Friday, October 29, 2010

Can You Hear Me Now?

Gone are the days when we could go grocery shopping without at some point in the adventure call someone to either report or ask something.
"I'm in the cereal aisle.  Did you want spoon size shredded wheat or the big biscuits?" because we seem incapable of making that decision without consultation.
"Yeah.  I'm here in the cereal aisle.  Where you at?" because we must keep family, friends, or complete strangers aware of our every movement and must, even if we don't care, know theirs.
Since we have lost the ability or the capacity to go to the grocery store without maintaining constant contact with at least one other person it seems only right that we should be unable to experience other, possibly more challenging, adventures without maintaining that same level of contact.
Thank God, then, that now when we climb Mt. Everest we will be able to make that call.
"Yeah.  I'm here on the North Face.  Where you at?" we can now ask.
"Yeah.  I don't know.  It's real windy here.  Do you think I should ask a Sherpa to zip my jacket?" we can now consult.
This just in via the LA News Monitor:  " ... no one would have imagined in their wildest of dreams even a few weeks back that the 3G mobile communications could be facilitated some place as isolated at the Mount Everest. That is precisely what has been achieved by Ncell. Ncell leads the scene in Nepal as far as mobile communications and internet facilities are concerned.
The company has set up a base station for 3G communications at the Mount Everest at 17,000 feet above the sea level. Aigars Benders who represents the company confirmed the same and said that the base was set up close to the village of Gorakshep."

 Of course climbing Mt. Everest has just become a much more dangerous activity because most of the climbers will either be talking or txting.  Soon, I suppose, the folks who govern such activities will have to ban the use of cell phones on Mt. Everest at least while actively climbing.
 And then what will those folk do for advice and adventure.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Great Dog Died Today

Barney Google The Dog, often known to readers of witsendmagazine as The Family Dog, died today.  He was nine years old.  He rose from a stray on the streets of Pomona, California, to a bi-coastal pooch who wore red boots while he danced in the Vermont snow and who touched the lives and the hearts of all who met him. 
He was a great guy.  His two vets wept today as did we.  He fought a brave fight against intestinal lymphoma.
Ultimately, just like his beloved tug of wars when we would finally admit that he was stronger than both of us and declare him the winner, Barney won and the cancer lost.  He died before cancer killed him.
As the nephew Ben said, "Barney was a great guy.  He made everyone's life better."
It's true.  Everyone who met him was better because of that meeting.
I know we were.  We miss him.
He was at his healthiest one hundred nineteen pounds of loving, dignified, goof ball.
And he loved us without judgment or condition.  As did we him.
Here's to you, Barney.
And here's to us and every pet owner who has the courage to give their hearts.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Guess She Doesn't Want To Be Polite

Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown were asked if they wouldn't mind stopping their negative commercials.  Jerry Brown agreed to do so if Meg Whitman would also stop.  She would not, despite boos from the crowd, agree.  That ought to be worth at least a few votes for Jerry Brown, don't you think?
Back to my question of why are we so rude, I think this is a good example.  Civil discourse be damned.  Polite discourse be damned.  Meg Whitman wants to be governor and she will pay anything and do anything to achieve that goal except, of course, stop calling her opponent nasty names.
I know who I'll vote for on Tuesday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

This Time I'm Really Worried

Either this election is nastier with more at stake or I'm just base line worried but this election seems to have so much on the line.  No, I'm not talking about whether or not California will legalize raising and smoking weed.  I'm talking about the nut cases who are making serious bids for high office.  I've hired people in my time and it would never occur to me to hire someone with no experience and certainly not someone with no experience and who make up preposterous stories and presented them as fact.  I wouldn't hire that person even if other people believed the preposterous stories.  So here's what's terrifies me about this election.  Lies are flying all around and no one seems to care.  We've got serious candidates with no idea about the contents of the United States Constitution of the function of the United States Supreme Court.  And people are taking them seriously.  Frankly, John McCain should be, in my opinion, tried for treason.  He brought Sarah Palin to national attention and gave her the forum for her particular brand of lunacy and she seems to have started the snowball rolling right to this very moment.
Frankly, I'm afraid.
I intend to vote.
I hope you do, too.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Why Are We So Rude, He Asked

I thought it was a reasonable question from someone considered by most people to be completely insane.  Even insanity deserves to be treated politely.  I've been thinking about his question and I think I've got one answer.  We are so rude because that's how we hear right wing radio hosts talk, that how we hear cable news folk talk and, yes, that's how we hear nationally known political figures talk.  Civil discourse has apparently died a quiet and unnoticed death.
Like Lazarus, though, that death can be undone.  We just need to figure out how to do it.

Watching A City Wake Up

I'm not an early riser.  Once in awhile, though, I greet the dawn coming from the other direction -- night.  During those increasingly rare times when my night turns into my day, I love to watch my city wake up.  This morning, for example, I found myself driving through Glendale at a little after six.  The Borders bookstore at the corner of Broadway and Brand was closed, only dimly lit.  However, across the street on the North side of Brand, a men emptied a delivery truck while on the opposite side of the street a garbage truck was being loaded.  On a Sunday morning?  Go figure.
Soft clouds tinted not by a sunset but by a sunrise wrapped the early morning city in gentle promise.  The all night do-nut store proved its mettle.  The door was wide open.
Every city greets the day in its own special way.  Manhattan comes to life with shouts and honking horns and screaming sirens.  Its nights are much shorter than those of sleepy Glendale.  Despite the song, it does sleep otherwise I would never have helped it greet its day.  Even Las Vegas awakens.
Every city greets the day in its own special way.  This morning Glendale, California, promised a day of hope and by evening it had delivered on that promise.
Every city greets the day.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Beware The Repairman

Our next door neighbor was having trouble with his television reception so he called the cable company.  We knew this because, upon seeing neighbor and cable guy in front of our house, we naturally said, "What doing?"  Neighbor explained the problem and we naturally replied, "There goes our cable."
It is common wisdom and accepted truth that when a utility truck appears on any residential street to fix one problem several more problems will exist by the time the truck leaves.  Of course, those problems will not be noticed until the truck and its driver (the repair person) have turned the corner and disappeared from view.  All of this must happen either on a weekend, a major holiday or after regular business hours.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I turned on the television this evening and discovered that we still had reception.  And then imagine my complete lack of surprise when I tried to access the internet and discovered that our wireless internet service was not available.  This all made sense because our cable television and our internet service come through the same provider, Charter.
No problem, thought I and I called the service number on my last bill.  I was connected immediately to a friendly and totally computerized voice.  Clearly no Charter repair people have been near the Charter place because at least the computer that created the voice seemed to be working.  At any rate, the voice instructed me to say 'representative' if I wanted to speak to a human.  So I immediately said 'representative' to which the computerized voice replied 'Fine.  Now let's solve your internet problem.'  So much for speaking to a human.
As things worked out eventually, though.  Come to fine out the computer and the computerized voice knew a thing or two about how to fix our internet problem.  Forget that I spent at least ten minutes talking to a machine we now have internet.
Or at least we have internet until someone else on our street calls Charter for a repair.  The only mystery is whether we will lose our television reception or our internet service.  Aside from that, when we see a repair person there are no other surprises.

Friday, October 15, 2010

More What To Do With A Famous Hole In The Ground

Here's what I think will really happen.  The thirty-three rescued miners will become so exhausted from the constant media glorification that they will one quiet day when no one is looking lower themselves back down into the mine.
Of course that would start a whole new rescue operation and a whole new media frenzy.
One wife said that all her husband wanted to do was sit and feel sunshine.
Instead, apparently, he is being flown off to Graceland because he asked for Elvis music while trapped.
Or maybe I've just become a 'stick in the mud' or a 'stick in the hole' because I didn't have the good fortune to be trapped half a mile inside the earth stuck in a granite tomb hoping to see the light of day or even Graceland.
Some people have all the luck.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What To Do With A Famous Hole In The Ground

Now that the miners and the rescuers are all above earth and accounted for, Chile is left with a really famous, really deep, really big hole in the ground already equipped with a tiny, risky way to get in and out.  It seems a shame to just walk away from it so I've got some suggestions:
1.  Turn it into a prison.
2.  Turn it into a theme type, expensive, hotel.  Luggage would be limited, or course, to small carry on type items.
3.  Use it as the home base for a reality show involving people trapped underground who at first think they are going to die and then wait for a rescue.
4.  Bring back Fear Factor and film it exclusively down in that hole.
5.  Conduct guided tours through it much like Alcatraz Island.
Of course, one never knows, I suspect, when the Phoenix rescue capsule will give out and fall forever into the hole.  The risk will probably just make whatever the hole is used for all the more attractive.
Of course, things will have to move quickly on account of our limited attention spans which, now that the rescues are complete, have returned to no more than fifteen minutes on the same subject.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Earth Returned Its Hostages And We Cheered

Now all of the miners have emerged as have the six rescuers who went down into the depths to help the thirty-three emerge.
This has been a truly remarkable couple of months for Chile and for the world.  Aside from the fact that we need happy endings and proof that miracles still exist, we also needed to prove that we can pay attention to something for longer that our typical few minutes before going on to the next scintillation.
I'd say, then, that this whole thing has been a success all around.
Well done, world.
The last miner our of the depths was Luis Urzua, the shift supervisor at the San Jose mine.  He's credited with helping the miners endure the early days of their ordeal and for keeping spirits up during the weeks of the rescue.  When he finally came into day light, he hugged the president of Chile and then said: "We have done what the entire world was waiting for. We had strength, we had spirit, we wanted to fight, we wanted to fight for our families, and that was the greatest thing."
Well done miners.
Now the world can exhale, finally.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Town Car


The Other Family Human and I both have old cars that need servicing often. Since we both need our cars for work, every few months we rent a car for a week to give us enough time to take care of both. We always ask for the cheapest car and usually get some little American subcompact.

Yesterday, though, the rental place was out of everything but an SUV and a Lincoln town car. A lot of customers had extended their rentals overnight. The agent told us that we could have either for the price of the subcompact. I chose the town car. I figured I could buy a chauffeur's cap and make a little extra money taking people to the airport.

Just getting it out of the Avis parking lot was a challenge. The car is highly automated, and makes a lot of decisions for its driver. My own car is a manual shift Saturn with manual doors and windows that crank up and down. I am used to being the one who decides, and I was not amused by its assumption of control. The agent had said that I could trade the car in for a smaller one on Monday morning, and I looked forward to doing just that.

On Sunday afternoon, I went to the supermarket. I opened the trunk to put my groceries in. I ave seen apartments in Manhattan which would fit in that trunk. I got in the driver's seat. Wow, this car is comfortable. Well, I'd enjoy it for the day.

Monday morning, I was called to an emergency before I had a chance to change cars. I was getting more and more attached to it. On my way to my next appointment, I had to pass the rental place, thought about stopping and making the switch, and passed it by.

Maybe I'll keep the town car all week. It's got power and now I've figured out how to be the boss of it. And I'm getting a lot more respect on the road than I would in either my little Saturn or in the subcompact rental.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ten Ten Ten

Or October 10, 2010, or even 10/10/10.  However you look at it, today's date is memorable and kind of neat not because of some mystical and powerful meaning given to it but because it won't happen again for a really long time.  And we've only got two more opportunities in this decade or such neat dates, 11/11/11 and 12/12/12.  Of course people who know computer talk are going to remain fond of 101010.
Things only have the meanings we give them.
Things - events - are important because we make them important.
I like today's date because it's different, its fun to look at and I held off writing some checks so I could date them 10/10/10.
Tomorrow's date will be special and neat also because with tomorrow will come another chance to see miracles and maybe even help make them happen.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, John

John Lennon would be 70 today. Hard to believe that on December 8, 1980, he died in front of The Dakota apartment building just across from the west side of Central Park.
And still we sing his songs and still we yearn for the day when peace can finally get a chance.



And, of course, another way to honor him is to keep imagining.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sinful Yoga

The leader of a Southern Baptist church, Albert Mohler, recently advised his 'flock' that yoga is un-Christian and should be avoided.  He claims that practicing yoga opens people up to a non-Christian lifestyle.  Apparently, according to Mohler, stretching and meditating leads people away from the path to ... whatever.  And possibly may even lead to opposite sex dancing which has to be the worst imaginable offense against all that is holy.
Yoga?  Stretching?  Meditating?
Frankly, I'm more than a little worried about where this country is headed.  What is scary is not that nut case Baptist ministers say things like that but that they get any attention to begin with.  For example, why is witsendmagazine devoting any space at all to carp like this?
Got me.
Except that this type of thought seems to take hold of people and then they run with it.
So this just in.
Stretch.  Meditate.  Practice yoga.  And even more important that all of that, think.  But then if you are reading this you probably already do think, stretch, meditate, and possibly even practice yoga.
Enjoy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Dog Eats Marshmallows

The Family Dog came home from the pet hospital with a diagnosis of intestinal lymphoma and a regimen of 18 pills a day to hold his digestive system together. The Family Dog doesn't like taking pills. A helpful soul at the veterinary oncologist's office suggested giving them to him in marshmallows. I was skeptical. We had never given him sweets and I wasn't sure he'd eat them. The first time I gave him one - without pills, just to see if he'd eat it - he took it into the living room, licked the sugar off it, and looked at it with bewilderment.

Fortunately, his number of daily pills has decreased considerably, but he has developed quite a taste for marshmallows. We were sneaky at first, with one of us distracting him while the other loaded the marshmallow with pills, but now he will stand there quite contentedly watching us stuff the pills in the marshmallow, and give them to him. We were running low, and the Other Family Human went to the store and bought two more bags, one of a well-known national brand and the other the store brand. "I didn't know which he'd like better" she said by way of explanation. Well, one is "America's Favorite Marshmallow" and the other proclaims that its product is "Light and Fluffy". I think we'll probably try both.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rain Gauge Outrage

I avidly follow the weather page of the Los Angeles Times. We get so little rainfall in this part of the world that each year, I cheer for each raindrop and always hope to beat the seasonal norm, a wimpy 15 inches or so per year.

It always seems to me, though, that the Times is shortchanging us. Therefore, the Other Family Human bought me a rain gauge so I can do my own measuring. Here's what I found. It has been raining for three days now. This morning's paper recorded .04 inches yesterday, and .06 the day before for an anemic total of .10 inches. My own rain gauge shows just under one inch of rain in that time, almost ten times as much. Where are they measuring; in the middle of the desert? L.A. Times, bring your fancy meteorological equipment up here and match it with my $6.99 rain gauge from OSH Hardware. Come on, I dare you.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And Here's How

Asking a person if he/she is thinking of committing suicide is not going to push them toward death.  In fact, asking that question might open the door back toward life.
So -- if you know someone who appears depressed -- not just kind of down in the dumps -- but truly depressed, it's not only okay to -- it's important to -- ask about suicide.
For example -- I'm noting that you seem really depressed and I'm worried you might be thinking of killing yourself.  Do you want to talk?"
Kids have always been teased about anything other kids can grab hold of -- anything that makes the kid being teased different.  Things, though, seem to have gotten a bit more intense with the campus harassment of LGBT students.  Technology has made it easier to be vicious and even anonymously vicious.
All of which makes it more essential to talk to people who seem at risk -- and talk in any way possible -- in person even.
Suicide can be prevented and sometimes the most effective prevention methods is simply to ask the question.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Your Love Can Help Save Lives

In the past month five (that we know about) young men have killed themselves because of the harassment and bullying inflicted upon on them on school campuses.  The youngest of the five was thirteen.  Important to remember is that these young men did not kill themselves because they are gay but because of the way they were treated.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents regardless of sexual orientation.  Factor in feeling different and being teased and bullied because of that difference and the risk of suicide goes through the roof.  Lesbian/gay/bisexual//transgendered youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.
The fact that children even think of killing themselves is terrifying.  The reality that they do, indeed, kill themselves is beyond devastating.  But that children take their own lives because of teasing and bulling should cause public outrage.
Suicide is preventable.  You can help.

Visit http://www.thetrevorproject.org and find out how you can save a life.

These are the names of the five young men who took their lives:


On September 9, Billy Lucas a 15-year old from Greensburg, Indiana, hanged himself after a constant barrage of bullying at school. Two weeks later,  Asher Brown 13, shot himself after coming out in his Houston suburb. On September 28, Seth Walsh died after spending a week on life support in Tehachapi, California. The 13-year-old hanged himself in his backyard after suffering relentless taunting and abuse at school. That same day, Tyler Clementi jumped to his death. And the very next day, Raymond Chase an openly gay 19-year-old at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, hanged himself in his dorm room.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Life Goes On Even When We Step Away From It Awhile

Between a trip east for an awe-inspiring family life cycle event and our home, which has turned into a veterinary clinic, I pretty much lost track of the Jewish holidays that dominated the month of September. I did not eat even one meal in a sukkah, and I failed to dance with joy on Simhat Torah. However, yesterday, as I was left a skilled nursing facility in Montrose, I walked out into a storm of thunder, lightning and rain. I realized that it was the day after we add the prayer, "Who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall" to the daily central prayer of the Jewish service. I may not have kept track, but the world did. As MWB said two posts ago, life goes on even when we step away from it awhile. Next year, the holidays will still be here to observe. With God's grace, I will be, too.

Friday, October 1, 2010

News From Newark Liberty Airport

People, unless they are drunk, just don't seem to be having fun at the airport today.  It surely can't be the long lines to check baggage and then pass through security.  I mean, come on, I even found a baggage scale before check in to make sure I was under the fifty pound limit for which I still had to pay twenty dollars give or take a few just to get my bag on board.  And surely it can't be the food courts.  The woman in front of me bought the last cup of chicken noodle soup so I had to settle for minestrone which I might have chosen anyway and then the woman in front of me who bought the chicken soup I might have eaten asked for cheese to sprinkle on her soup.  I passed on the cheese and took the crackers instead.  And surely people can't be unhappy at this airport because sitting in the food court eating their lunches or breakfasts of dinners was a Continental cabin crew not, by the way making a good advertisement for the on board meals, complaining about the conditions at Continental saying things like, "I don't know anything.  No one ever tells us anything."  I'm hoping they weren't referring to essential flight information.  I began to worry that they were the passenger cabin for my flight to Los Angeles then discovered they were on their way to Israel.  As if that poor country doesn't have enough problems right now they are about to welcome a disgruntled cabin crew from Continental airlines.  And surely people can't be unhappy because every flight leaving Newark for anyplace north including Buffalo and all of Canada has been cancelled because of weather.  After all, those people get to spend a few days or at least tonight in this very terminal.
I don't know why people in airports seem so unhappy.  But so far not too many people are smiling.
I'll keep you posted.

Headed Home

Witsendmagazine took a ten day break to visit the East Coast and witness an amazing and powerful life cycle event.  Time to head home now, in the middle of the last of a tropical storm whose name I either never knew or forgot while listening to the rain slam into the side of the Jersey City apartment building where I've been staying for the past several days.
No Jet Blue this go round.  Just Continental from Newark home where life continues hanging in the balance with desperately ill cat and dog.
Hopefully they are also able to tast the delicious strawberries of their limited days and hopefully we will be able to enjoy their precious moments.
Isn't that what life is all about, anyway?
Life goes on even when we step away from it for awhile.