Saturday, January 31, 2009

If There Ever Needs To Be Sunshine --

The Political Reform Act of 1974, passed overwhelmingly by California voters during the Watergate era, ended secret donations to political campaigns. California voters believed that the public should have full knowledge about who is behind its often confusing assortment of ballot initiatives.
Supporters of the state's Proposition 8 recently tried to over turn the Political Reform Act. They now think that donations to political campaigns should be kept secret. People against the proposition stopped giving their business and their money to restaurants, for example, whose owners gave money in support of the proposition. Well, come on, now! Supporters of the proposition also claimed to have been harassed and threatened by opponents of the proposition. Okay, maybe that's going too far but, give me a break, didn't they threaten the well being of gays and lesbians?
After a one hour hearing in his Sacramento courtroom, U.S. District Judge Morrison England wasn't impressed by the Prop 8 supporters whining. He summed up the matter neatly in his ruling against the proponents, saying: "If there ever needs to be sunshine on a particular issue, it's a ballot measure."
No one should live in a closet for who they are or what they believe. So, folks, if you gave money in support of Proposition 8, have the courage to do so in the light of day and take the flack. Those who publicly spoke out against the proposition certainly took a lot of it.

Call Me Any Fool

I've started using smaller plates for my at home meals. In my mind I'm eating as much as I did when the plates were bigger even though, really, any fool can figure out that a smaller plate holds less food than a plate at least one forth larger in size.
It's really easy to get fooled. It's especially easy to fool ourselves.
We believe what we choose to believe.
Is it any wonder, then, that we were suckered for so long by the Texas shrub?
At first we fell for it and then we couldn't believe what we thought was happening was actually happening.
I'm now choosing to believe that things will get better even though our plates may be a little smaller.

Friday, January 30, 2009

And Not A Moment Too Soon

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was removed from office just when I finally learned to pronounce his name. Oh, well.
Speaking of removing governors from office -- Didn't California get rid of Gray Davis because the state budget had an approximate twelve million dollar deficit?
I guess those were the good old days.

Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is just a few days away. The Steelers are playing the Cardinals. I'm a long time Steelers fan and hope they win of course. However, it seems that whenever I watch their games, they have a way of losing. So...this game I'll try a different strategy. I'm going out to buy a television , bring it home and have it installed and perhaps see the last few plays of the game. Maybe this way if I don't watch most of the game, the Steelers will win. Just another strategy. Do you, too, try things differently in the hopes of changing the outcome?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Still Crazy After All These Years...

We like to hike in the winter. Everything is less crowded and the air is crisp and clean. We locate our yak tracks, thermals, under armor, and thick wool socks and travel by car to another beautiful national park (There are over 380). This time it’s Zion in Utah. Only a six-hour drive from home, we arrived early enough to check in to our empty hotel that is busy working on renovations in the off-season. After a quick look around the town it became clear that most of the shops and restaurants were closed for the season. “No worries”, our innkeeper assured us and handed us a paper listing three local restaurants open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Back at the room we opened our bible for the trip, our trusty small planet guide to Zion, and carefully planned our hikes for the two days we would be in the area.

The Virgin River has done quite a job creating the canyon. The colors are vibrant and the majestic views are reminiscent of Sedona but not quite as breathtaking at the Grand Canyon. Still, we know we are in for a treat and decide, since we have an extra hour of daylight, to tackle what our book describes as “a difficult three to four hour hike.”

Any time you travel a new path there is a certain excitement. We dressed in layers and began our trek to Angel’s Landing across the street from Zion Lodge. The Riverwalk took us to a footbridge that gently guided us up the first 500 feet of elevation. Once we entered Refrigerator Canyon and ascended on Walter’s Wiggles (a series of 17 switchbacks), the ice and snow slowed our pace. We were grateful that we had thought to take our poles as a slip of a few feet could have resulted in total disaster. Arriving at Scout’s Lookout (or better known by locals as “Chicken out point”) we paused to take in the view and recharge with a piece of fruit and a few sips of Gatorade.

There was only a half-mile left to what promised to be both the most challenging climb and spectacular vista within the park. For experienced hikers (like us) a half-mile steep climb would be a breeze. We were excited to see what it felt like to “walk on the sky.” With drops of 800 feet on one side and 1200 on the other, if my partner in life wasn’t scared, well I guess I wasn’t either…well not yet anyway.

We looked at each other then looked at the climb before us. There was snow and ice but there was also a chain to hold on to bolted into the rock. “Well, we have come this far,” he said. With that he took the lead and started climbing. We were both too busy planting our feet in the icy snow and grabbing the next piece of chain to look down. My foot slid as I tugged on the metal links. I was focused on going up and following his footsteps but was discouraged that I couldn’t yet see the top.

“There’s a space of about 5 feet with no chain”, he yelled without looking back. We would have to plant a foot firmly in the slippery snow and reach for the next post unassisted. That was when I looked down. I saw many things. The grandchildren I would never meet, the book I never finished and the headlines in the local paper to name a few. We were so close but the thought of getting back down was more frightening than continuing on. With each step it became increasingly obvious that after 25 years of solid problem solving we had together, made a very bad decision. He turned his head to look at me. He paused for a moment and said, “Do you think you would get married again?”
“Are you nuts”, I responded. “What kind of thing is that to ask at this particular moment?” Then, as I stood frozen with fear, I asked him the same question. Without any further dialogue we decided that the Angel (of death) would have two less visitors on this day. Inch by inch, in concentrated silence, we held on to whatever we could and using our rear ends for leverage, we slowly made our way back. Solid ground never felt so good.

Later that night I told him “No.”
“No what?” he responded.
“You know, you asked if I would get married again.”
“Oh yea, It seemed like an appropriate question at the time.” He added.
“Well”, I poked him. “What about you?”
He just smiled and then started plotting out next year’s winter adventure in Yellowstone.

Call to Congress

Congress has invited more corruption by offering financial institutions bailout money. One such institution was given $44.6 billion in bailout money only to turn around and give its CEO a $4 billion bonus. Why does this seem fair? Another institution, Citibank, was given billions of dollars in bailout and had ordered the manufacure of a private jet to fly its executives from place to place. I thought "bailout" meant to get these busineses up and running and out of the red - not to give the life of luxury to its executives. After word got out, Citibank cancelled its jet order. Rightfully so! How many of us Americans would love to have even one million dollars bailout? We know no such event will ever happen but, if big institutions can dream, so can the average American. If the average citizen can't get bailout, then why should these businesses receive bailout with no formal writing as to how the money will be spent. This is a call to our Congressmen that Americans are disenchanted with them. We need a stronger Congress. One who will stand up to big business bullies.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow's What You've Got

Since the weekend, the TV and radio weather reporters have talked about nothing except the big storm that was coming into New York and New Jersey Tuesday night. With dread anticipation, they spoke of snow accumulation, mix of sleet and freezing rain, and--oh DARN it--the worst will come during Wednesday's morning rush hour. They scared this former California resident half to death. It was a day I needed to be in the office, so I sent my boss in L.A. a grim sounding e-mail Tuesday evening saying that I would try my best to be at work the next day.

I woke up Wednesday morning to a soft blanket of two or three inches of snow. According to the radio, on what they call a news station, you would have thought nothing was happening in the world except this weather. Financial crisis, war in Iraq, Israel and Gaza be damned; it's SNOWING. In New York. In January. Who'd have thought it?

My bus arrived at the stop a few minutes behind schedule. The speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike was reduced to 35 m.p.h., so everyone drove slowly and cautiously, for a change. I got to the office no more than half an hour late. When I spoke to my boss, I apologized rather sheepishly for all the drama about the weather. He said that it had been raining in L.A. off and on this week, and the weather commentators there had also been gasping their way through the reports. Flooding! Possibility of mudslides! Oh, yeah, now I remember. They do it there, too.

I guess they need to have a hook to keep people watching and listening, but it reminds me of some lines by singer/songwriter Ferron: "It's just human nature/it's cold or it's hot/but if it's snowing in Brooklyn/I'd say snow's what you've got" Weather can be spectacular, but more often, it's just the way it is. Quit getting hysterical about it. I'm going to.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

We're Really In This Together

Arne Naess, a mountain climber and philosopher from Norway, died on January 12 at the age of 96 years. Naess dared to believe that all life is connected. He wrote books about this belief and he lectured throughout the world. He coined the term 'deep ecology'. Ecology, he taught, should not be concerned with man's place in nature but with every part of nature on an equal basis, because the natural order has intrinsic value that transcends human values.
He urged the green movement to "not only protect the planet for the sake of humans, but also, for the sake of the planet itself, to keep ecosystems healthy for their own sake".
Shallow ecology, the obvious opposite of deep ecology, embraced -- according to Naess -- thinking that the big ecological problems could be resolved within an industrial, capitalist society. Deep meant asking deeper questions and understanding that society itself has caused the Earth-threatening ecological crisis.
Naess was also an activist, inspired by Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring. In 1970, together with a large number of demonstrators, he chained himself to rocks in front of Mardalsfossen, a waterfall in a Norwegian fjord, and refused to descend until plans to build a dam were dropped. The demonstrators were carried away by police but the action was a success. He was the first chairman of Greenpeace Norway.
As a mountain climber, Naess urged us to 'think like a mountain'.
His teachings and his writings were informed by Spinoza, the 17th century Jewish philosopher who taught that God is present throughout nature.
"We don't say that every living being has the same value as a human, but that it has an intrinsic value which is not quantifiable. It is not equal or unequal. It has a right to live and blossom. I may kill a mosquito if it is on the face of my baby but I will never say I have a higher right to life than a mosquito."
He was knighted by King Harald in 2005 and made a commander with star of the Royal Norwegian order of St Olav First Class.
If all of this isn't enough to convince us that the world lost a friend, Arne Naess is survived by his wife, by his two children, and by his former niece by marriage, Diana Ross once of the Supremes.
Now we really do see how powerfully we are all connected.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fashion Update

The Family Dog has new shoes.
You may have noticed in a previous post that his blue shoes, while lovely, were a bit small. They were hand me downs from Pepper, of blessed memory.
Over the weekend, The Family Dog, completely embracing the value of shoes on cold New Jersey sidewalks, convinced a Family Human to accompany him to the nearest pet store where he, after much deliberation and trying on(s), selected the red shoes you see on the right.
He and the Family Human decided to hold off on the coat, however.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Place For Moral Outrage

Hidden three articles down from the title 'World Briefing' on page A9 of today's Los Angeles Times is a very short and very alarming article captioned: "Vatican City -- 4 ousted bishops return to fold".
"Pope Benedict XVI," the article tells us, "has lifted the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including a Holocaust denier whose rehabilitation sparked outrage among Jewish groups."
Richard Williamson, one of the four, was shown, still according to the article, in a Swedish television interview stating that historical evidence 'is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed'.
The Holocaust didn't devastate only Jews. It tore a hole in the entire world. To ignore that it happened is to invite its repeat. To deny that it happened is to again destroy not six million but twice that number because not just Jews were murdered.
The Times implies that only 'Jewish groups' are outraged over the Vatican's action. If that is the case, be very frightened.

Walking Freedom's Highway

It's okay that Yo-Yo Ma and his fellow musicians instrument-synched their inauguration performance. Their instruments are sensitive. The strings would have broken. Had we actually heard them play that day, according to Yo-Yo Ma, the music would have sounded terrible. No one could have sung along, anyway.

Clearly Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen had something different in mind. They invited the nation to sing along.

Pete Seeger has been walking freedom's highway all of his life. Look at him as he runs off of the stage. What an amazing person.

A Good One!

“Dad, that’s a good one.”
Whenever my dad tells a joke he is the first one to laugh. And, it’s not just an ordinary chuckle. It’s a burst of joy that comes from deep within. The thing is I’m sure that he’s told this joke a hundred times before he relayed it to me on the phone this morning. I laugh at his laughter and his straightforward sense of humor.
“Barak ata Adonai”, he says.
“Did you write that one yourself?” I ask after a prolonged period of laughter.
“Well, yes.”
I say it again, “It’s a good one Pop. I pray he turns out to be the blessing everyone hopes he will be.”

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I love riding in the car. Well, I love riding in the car when I’m not driving. A four, five or six hour drive is a pleasure to plan for. I let my projects pile up and create a to do “car” list of things to begin and finish. I found a great device that plugs me in and keeps my computer eternally charged. There are no internet distractions like facebook, email or visiting one of my many bookmarks. As long as it is overcast my screen stays easily visible and I can listen to an itunes mix and write and work on anything I choose. Tom sings along to the Bruce Springsteen channel on XM radio and occasionally we look at each other content with our place in the car and smile.

How Rural Is The Hudson Valley?

New York's Governor David A. Paterson appointed Kirsten Gillibrand, a low-profile congresswoman from the rural, conservative Hudson Valley, to New York's open Senate seat previously occupied by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Okay. I've got no stake in that. Nor did I have a stake in Caroline Kennedy or Andrew M. Cuomo should either of them have been appointed. This does, however, intrigue me: Senator Gillibrand, a hero of the National Rifle Association, has vowed to protect the rights of hunters. What, exactly, are the rights of hunters? I'd be more impressed if she vowed to teach the deer to shoot back.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Protecting the President

The President's entourage consists of approximately 300 people who travel everywhere with him. Those who fly with him rarely see his quarters. He has a body man who moves when he moves known as "Special Assistant to the President" who is his valet, cofidant, mind reader and sees to his immediate needs. He is at the President's elbow to keep him on schedule, run errands, etc. and rises at 4:00 a.m. every day. There's plenty of planning to move 300 people. When flying, "Airforce One" is accompanied by two or three jets carrying his entourage, his custom-built limousine ("The Beast") and his helicopter ("Marine One") and, I believe, fighter jets to protect the air space surrounding Airforce One. His limo weighs approximately 10,000 pounds, has 8" doors weighing as much as the door of a 747 and carries an oxygen supply to protect against poison gas attacks. The President's clothing contains a bullet proof vest, a leather jacket, a coat, a tuxedo shirt and probably much more. When orating, he stands behind a podium containing bullet proof glass made up of a mixture of glass, crystal, ceramic and other elements plus his Secret Service men are strategically placed.

Do you think all of this is enough protection for the one America is counting on getting us out of our woes? Can you think of something else that should be put in place?


Our new President is forward thinking with all the technological advances. He has insisted on carrying and using a blackberry much to the chagrin of the Secret Service. Mind you, it's a special unit. In fact, it's so special that it's not even available to the public or for that matter, anyone else (hopefully). It's equipped with all the whistles and bells, enough so to protect it from invasion of others. Let's hope he's forward thinking enough when making changes and decisions for the good of America.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

They Call It 'Jetting'

I really don't like flying.
There's something about Jet Blue, though. Maybe it's the leather seats. Maybe it's a television for every passenger. Maybe it's the safety measures in use well before 9/11. And maybe it's that amazing new terminal at New York's JFK.
Yesterday I flew from New York to Los Angeles. While the flight itself was totally uneventful, which is what we want our flights to be, my time at the airport was quite a break from my usual routine.
How was it that I got to the airport about a half hour earlier than planned and somehow managed to get to my gate just in time to board the plane?
I, who normally pace back and forth in front of the gate striking all sorts of deals with fate in exchange for a safe flight, had no time in which to observe even one I'm Scared Out Of My Wits ritual. How could it be that I walked to the gate and onto the plane without curling into the fetal position for at least five minutes? Was it possible that I forgot to double check every item in my carry on luggage? How could this have happened?
I think somewhere between the chair massage, the I-pod exhibit, the computerized food court, the elevated mobile office deck, the fresh baked pizza, and the Merlot I lost track of terror and time.
I see now that even though I'm no fan of flying, I'm a great fan of Jet Blue.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Family Feet

We received requests to show pictures of the Family Dog's warm shoes.
You decide.
Which shoe is worn by the Family Human and which is worn by the Family Dog?
Both are impressive fashion statements, I think.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We Were There

In some places the snow had turned to ice. The temperature hovered in the high twenties. There we were in Rockefeller Center watching the inauguration of Barack Obama. Cameras and cell phones photographed the television screens as though the president were actually there. We applauded. We bowed our heads. We wept.
Today, wherever we were, we were there actively participating in one of this country's most hopeful moments.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration of Obama

The inauguration of Obama is one day away. During his campaign, he approached the younger people and have made them more aware and involved in politics than any other time in history. They have hope he will change our country from our financial woes, the number of foreclosures, the auto manufacturers' problems, the wars in Iraq and the Gaza Strip, etc. They hope, along with the rest of America, Obama will get the job done during his regime. Because of Obama, it is expected there will be a lot more technological advances, a tendency toward generations living with one another, affordable chic and 21st century classrooms - to name a few.

Obama will be taking the same route Lincoln took to the inauguration. He will have the same luncheon menu Lincoln had and will be sworn into office on the same Bible Lincoln used. I hope we have elected an Honest Abe.

Tomorrow is a New Day

Inauguration day minus one. Here in snowy New Jersey, excitement is mounting. My cousins Bob and Elayne went to Washington on Saturday morning. They aren't invited to any inaugural events, but are just going to take in the atmosphere of renewal and hope. Someday, they will be able to tell their grandchildren that they were there. The agency where I work is opening up its largest conference room at lunchtime so that we can all watch Obama's speech together. In these lean economic times, they are even springing for soda and cookies, though we will have to bring our own lunches. I live in a seniors community, and there is a big sign by the gate that they will be showing the inauguration speech on a big screen at the clubhouse. Despite the snow on the ground, and the fact that everyone could watch it at home, I bet they get a good turnout. I can't remember the last time anyone cared so much about a presidential inauguration.

Today I went to see my mother, who suffers from severe dementia. "I saw Obama on television yesterday," she said, "He speaks very well." Obviously, you have to be a lot worse than seriously demented to not know the difference.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Season of Miracles

Clearly, this is a season of miracles. First, Captain Sully makes a perfect landing in the Hudson River with his crippled airliner, and everyone walks out safely. Then today, the Arizona Cardinals win a place in the Super Bowl by beating Philadelphia, the first time any pro football team called the Cardinals has made it that far since the Chicago Cardinals did it 61 years ago. In between, they became the St. Louis Cardinals and now the Arizona Cardinals. And on Tuesday, Barack Obama will be inaugurated as our President. If the Cubs don't make it to the World Series next fall, they probably never will.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Jersey Winter

Thursday morning when I drove to the Burbank Airport I wore a light short-sleeved shirt. With the window rolled down I enjoyed the warm Southern California winter morning. The temperature forecast for that day was in the low nineties. Always wanting to keep people in mild states of fear induced hysteria, the media had issued a red flag warning for brush fires.
Today the temperature in Central New Jersey was, with wind chill factored in, three below zero. The family dog finally agreed to allow doggie boots to be strapped onto his paws for a quick race outside. Frankly, he looks a lot cuter than most of the humans here with their odd ear covering flap caps, heavy coats, gloves, boots, scarves, and anything else that will provide protection from temperatures so cold that, as Thorton Wilder said in his play 'The Skin Of Our Teeth' even the dogs are sticking to the sidewalks. I've known that line from that play since high school. Today was the first time I got its meaning.
I only wish I had enough ridiculous winter garb to look foolish.
The family dog is better prepared for this sort of thing than am I.

Friday, January 16, 2009

So Near And Yet So Far

Yesterday at least two perfect landings of commercial jets took place very close together in time and place. The jet on which I was a passenger landed at JFK shortly after another commercial jet landed in the Hudson River. Both landings were perfect.
I flew Jet Blue with its televisions for every passenger. The mood on my jet changed dramatically as we watched the astonishing events on the Hudson River. As we descended toward JFK we flew over the Hudson. I looked out my window and saw a river full of every imaginable type of boat. My fellow passengers spoke in whispers as though decreased volume would decrease what we all felt.
There except for a flock of geese go we.
You know, we are all intimately and vibrantly connected all of the time. When things like this happen, the intensity of those connections becomes impossible to ignore.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


He said he needed help to do well on the test.
"But you're a math wizard," I countered.
"It's not the math," he cowered, it's the English. "Everyone who wants to go to a top school gets a private tutor."
He's a wonderful student. He has over a 4.0 and plays team sports and is involved in community service. I feel sad that the boy feels inadequate. He tells me he need a tutor to "learn" the test so he will score well and be competitive when he applies to college. In my day you got a tutor when you scored poorly. Things have changed.
I made the necessary calls and found a program that offered "in home" specialized tutoring. The packages begin at 16 sessions and offers all sorts of testimonials of raising scores by astounding percentages.
I feel inadequate and acquiesce. It is expensive. I can't help feeling that learning how to be test savvy should be a class taught in his public high school. I feel it's unfair that the tutor appears in my house to help him raise his score. it seems artificial and I wonder about the kids that can't afford the extra help and simply must work through the test on their own.

Gotta Go Check On My Bridge

You may recall that I bought a bridge from someone who at the time seemed completely trustworthy.
Over the years I've been pretty satisfied with my purchase.
Every once in awhile, though, I need to go check it out -- just to make sure it's still there.
You know, there are people who sell things that don't exist.
I'm sure my bridge won't disappear but in this day and age you can't be too careful.
I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Only Thing We Have To Fear

Franklin D. Roosevelt assured a terrified nation that the only thing there was to fear was fear itself. For the past several years we have been told we must fear everything. We have red alerts and yellow alerts to keep us on our toes in case we forget to be afraid. We fear terrorists attacks. We fear mudslides when it rains and brush fires when the temperature rises. We fear further financial collapse. We fear a pandemic spread by the latest sneeze.
We are a terrified nation.
Yes. There is much about which to be concerned. However, living in a state of constant terror can cause paralysis. At some point forward motion is required no matter how uncertain the direction.
Here's a thought. How about for one day we try to focus on what we have. One thing. One day.
Let's try to stay away from thoughts of 'but tomorrow I may not have that one thing'. Just one thing in which we find joy.
I gotta tell you this constant bombardment of doom and more doom is getting me down.
So give it a try. One thing you've got without editorializing about how long you'll have it.
Perhaps if we together create enough positive energy we can begin to be less afraid. Then perhaps we can move forward.
Just something to think about.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not Your Average Commuter

He was clearly not your average commuter. He got on the bus, lurched to a seat, crammed his backpack in the overhead compartment and fumbled for his ticket, all the time announcing to his fellow passengers, "I had no idea it was so crowded! I've never ridden the bus at rush hour before and I never will again!" You could see the thought balloon over the heads of the rest of the commuters. It read, "Look, I've had a long day and all I want to do is ride the bus home in peace." We all looked elsewhere. He finally found his ticket, passed it forward to the bus driver via the other passengers, as if he was a hot dog vendor at a ball game. Then he planted himself in the seat in front of me. The bus started off and he more or less settled down, although he giggled and bounced in his seat, clearly pleased about something. When we got off at the exit, he turned around and held up a slip of paper. "I need a cab from Rossmoor. I don't have a phone. Could you call?" Why not. I punched the number and handed him the phone. Now I was his friend. "I bought three vintage Macintosh amps in Manhattan", he said. "A guy was advertising them, and I got three of them for the price that one goes for". He told me about how well made these amps were, and how he looked forward to hearing his jazz albums on them. I don't know anything about sound systems, but I know joy and passion when I hear it. We got off the bus together and the driver opened the luggage bay for the not-average commuter. "Wait", he said to me, "As long as you're getting off here, I want to show them to you." He pulled a hand truck covered with a blanket out of the luggage bay and turned back the blanket to show me what looked to me like any piece of audio equipment, but to him was precious. The bus pulled away and his cab pulled up. "Good night", I said, "Maybe I'll see you around". Actually, I wouldn't mind if I do.


Barrack's Mother-In-Law, Marian Robinson, is planning on living with the Obama family at the White House. She will move in for now to acclimate her granddaughters and to help make the transition smooth. The big question is - will she stay or will she cause problems like supposedly most Mother-In-Laws do? What do you think?

Tax Saver

I don't know about you but, my taxes are filed by my long-time highschool friend who is a genuine CPA. However, before she receives our receipts, there are numerous accountings that must be written down in some semblance of order. That's where my son comes into play. He has taken on the horrific grind of writing these various accountings down and has graciously shouldered the responsibility. He has done this now for a number of years. This year he's trying to get everything to the CPA at the beginning of February in the hopes that an early filing will not bring forth an I.O.U. but rather a refund check. Those deep dark circles under his eyes plus his red eyes sprung from their sockets down to his cheeks and the paleness of his face tells me he has completed this dreary task. He has saved me many "tax hours" and lost sleep. I appreciate his fortitude!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Does Happiness Have A Price Tag?

Perhaps it's time to examine our own definitions of happiness.

I Finally Got The Memo

I am convinced that at least in Los Angeles county there are designated days for drivers to do stupid things. Memos, I believe, are sent to selected people declaring a specific day 'Stupid Driver Day'. The hapless recipients of those memos are then mandated to drive unpredictably and stupidly.
Up until last week, there were no designations of what stupid driving meant. Memo recipients could just do whatever they felt like doing as long as it was stupid, irritating, and potentially life threatening.
Last week, however, the memos became more specific. Tuesday was 'Cut Into The Lane To Your Right Day. I watched it happen all the way to work. Twice I was the intended target.
On Wednesday it was 'Run Every Red Light You Can Day'.
On Thursday it was "Get Into The Fast Lane On The Freeway Then Immediately Reduce Your Speed To Thirty-Five Miles Per Hour Day'.
Friday was "Don't Signal For Your Left Turn Until The Other Guy Is Already In The Intersection Day'.
I'd never gotten one of those memos until Friday afternoon. There I was waiting to make a left turn. Just as I started the actual turn I realized that I hadn't given anyone even a hint of my intention. Only as I was actually making the left turn did I flip on my turn signal.
Of course, the person in the car facing me who had just been forced to slam on his brakes flipped me off.
Clearly that person doesn't know about the designated days for stupid driving.
Hopefully I won't be getting any more of those memos.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Memories Of Imelda

This morning I bravely ventured upstairs and opened the door of my 17 year old son's bedroom. It's something I do now and again to remove any stray plates, replenish bathroom supplies and turn off the TV he left on way too loud. What struck me was not that that dark blue carpet was hidden by scattered clothes or that he had failed to mention that two of the three light bulbs had burned out. What struck me was the shoes.
They were everywhere. Piled in the closet and under the bed. They were stacked in corners and hidden under clothes. How? Why? I asked myself. This vision before me brought back a memory of seeing a photo of Imelda Marcos and her giant shoe collection. OK, maybe it wasn't as dramatic as Imelda but she had at least thirty more years of collecting on my boy.
I had to confront him and how this massive accumulation had evolved.
He attempted an explanation. "There's my basketball, running and cross-trainers. There's a few for soccer (indoor and outdoor), football cleats and a few that I wear after sports. There's my nice shoes in a few colors and the ones I wear to school. There's a few pairs of flip flops and topsiders for casual wear and others just because they're cool." I was starting to feel that maybe I overreacted until he added, "Oh yea, a bunch of them don't fit anymore. How about we go to the mall."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Calling In Foolish

She called a friend to say she couldn't make it this morning because she woke up feeling fluish. When her absence was explained to me, I heard that she woke up feeling foolish and decided to stay home.
My first thought was, "Wow! How wonderful that she takes such good care of herself emotionally. Most of us wait until we're feeling physically ill to stay home."
Okay, so she wasn't feeling foolish. I get that, now.
Wouldn't it be great, though, if our levels of self care got so fine tuned that we could stay home even when we didn't have high temperatures and sore throats?

Friday, January 9, 2009

One Moment Please

You may recall that a few weeks ago I called my land line telephone folk and asked to pay less a month. I was thrilled when I discovered how easy it was to lower my bill.
Today I got my first bill since my monthly fee was lowered.
Today's bill was thirty dollars more than the amount I thought was too high. Huh? I called the phone company.
Okay. Let's not play games. I called AT&T, to be exact. That first task took at least half an hour. The number for AT&T might as well be unlisted. My first several conversations were with computers. Eventually I got to talk to a human.
Said I, "You guys lowered my bill by raising it thirty dollars."
"Oh, yeah," human said, "That always happens. People get real confused over that."
"I can understand their confusion," the reasonable part of my brain, having just won an arm wrestling contest with the reptilian part of my brain, stated.
"Yeah," said the human, "there's a surcharge for lowering your bill."
Reptiles win every time. I don't know why we bother keeping them leashed or caged. Still the struggle between the parts of my brain continued.
"What," I said as I put on a heavy coat. "You charged me to lower my bill?"
"Most people don't understand that," the human said.
"While it's fun being in the majority on at least this issue," I hissed through my cold blooded teeth, "I'd like to point out that this is absurd."
"It sure is," human said. "I've worked here a long time and it's never made sense to me and it never changes."
The reptile part of my brain sulked into cranial shadows. It's no fun being mean to someone who clearly as been a pawn in an unintelligible game.
"What can you do about this," I asked feeling all empathic and perplexed.
"I can ask them to lower your plan back to the previous price."
Empathy looked ready to run into its own cage.
"The one I used to have that I asked to be lowered because it cost too much."
"How much will that cost me?"
"I can see what the surcharge will be."
There was no more friendly tug or war between reasonable brain and reptilian brain.
Godzilla broke free and ate the reasonable part of my brain.
We both hung up on the phone company human.
Another victory for corporate America.
On the other hand, I did get to stomp a few cars during my lunch break.
Godzilla, of course, had already eaten his lunch.

No Joke!

Barbara Walters interviewed Patrick Swazey asking questions about his pancreatic cancer disease. I object to some of her line of questioning. I'm very disappointed in Barbara. As if this disease isn't bad enough, she kept digging and digging at his wife, Kelly, asking her if she had given thought to what life would be like without Patrick. Likewise, she dug and dug at Patrick asking him how much longer he felt he had before dying. I suspect Barbara was striving for the ratings by trying too hard to make the viewers feel sorry and maybe even cry. Her intent was very obvious. She went too far in my opinion. I know Hollywood is Hollywood but, I feel this was downright mockery! I hope all she was striving for were, in fact, the ratngs. Disease is no joke! Barbara and/or her writers need to go back to the drawing board!

Thursday, January 8, 2009


The state is anticipating sending taxpayers IOU's rather than tax refund checks. Then why can't the taxpayers send the state IOU's rather than checks? Of course, we know we can't but, wouldn't the state take notice of our disapproval of the unfairness of it all if the majority sent IOU's to the state? Talk about bullying!

The Place You Live

When my father said, "Go west", I listened. Arizona was nice for a while but to a girl from New York, California held great mystery and promise. Although my dad was talking about a vacation, with every mile west I drove, I knew I was never going back. A day like today reminds all of us in Southern California that good weather is a benefit of living in what my dad still calls "LALA land". He makes fun of the lack of good public transportation, movie star politicians and our growing economic troubles. He can't help it. He believes New York is the center of the universe and has difficulty understanding why anyone who has lived in New York would leave it. He called me shortly after I finished a five mile hike on the wilderness trail less then a mile from my home. He was discussing the real possibility that the state of California would be issuing IOUs instead of refunds this year. I could just see him shaking his head in disgust. Yes, it's all true. We have some problems but in the dead of winter I am wearing shorts and the sun is shining. I am sitting outside with my coffee and it is a blissful 75 degrees without a cloud in the sky. Warts and all.. I love California.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Refilling my wallet

I am a library pig.

When I lived and worked in Claremont, California, my staff ID card gave me access to an excellent university library, as well as electronic connections to library resources beyond my wildest intellectual dreams. But that wasn't enough for me. I also had a card to the Claremont School of Theology library and one to the Los Angeles County Public Library system. I found out that Pomona, California had a city library separate from the county system, but there was a charge for non-Pomona residents. On the very day that I moved from Claremont to Pomona, the same day that I went to Pomona City Hall to arrange for my utilities, I walked across the plaza to the City of Pomona Library waving the bill with my new address on it, and joined that library, too.

I left my job at Claremont and had to turn in my ID card along with my library privileges. The other libraries didn't ask for their cards back, but the commute is difficult. I emptied all of my California library cards from my wallet. My wallet became significantly lighter.

It didn't last long. My first weekend at my Brooklyn home, I acquired a card for the Brooklyn Public Library. When I moved to my temporary home in New Jersey, I joined the Monroe Township Library. And just today, in the mail, I received my library card to the New York Public Library. The card, to my delight, still bears a picture of the stone lions which grace the front of the main building at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.

The only problem is that, once again, I have trouble closing my wallet.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The New Face

My niece rolled her eyes and said, "What is this world coming to? The over fifty and under thirteen crowd have changed the face of facebook forever."  She was sharing a sentiment that (I'm sure) many young adults out there feel... "Get out of our faces."   Once my sister shared the wonders of facebook with me I was off and running.  At first I only had one friend.  Yes, my sister agreed to my request (I think she felt sorry for me) and became my first friend.  After a day I had five and as my web grew so did my number of friends.  I was thrilled to see all the people that wanted to be my friend once I completed my profile and had such fun in those first few days checking my "wall" to read about the lives of my circle of people.  I loved that students from long ago found me and wrote me notes. I found some friends from high school a billion years ago and even my best friend Judy from sleep away camp in the Berkshires.  My son's girlfriends are among my 20 friends (at last count) and people I used to work with have invited me back into their lives.  I love when people post new photos and that I can comment on publicly or privately.  I love that all of a sudden a photo of a someone I know, (a potential friend)  will appear and I can simply say, "Hi" and invite them in to my world.  So, even though my niece  hints that I am too old and my sons refuse to be my friends... I've made it a permanent place on my travels throughout the day.  

Monday, January 5, 2009

California's Crazy Initiative Process

Awhile back a reader asked for more information on the process which put Proposition 8 on the November ballot. Here goes --

California uses the direct initiative process, which enables voters to bypass the Legislature and have an issue put directly on the ballot for voter approval or rejection.

Here are the steps in the Initiative Process:

  • Proponents write the draft text of the proposed law.
  • The draft is submitted to the Attorney General, along with $200. The money is refunded if the measure qualifies for the ballot; otherwise the money is placed in the state's general fund.
  • The Attorney General prepares a title and official summary.
  • The Attorney General sends the summary to proponents, the Senate, the Assembly and the Secretary of State. The legislature may conduct public hearings on it, but cannot amend it.
  • Calendar deadlines are calculated from the date the summary is sent to the proponents (the official summary date).
  • Petitions must have the official summary on each signature page.
  • Circulation of petitions can only begin on the official summary date. Completed, signed petitions must be filed no later than 150 days from the official summary date. Each initiative will be placed on the next statewide general or special election ballot that occurs 131 days after the petition qualifies.
  • Number of signatures required:
    • -Initiative stature: 5 percent of the votes cast for all candidates who ran for governor in the last election. Currently the number of signatures required to qualify for this ballot is 373,816.
    • -Initiative constitutional amendment: 8 percent of the voters cast for all candidates who ran for governor in the last election. Currently the number required to qualify for this ballot is 598,105.

  • Signers may withdraw their names by filing a written request.
  • Petitions must be filed in the county in which they were circulated.
  • If the state total based on random sampling is more than 110 percent of the required number of signatures, the Secretary of State certifies the initiative as qualified for the ballot. If the random sampling total is between 95 and 110 percent of the required number, a full count of all the signatures is ordered.
  • When the initiative measure qualifies, it is sent to the legislature. It is assigned to the appropriate committees, which then hold joint public hearings on the subject at least 30 days before the election. The Legislature has no authority to alter the measure or prevent it from going on the ballot.
  • Under the Political Reform Act of 1974, committees supporting or opposing an initiative must file campaign disclosure statements if they have made or received contributions or made expenditures.
  • Proponents and opponents may submit arguments for inclusion in the ballot pamphlet.
  • An initiative measure approved by majority vote takes effect the day after the election unless it specifies otherwise. If provisions of two or more measures approved at the same election conflict, those of the measure receiving the highest affirmative vote prevail. The Legislature may amend or repeal initiative statutes by another statute that becomes effective only when approved by voters, unless the initiative statute permits amendment or repeal without their approval.
That's it. So if you happen to have $200 and know half a million people, you, too, can get something on a ballot in California. Then, if you happen to know a lot more people, you can get your idea voted into law.
Go figure.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Sylvester is a cat you see
but he's really more than that to me.
He is such a beautiful piece of fur
and all he can do is purr and purr.
He likes to meow and meow
telling me he wants snacks -- and -- now.
He's honey and white with a tinge of red.
He's 16 pounds and always wants to be fed.
He was dropped off on a freeway
and found by my vet.
And, at the vet's is where we met
He was 3 months old
and ever so bold.
I fell in love and told him no
more to roam
for now you've found a new loving home.
He's my puddy tat
and that's that.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

In Memory of a Good Cat

"Of all God's creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat." - Mark Twain

Witsendmagazine extends condolences to blogger Marnie and family. Sylvester lived and died surrounded by love.

My Golden Lady

She would have been eighty today.  I was drawn to my jewelry box to find the necklace I played with whenever we cuddled that fit snugly around her neck.  It was mine now.   I held it in my hand hoping that somehow I would be able to feel her.  An antique golden face of a young woman smiling.  It had belonged to someone else before her and I was always intrigued by its hidden history.  We created wonderful scenarios of its origin and settled on the possibility that it was crafted by an artisan of the woman that first wore it. 
"She was petite, just like you, " she would say.   She would then give me a squeeze and we would follow the golden lady's history.   "Perhaps she gave it to her daughter when she got married and it passed through the family until it mysteriously was lost or stolen."  We created many tales about the golden lady over the years.   
Not long after my mother passed I opened a drawer in the bathroom looking for some hand cream.   There it was.  The golden lady was smiling at me.     I couldn't bring myself to wear the necklace for more that a day or two because it felt heavy and sad on my neck.  Today, almost a year later,  I put it on and it felt right. She patiently waited for me.  It was then I decided it was time to claim her and to keep both of their stories alive.  

Friday, January 2, 2009

Just Another Drive To Work

California does fog really well. The queen of California fogs, of course, is the Tule fog which is frequently the cause of major vehicle pile ups on I5 between the northern foot of the Grapevine and Sacramento.
Other California fogs, though, can be quite impressive. This morning's was no exception.
When I backed out of my garage at about 7:30, I couldn't see across the street. It's a narrow street so visibility was perhaps thirty feet. Luckily for those of us having to go to work, the freeways were practically empty. Those of us on them got it that we couldn't see and maintained safe distance and slow speed.
Ordinarily when I drive to work I listen to KNX-AM for traffic reports. Since my favorite airborne traffic reporter was fogged in, I switched to KUSC-FM. Classical music and near nothing visibility seemed completely incompatible until Dennis Bartel announced the next piece: Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries performed by the Berlin Symphony. I turned the radio in my old Jeep up as loud as I could get it without cracking the windshield. The fog closed in around me as I put my horned helmet on my head, picked up my shield in one hand, my spear in the other, wondered what to do with my sword, and changed my name to Brünnhilde.
Luckily California's legislators only made it illegal to send text messages while driving.
Deeper into the fog we traveled toward Valhalla. At the curve of the 210 and the 57 freeways, the fog completely lifted. I drove into the intentionally cute little town of LaVerne in bright sunlight.
Frequently at this time of year the LaVerne Police Department needs to generate revenue so there are check points not only for sobriety but for expired tags, no proof of insurance, incomprehensible vanity license plates -- that sort of thing. I worry about those check points because they always find something.
Wagner was finished. The accouterments, however, remained. As I turned south on White Avenue, I saw the red lights flashing ahead. Since I lacked photo identification proving that I was indeed one of the Valkyrie sisters, I turned onto a side street, took off my helmet and tossed it and the shield, sword, and spear into the back and went on to work taking another, different route.
Taking a different route to work occasionally is a good way to avoid dementia. On the other hand, driving to work regularly is a good way to go completely insane.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Getting There With Baby Steps

Here it is that resolution time of year again. The I will get in shape and I will get get control of my finances and I will eat right time. It may even be the I will learn Spanish time or the I will pray/meditate daily time. This is an exuberant time full of hope and promise.
This time next month will be the To hell with that time or the I didn't really want to time or the What went wrong time or even the I'm such a failure time.
Those times don't feel so good.
I think resolutions are great. With them we can set goals. Goals are wonderful. Seldom, though, in this beginning of the new year time of mandated resolve do we set attainable goals. We want to accomplish so much and we want to change as quickly as possible.
So here's a suggested resolution: This year I'm going to review and revise my goals every single day of the year.
The I will get in shape goal becomes a Today I will walk around the block goal. That goal will, in time, become a Today I will walk three miles goal.
What would our lives be like if we actually accomplished our goals?
Go for it!
I will, too.