment when you’ve participated, so that I can come and read.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Meme of the Day...

Found this over at Jana's blog. If you're reading this, you're tagged. If you're Pamela, you're especially tagged.

What kind of soap do you have in your bathtub/shower right now?

What color or design is on your shower curtain?
Green - to go with the yellow and green tile.

What would you change about your living room?
I’d really like to have a couch or love seat. Right now all we’ve got is one armchair and my desk chair (which, I have to admit, is comfortable enough to nap in…I did so this afternoon).

How many plants are in your home?

Are the dishes in the dishwasher clean or dirty?
What’s a dishwasher? There are some dirty dishes in the sink, but not many.

Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?

Do you have iced tea, made in a pitcher, right now?

Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?
Not a chance. I’m horribly allergic to them. I started itching just thinking about the idea.

So, what is in your fridge?
Milk, orange juice, water, diet sodas (Mug Root Beer, Sierra Mist, and caffeine-free Pepsi), butter, margarine, bread, pineapple, cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, tomatoes, probably some other stuff, but I’m too lazy to go look right now.

What’s on top of your refrigerator?Napkins, a box of Minute Rice, disposable plastic cups.

White or wheat bread?
Wheat…sourdough wheat.

Comet or Soft Scrub?

Is your bed made now?
As made as it ever gets…I’m sitting on it as I write this.

Is your closet organized?
Yeah, right.

Can you describe your flashlight?
It’s a compact little silver-colored thing that fits in the palm of my hand…got it at a dollar store years ago and it still works, which is more than I can say for any of the more expensive flashlights I’ve ever owned.

If you have a garage, is it cluttered?
No garage, just a carport. But if I had a garage, I’m sure it would be cluttered.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Review: Have a Nice Doomsday

I just finished reading an interesting book. Have a Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans Are Looking Forward to the End of the World, by Nicholas Guyatt (2007, Harper Perennial). In it Guyatt, a Brit who now lives and teaches in Canada, takes a look at the state of apocalypse thinking in the United States.

He spoke to a number of preachers and writers who spend their time thinking about the End Times and following what they believe are the signs of the imminent Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Some of the individuals he writes about are well known: Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind series of novels; Hal Lindsey, author of The Late, Great Planet Earth, and televangelist John Hagee. Others spend their days toiling in the field of apocalyptic thinking from a rather lower profile, although most of them have either written books on the subject, broadcast less well-known programs about it, or have a presence on the internet.

To a man (there are apparently no women active in the field, or else Guyatt couldn’t find any), they all deny that they are violating the Biblical injunction against focusing too much on the time of the Second Coming. They all also protest that they are not advocating actions that might hasten the End Times and that, anyway, they don’t really have any influence in Washington. Never mind the fact that some of them hold summit meetings on the millennium in Washington; that some of them actively ask their congregations or readers or viewers to write letters to their Congressmen urging them to support policies that, if followed, could cause the kind of instability that could trigger wars and rumors of war; that some of them are in demand as speakers for groups from various departments in the government. Never mind that some of them appear with fair regularity on cable news networks, billed as experts on the Middle East. The most worrisome thing about those TV appearances is that they are rarely identified as being Christians who are devout believers in the End Times, and they even more rarely volunteer that information.

Guyatt also provides a bit of the history of Christian apocalyptic thinking in Europe and America, and points out that Christians are not the only apocalyptic thinkers. He points out, in fact, that some of America’s Christian apocalyptic thinkers have been very busy in the past few years point their fingers at certain Islamic leaders (Iran’s president’s name comes up) and accusing them of being dangerous crazies who are trying to bring about the End Times by fomenting trouble in the Middle East. That strikes me as a kind of a “pot and kettle” situation, or perhaps a bit of projection, but it illustrates vividly part of the problem with this sort of thinking.

The fact that Guyatt is not a US citizen or resident puts him in a unique position to look at what is, presently, a mostly American preoccupation with the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Millennium, the Battle of Armageddon, and the Second Coming. He injects himself into the book as he talks people involved in spreading the message of the End Times, and as individuals he seems to find most of them personable and open to explaining their thinking. But he concludes that, for all their protests that they really have no power and that they don’t have an agenda that includes helping biblical prophecies about the End Times reach fulfillment, there is a danger that the political activism that some of them engage in is influencing Washington to some extent, pushing events in directions that could be worrisome to those of us who don’t believe in their message and don’t appreciate that they are “looking forward to the end of the world” and want to take the rest of us with them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A glimpse out my window...

While I'm sitting here waiting for some information to come across so that I can continue my work for the day, I opened the blinds on the window right next to my desk so that I could see what's going on out in the world.

Only, there isn't all that much to's foggy out.

I'd heard it was on the morning newscasts, but the fog usually stays fairly high here in town. But this morning, I can barely see down the short block and across the street to the university campus just over...there. Even the trees just across my street, the trees are only half-visible in the mist.

What I can see are all the cars parked up and down my street, bumper to bumper. That's because Spring semester begins today across the street, and nobody wants to pay the $68 per semester or whatever it is now to buy a parking permit on campus. And I see even more cars, cruising up and down the street looking for a place where they can park. I'm just glad my building has assigned parking spaces for building residents around in back.

You know, I don't blame people for not wanting to pay all that money to park. But it really is a pain not to be able to park in front instead of in back of the building when I have a load of groceries in the car (I have to do grocery shopping later, so that's on my mind), so that I don't have to bring everything so far into the house. And it is also a pain to try to have guests over, even at night, because classes run 'till ten p.m. across the street and there is very often no parking at all available from around 7:30 am until nearly 10 pm during the week.

Ah, well, it'll be this way, with the exception of Spring Break, all the way through until the middle of May.

And how is your day going?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Quiz time again...

You Are a Total Brainiac

You're amazingly brilliant. Some would even say genius.
You're curious, thoughtful, analytical, and confident.

You take on difficult subjects because you want to... not because you have to.
No field of knowledge is too complicated or intimidating for you.

You've got the brains to do anything you want.
It's possible you end up doing everything you want.

Yeah, right. I'm so brilliant that I'm sitting here taking quizzes (and trying to remember if quizzes has one z or two).

I've realized, though, that there is a good reason for the existence of these quizzes (see? I've decided on two z's). They exist for those times when my brain is too tired to manage a real post or for those times when I have too many things I'd like to blog about, but every time I start to write about one of them I get all frustrated/angry/upset that I can't write anything that isn't a rant.

Since it is election season, guess which one it is this time.

By the way, thanks to Sister Susan over at Musings of a Discerning Woman for pointing the way to this quiz.