Retirement Continued

April 10, 2019

Spanish

ICS, for whom I volunteer to drive people just out of hospital, encouraged us to take Spanish.  They provided the instructor at the office and a free textbook.  I figured that I could use more brain synapses (which keep one from going senile), so I signed up.  Asked to work on it an hour a day.  I’ve been trying to sing along with Ya No Vivo Por Vivir on YouTube (Ya No Vivo Por Vivir), but es difícil, even following the lyrics I printed up, along with the translation.  (Lyn, Nancy, Melissa, you try the first two lines!)  I try to listen to canciónes en Español in the car when I’m driving, but only understand about one word per sentence.  And I did have three years of Spanish in high school (albeit many years ago)!  Got four kids’ libros de imágenes en Español de la biblioteca, but only understood one: Masas de Agua, Océanos y Mares.  Muy fácil and I liked reading it aloud.  Also encouraged to download Duolingo, but it has mucha repetición, and gets boring fast.  We’re basically only doing present tense, but were encouraged to purchase 501 Spanish Verbs which goes into 14 (!) different tenses plus le gerundio y imperativo.  You’d probably be surprised to know that English has 12:

The present, past and future tenses are divided into four aspects: the simple, progressive, perfect and perfect progressive. verb-tenses

Tennis

It was my daughter who said that we should get back into tennis, but after one clinic she decided that with her part-time work, a husband and three kids, volunteering at their school, and finishing her Masters, maybe she ought to wait until after she finishes the degree in May.

However, I took two months of clinics, mostly twice a week, along with two private lessons (serving and backhand), at the Tucson Racquet Club, where I had played for years, and am starting to relearn how to play.  The pro suggested I replace the 40-year-old racquet, then my ratty tennis shoes, and I bought a tennis skirt, an arm brace, a knee brace, and shoe inserts for arches.  But once I started on a team (USTA1 3.0, where 7.0 is a world-class player), and Queen of the Court, which is weekly competition, both for doubles, needed to get acupuncture and better NSAID2 meds (Celebrex and turmeric3) from my doc.

Movie

Saw Gloria Bell with a couple of friends.  They loved it and Julianne Moore did a great job, but I thought it was too depressing.

Books

Finally finished The Overstory (see last blog).  Had liked most of it, when each of the myriad of characters had a chapter, but when they were combined in the final chapters, I felt that I needed a cheat sheet on who was who, like you find in the front of Russian novels, which you need to keep everyone’s names straight.  Plus I didn’t like the ending, although, of course, a friend remarked that I knew it would end that way.

Speed read The Tattooist of Auschwitz, which is a true story.  At only 254 pages, it’s a two-day read compared to the previous tome, and seems to skim over details too fast.  I remember reading The Wall, by John Hersey when I was a kid, and thought that it was real.  Based on historical fact but using fictional characters and fictional diary entries, the work presents the background of the valiant but doomed Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of Jews against the Nazis. Close enough to reality, I guess, even though the characters were invented.  From my recollection (which my brother often points out aren’t always true), I think The Wall was better, at 640 pages.

Continuing to have Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon read to me, either for  longer drives (as back-and-forth to the Racquet Club), or to put me to sleep at night.  I loved his Snow Crash but am having a hard time getting through this, first of all because it is 1,172 pages (downloaded on my tablet), and I’ve had to reserve it twice so far from the library, but also because it is heavier into war-related technology than I am.  I was a math major for a short time, and did get a degree in computer science, so I could picture the math nerds depicted.  Stephenson’s descriptions are a kick.  It does well, nevertheless, putting me to sleep.  This from Wikipedia:

…One group of characters are World War II-era Allied codebreakers and tactical-deception operatives affiliated with the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park (UK), and disillusioned Axis military and intelligence figures. The second narrative is set in the late 1990s, with characters that are (in part) descendants of those of the earlier time period, who employ cryptologic, telecom, and computer technology to build an underground data haven in the fictional Sultanate of Kinakuta…

Spring

Seen this last week: A bobcat slinking along my back fence – was just getting up when my cat saw it and stood on her hind legs to watch it, with large eyes.  A bee (only one in my whole garden!4) on the globe mallow outside the fence which was sprawling on the ground (the mallow, not the bee) but I tied to the fence with twine so I could see it.  The photo also shows, on the column, my resident dove who has a nest on the south wall, under my neighbor’s lady banksia rose.  Wonder if it’s the same one each year, in the same place.  A pair of rosy finches on this back fence, a popular spot above the birdbath.  Have seen mostly goldfinches at their feeder.

Between the snow5 and the summer6
When the temps are beginning to climb
Come two months of Tucson’s weather
That are the most benign.

It was 82° Sunday at Tonono Chul park when I and friends went to Sundays in the Garden Spring Concert Series.  We were seated in the Performance Garden under a huge mesquite, in the shade, peppered with its golden fuzzy flowers.  The two classical guitarists from the University were good, but we were almost dozing in the warmth.

1United States Tennis Association
2Many patients are prescribed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) for a variety of common orthopedic conditions including arthritis, tendonitis, and bursitis. These medications are particularly useful not only because they help decrease pain, but they also help control swelling and inflammation.  anti-inflammatory-medication
3Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.  health-benefits-of-turmeric
4Insect populations are declining precipitously worldwide due to pesticide use and other factors, with a potentially “catastrophic” effect on the planet, a study has warned.
More than 40% of insect species could become extinct in the next few decades, according to the “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers” report, published in the journal Biological Conservation…
In addition to the 40% at risk of dying out, a third of species are endangered — numbers that could cause the collapse of the planet’s ecosystems with a devastating impact on life on Earth.
/www.cnn.com/2019/02/11
5See my-favorite-things for snow photos from mid-March.
6100° weather starts mid-May.

Retirement

March 29, 2019

Volunteer work

I had mentioned ICS (Interfaith Community Service) in a blog a couple of years ago (who-to-help), when I started my volunteer training for Caregiving Services (just one of their myriad services).  My volunteering had obviously been put on hold when I was working in Orlando for a year.  Now I’m back to driving.  (We do this for people just out of hospital, who have no support system, relatives and so on, to get them to doctor’s appointments, the drug store, grocery store, and such.  Without us, many of them would end up back in the hospital.)

Had a young guy who had had stomach surgery for ulcers, had lost his job because he had been in hospital, and therefore lost his insurance.  Had to cancel his first doctor’s appointment as he didn’t have the copay (that had been with Banner Health – a non-profit health system!), rescheduled for El Rio Health Center.  After his appointment an administrator there helped him fill out forms for AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System), our Medicaid agency.  By the time the paperwork was completed, the lab where his blood work was to be done and the pharmacy were closed for the lunch hour so I picked him up again the next day.  Went to the lab, then the pharmacy but the pharmacist wasn’t in so we’d had to come back.  Asked if he wanted to do any grocery shopping.  Said he had no money yet for that, and he hadn’t heard of food banks.  So took him to the ICS one that has fresh food as well as canned, and set him up for a few weeks.  Then back to the pharmacy.  I am happy to report that because he is so young, he has been healing quickly, and got another job, so is doing well.

My present person has dialysis MWF, which his insurance covers, including the driving, but is with us due to heart surgery.  (Plus his wife has lupus.)  So far I’ve taken him to two doctor’s appointments, a trip to the pharmacy, to the lab, and to the grocery store twice.  Shall do that for six weeks; after that the Health Center gives cab vouchers.

The first guy I drove, back in 2017, had COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – from a lifetime of smoking, but had just gotten out of the hospital for leukemia.  (Treatments include chemotherapy and corticosteroids… usually last four weeks and are done in a hospital.)  He had a car and could drive, but could not carry his groceries to his second-floor apartment, as he could hardly breathe.  So once a week I’d drive him to the supermarket and carry his purchases to his apartment.  (He had applied for a first floor one, but it came in when he was in hospital, so someone else got it, so he’s back on the list.)  I also talked him into buying a few vegetables.  He was much younger than me, but I felt like a spring chicken, bounding up the stairs with his bags.

Also did another bit of unexpected volunteering a few weeks ago.  Was meeting a few friends at the Invisible Theatre for the play Dancing Lessons (which was quite good) and was waiting in the lobby when one of the In Charge people entered in a tizzy and told the person handing out the Will Call tickets that one of the ushers couldn’t make it.  So I asked if I could help.  Yes!  For a short stint before and after the show they put the five of us in the second row of seating!

Note: they’re putting on Letters from Zora, with Award Winning Stage and Film Star Vanessa Bell Calloway at The Berger Performing Arts Center:

TWO PERFORMANCES ONLY!
Saturday, April 6, 2019 at 7:30 PM
Sunday, April 7, 2019 at 3:00 PM

for which we have tickets.  (Back in February of 2017 they put on Frederick Douglass: In the Shadow of Slavery, also at The Berger, which was fabulous!)

More books

Finishing The Overstory, a novel by Richard Powers.  502 pages in hard cover from the library, but shall be sad when it’s over.  Great characters, and descriptions of the horrible destruction of our old growth trees, much on federal land.  As the NY Times review (by Barbara Kingsolver) is entitled,

The Heroes of This Novel Are Centuries Old and 300 Feet Tall.  books/review/overstory

This week

A clutch (or if you have a better name for a tightly packed group slipstreaming, please tell me) of about 20 bicyclists zipping by in their attractive lycra.

Two coyotes crossing my street in the evening, on their way to cross La Cholla (which is dreadfully being widened – the wash between the street in front of my rental and La Cholla used to be heavily vegetated, with large trees, and now it looks like it’s going to be a concrete V before the four lanes).

An elderly woman with a small dog on her walker seat going into El Rio.

Roads lined by purple yucca lupine flowers.  Lots of other wildflowers around, seeded next to roads?

My neighbor’s tombstone rose plants trailing over the fence between us, decked in white flowers.  (This photo from my breakfast room/office, with the photinia in front.)

A roadrunner behind my yard who stopped to look at me when I talked to it, then ran off on his mission.

Harvested enough spinach from my garden for a salad and a soup.

Do have a complaint (besides the denuding of the wash).  The landscape crew started cutting limbs off “my” mesquite out front at 6:30am!  #firstworldproblems  I had asked that no lower branches (the only thing between my living room window and that horrible scraped land) be taken off.  Crew leader said he had to so his guys could climb the tree to cut out the mistletoe, as they didn’t have a ladder high enough.  That poor tree has been trying to grow back its lower branches for years!

The mistletoe seeds are dispersed by  birds, the phainopeplas, which have been around all of my desert yards.  This blog, more-critters, has a good photo of one, along with the description of the mutuality between the plant and the animal.  An over-infestation of the leafless hemiparasitic plant (it takes water and minerals from its host plants but it does its own photosynthesis, making it a hemiparasite) can kill a tree in 15 to 20 years.  (Walked four blocks down our main drag to take a photo of this poor palo verde that died of mistletoe.  It’s the worst I’ve seen.  Two across the road also look dead.)

Then, had to take photos of two dumb houses.  The first, which has a beautiful stucco finish, has a humongous window, with no overhang, facing due south.  The architect that designed that should not have been licensed in Arizona.  Unless that is a really super shade inside, they can never use the room. The second house,  obviously, should not have been built so close to the fairway.  The first architectural office I worked in did many Sun Cities, and our boss bragged that their fairways were wide enough to avoid that problem. 

 

 

More Favorite Things

March 21, 2019

The Mountains

View from my desk.  6:30 pm.

Spring

Chilling (Monday, 3/21/19) this am before another foray into the garden.  Saturday had done my bi-yearly trip towards New Mexico (past Pantano) to Mesquite Valley Growers, my absolute favorite nursery in town.  Bought plants for cherry, plum, and Early Girl tomatoes.  So had to buy FoxFarm Happy Frog Soil Conditioner (contains screened aged forest products, earthworm castings, and bat guano, not to mention soil microbes to help increase root efficiency and encourage nutrient uptake) after reading a blog about tomatoes from a woman no doubt shilling for the company.  Only 3 cu ft, but me with no wheelbarrow, so my neighbor lent this teenager to schlep it for me in exchange for the rest of my mizuna, which had bolted.  Also purchased this pericallis cineraria, which was artfully parked next to their entrance, calling to me.  Should have googled it first: a tender perennial in regions with cool, moist summers.  Ah, but…

When I am an old woman I shall grow purple…  (variation of “Warning” poem by Jenny Joseph.)

The sweet pink jasmine on a trellis next to  the bedroom window has just started to bloom.  Too bad I can’t reproduce the very sweet (hence the name) smell in this blog.

Enjoying the birds right now.  My cat was interested in the roadrunner which sat on the fence for a while, emitting those metallic-clacking tones (roadrunner).  A woodpecker took a few drinks from the birdbath, as well as a few finches, having eaten only the Nyjer thistle from the gourmet seeds and berries that are prized by finches, such as sunflower hearts, canola seeds, cranberry seeds and Nyjer seeds, but a towhee enjoyed a marvelous splashy time, taking no heed of the need to conserve water in the desert.

75° (feels like 80°).  My vegetable garden is just five foot by eight foot, but, after sifting out the rocks and invasive tree roots, transferring the dozens of worms to my compost (hoping PETA doesn’t get wind of that), and digging in the marvelous conditioner, I’ve now planted seven tomato bushes (the plums and cherries came in six-packs, so I gave my daughter half of them) and seeds for beets, sugar snap peas, kale, and butter lettuce.  The carrots and spinach are still in their infancy, as well as a few hollyhocks.

The bougainvilleas get zapped by the freezes every winter, so I have to cut them back.  Unfortunately, they do not agree to this process, and attacked with lots of long thorns.  Even after I explained that a friend is taking out her bougainvilleas as they look so dreadful in the winter, and I’m only trimming them.  (Kinda like me explaining to my cat that a  co-worker had her cat declawed, and I’m only trimming her nails, but she still scratches me.)  I wear gauntlet gloves (for the bougainvillea, not the cat), yet still am bleeding, mainly from carrying the branches out front.

The photinia outside my kitchen window doesn’t flower, perhaps because I keep trimming it down, but the budding leaves look like flowers.

Books

Another Favorite Thing – reading.  I’ve put an asterisk * by the books on last week’s NY Times bestseller lists, Fiction and Nonfiction.

Recommended this book to a friend and think I neglected to put it in my blog: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, and an upcoming American mystery thriller drama film (not the same as the 1944 movie).  Lots of twists and turns.  Especially liked the ending.  Would recommend.

Parable of the Sower is a dystopian science fiction novel by Octavia Butler, the first in a two-book series; she got a Nebula Award for the second.  (She has also gotten many other awards.)  I like that a black woman writes scifi, so there are a variety of characters, as opposed to the old Star Trek with one Russian guy, one Asian, one Vulcan, one black woman, and everybody else white except for the Klingons, and otherworlders.  Yes, yes, I know that in Generations people of color are included, but I’d stopped watching it by then.  I grew up in the 50’s where men wore hats, women wore dresses and screamed a lot when creatures invaded.  People of color weren’t trying to kill off giant ants with pistols (see photo, right).  Anyway, back to this book.  Too dystopian and dark for me, but I’ll probably read the second one anyway.

*Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, who won the 2017 Costa Debut Novel Award for it, is fun. Especially the ending. You may think that Eleanor is A Bit Much, especially with her baking soda, but you’ll forget about politics while reading it.  This is also going to be a movie, perhaps as a potential star vehicle for Reese Witherspoon.

*Educated by Tara Westover, which I mentioned in this blog: books-movies-dogs-cats.  Just read it.  Yikes!  Truth is stranger than fiction.  How Westover lived to tell the tale (it’s not like someone was trying to kill her, she was just made to do dangerous tasks at a young age) is amazing.  Highly recommend it.

*Becoming, an audio book I started, written and narrated by Michelle Obama.  Described by the author as a deeply personal experience, the book talks about her roots and how she found her voice, as well as her time in the White House, her public health campaign, and her role as a mother.  Commented to friend, Trying to read Becoming but it’s way boring by comparison to Educated.  Friend answered:

I too am having trouble with Michelle. I can only read about 20 pages and I have to put it down else fall asleep. Overall, “nice,” I guess, to know the story, but not a page turner.

So far her male relatives have fared poorly, but she’s perfect.  Probably won’t finish it.  Know how it ends.

Finished reading Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, also mentioned in that blog.  Not as good as Larson’s The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (when did book titles start getting so long?), which I highly recommend, but this one is interesting.  There is an awful lot that isn’t covered in undergraduate American History.

Also just finished Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered, an historical novel.

Kingsolver uses interwoven timelines to trace the lives of two families living in the house a century and a half apart.

Liked it.  The political climate in 2016 is (unfortunately) true, and Vineland, New Jersey does exist, but wondered which persons in 1871 did.  Would recommend it.  Marvelous female characters.

Politics

Back to stuff I don’t like.  Sent my legislators emails that I thought they should enact a higher minimum wage.  Arizona’s is $11/ hour; if someone worked 40 hours a week for 52 weeks of the year, they’d earn $22,880.  (The Federal poverty level for 2019 for a family of three is $20,780.)  Got only one reply:

Thank you for writing Lynne. After hearing from many college students who have lost their jobs due to the recent increase in our minimum wage, I am not inclined to follow the lead of a state that has out of control cost of living. The additional cost to the working poor for basics offsets the increase of wages spread across every service they have to buy.

Representative Mark Finchem

Probably white male college students too.  Didn’t consider people whose families exist on minimum wage?  Now we in Arizona only pay our legislators $24,000/year, but that’s for only 40 legislative days each year, or about two months.  You can bet they’re earning more the other ten months.  And they also get per diem.  Probably don’t talk to the working poor.  But my other legislators, Bret Roberts and Vince Leach never bothered to answer, so I guess I should be more pissed with them.  Note: they’re all Republicans.

My Favorite Things

March 13, 2019

I started this blog two weeks ago.  Thought I just ought to post it, even if incomplete.  I didn’t even mention art or books or travel or bugs or gardening or bobcats and javelinas…

A cousin (one of my favorites) emailed me after my last (downer) post: And yet, we must find the delights in life or ….  So here are a few of my favorite things:

Humor.  As in the book, Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo:

A children’s picture book released by comedian John Oliver about a gay bunny has hit the top spot on Amazon, outselling a vanilla version featuring US vice-president’s Mike Pence’s pet rabbit.

The satirical doppelganger… was strategically released by the British late-night TV host a day before Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President, which was written by Pence’s daughter Charlotte and illustrated by his wife, Karen.

Within two days of its release, Oliver’s Marlon Bundo had sold 180,000 copies on Amazon and become the bestselling book on the site, outstripping the Pence version which at the time of writing languished in fourth place.

The Pence book tells the tale of Marlon Bundo trailing his master for a day, but Oliver’s version, written by comedian and staff writer Jill Twiss, is about “a lonely bunny who lives with his grampa, the vice-president of the United States” who one day “falls in love with another boy bunny”.  gay-rabbit

Also, this is a great video of John Oliver being interviewed about Marlon Bundo on Late Night with Seth Meyers: John Oliver on Late Night.

Snow.  (Photos from my family room two Fridays ago.  The yard snow was gone by mid-day, but it took a few days for the north side of the Catalinas to melt.)  I liked sledding and ice-skating when I was a kid in Michigan.  In fact, my parents would flood our back yard for a “rink” and we pretended to play hockey with the kids on the block.  One night, when I was at Michigan State, Lansing had three feet of snow overnight.  MSU had to close, even though it had 21 snow plows.  What fun!  Also took figure skating while at MSU.  (When my daughter was in elementary school I drove her to Phoenix for a class when she wanted to give figure skating a whirl.  The first lesson was how to fall – she refused.  Said she’d never fall, and she didn’t.  Don’t think she ever fell skiing either.)

We would go up to Mt Lemmon every February, because there would always be snow.  (Photo of my daughter with a snowman.)  So we decided built a cabin in Summerhaven after our son was born.  I taught the kids to ski there, although I was dreadful myself, having had only a few lessons from a boyfriend on what was a very low “mountain” outside Detroit.

Relatives and Friends.  I adore my brother, despite the fact that he was always beating me.  I was awarded a $300 bond for winning the poster contest – I have no color photo of it; he got actual cash for $300 his National Art Scholastic win.  I once beat him at tennis, but then needed surgery on my elbow, after catching one of his serves backhand.  I did pretty well in architecture by end of my career, but at that point my brother was making four times what I did directing commercials! This is one of his best (make sure you have your sound on): Honda Eraser

I could go on and on about my two kids, three grandkids, favorite cousins, and old and new friends, but will have to do that at another time.  However, must put in a photo of my son, in his lab about 15 years ago, to give him equal time with his sister (above):

Tennis.  I’ve always loved tennis.  I grew up in Detroit and bicycled to a city park in the summer when in junior high to take free lessons (at least that was my recollection from the late 50’s) and earned a spot on my high school team.  During the summer played on the Detroit team, and my couch, a student at Michigan State, said I could make the MSU team.  Problem was, I needed to work through college, so had no time for sports.  But after I settled in Tucson, I played at the Racquet Club for many years with friends; my son did All-Sports Camp there during the summer, and my daughter did the tennis program after-school every day when she was in high school. When I was working one my architecture degree I played on the Racquet Club team. (As competition was in the morning, I couldn’t do it when I was working.)  But when I was working in South Carolina, played on my company’s team – we practiced after work and competed on the weekends.  That ended when I returned to Arizona.  Hadn’t played in ten years until my daughter suggested we start back up, so I’m taking one to two clinics a week to try to recreate my game. I’m sore most of the time but love it. Was 30 degrees when I left home two Sundays ago to play, but got warm enough in our sun to shed the warm-up suit.

Chocolate.  It’s supposed to make you feel like you’re in love.

Phenylethylamine is sometimes called “the love drug”, because it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when one is in love. Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, is a mood-lifter, as well. One chemical that causes the release of serotonin into the brain is tryptophan, found in (wait for it!) chocolate.

I try to eat chocolate every day – it’s easy to make pots de creme au chocolate, which are marvelous with whipped cream.  Sliced pear goes nicely with dark chocolate for dessert.  Looking through a Living (Martha Stewart) magazine in the dentist’s office yesterday, saw a recipe for Triple Chocolate Brownie Bars (pictured right) which was not hard to make!  Even talked my mother into making me a Flourless Chocolate Cake one year for my birthday.  Death by chocolate!

Positivity.  As Nicholas Kristof’s column “Why 2018 Was the Best Year in Human History”. progress-poverty-health

Cooking.  I’ve gone through many different episodes, including Julia Child for many years, starting in college (yes, chapter by chapter, which got a bit much in the souffles), and many years of curries after living in Jamaica, which included making my own curry powder.  A few years ago I got away somewhat from my Mediterranean cookbook to The Pleasures of Cooking for One and Radically Simple.  Although, as many people whose cookbooks are falling apart are doing, I’m simply Googling.  Like what to do with mizuna, as I have so much of it and it’s bolting now.

Architecture.  I had been a math and an English teacher, and then a computer programmer which I quite enjoyed (until IBM left town and my spouse-at-the-time didn’t want to move), just as I still enjoy math games.  But then I went into architecture, later in life, and really really loved it.  Bad luck for the youngsters in my class, trying to date simultaneously, with their brains rattled (been there, done that), as I was top of my class.  Designing microchip factories with Fluor wasn’t a lark, but it was so engaging to work in Taiwan and Micronesia (not so much Dublin or São Paulo), and designing US embassies was interesting (Kazakhstan, Haiti, and Jamaica) but the most fun I’ve ever had in life was designing two houses for myself (on the side, while working full time). Above, my first house.  Fifteen years later when I was working on my program to teach 3D CAD (which was also a lot of fun), I did the above house in 3D.  Here is a rendering (not a photograph) of the living room/ dining room:

Diving.  Scuba diving opens up a whole new world, and is very calm.  This trip to Fiji wasn’t my favorite fiji-day-5, but it’s the only one I blogged.  The best was Palau, on a live-aboard, with friends, diving with my son.  If I had a dive partner, I’d go again to some exotic locale, but haven’t had one in a number of years.

When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I’m feelin’ sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad…

Crises

February 21, 2019

Have there always been this many crises in the world?

Yes, yes, Michael Flynn is trying to sell nuclear technology to the Saudis, which violates laws designed to prevent the transfer of nuclear technology that could be used to support a weapons program, but if that’s not bad enough, this info comes after Mohammed bin Salman “allegedly” had our reporter Jamal Khashoggi dissected, and Trump wants to take money away from the armed services to build his ineffectual wall, after he convinced the Republicans to give tax breaks to the rich so our deficit is through the stratosphere (the feds’ spending of $4.407 trillion is higher than its revenue of $3.422 trillion), but somehow he’s going to add a Space Force to the military budget (even though we’re not even fighting the Formics – see Ender’s Game1), and of course, our prez believes whatever Putin says over his own intelligence (important word that!) people2 so now 47’s smokescreen is that Obama was at near-war with North Korea…

Then there are the humanitarian crises- along our southern border with people (mostly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala) escaping gang and political violence, only to have their children taken from them, or to be pepper-sprayed, and with asylum-seekers from African countries (from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, et al) trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, where many countries don’t want to take any more.  Huge refugee camps around the world.  These are just the first five mentioned by raptim.org:

  • Kutupalong in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. Population: 886,778 Rohingya who have fled Myanmar, and the UN hasn’t even given Aung San Suu Kyi (who had been a Nobel Peace Prize laureate almost 30 years ago and who Ai Weiwei had included her in his display in Alcatraz open-up-your-golden-gate) a slap on the hand.  (AP Photo/Zakir Hossain Chowdhury)
  • Bidi Bidi in Northwestern Uganda. Population: 285,000 refugees (about half the population of Tucson, if you can get your head around that) who have fled South Sudan since civil war broke out in 2013.
  • Dadaab Refugee Complex, Kenya. Population: 235,269 refugees, most of whom came there during the civil war in Somalia in the early 1990s. Of these, many have children and grandchildren who were born in the camp.
  • Kakuma in Northwestern Kenya. Population: 184,550 refugees settled there, starting in 1991, fleeing the Sudanese civil war…
  • Nyarugusu in Kigoma, Tanzania. Population: 139,630 refugees fleeing from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996…

No, not nuclear, financial, or humanitarian Armageddon, but the decimation of the earth by other means.  (Sorry – an aside: re financial Armageddon see Amazon Prime’s Mr Robot.)

Antimicrobial Resistance

Just finished Never Home Alone3, which was hard for a non-science-person to get through, but very interesting.

One of the chapters discussed antimicrobial resistance.  Not only are we overusing antibiotics on ourselves, when we should just be getting down and dirty with the cows at the University of Arizona Livestock Facilities, but cattle, pigs, and chickens are getting penicillin and tetracyclines in their feed and water, which I guess is cheaper than giving them space to move.  Since microbes can evolve quickly, having short life spans, and we kill off the ones we can, all over the world we’re finding the ones which survived, drug-resistant diseases.  According to the World Health Organization: In 2016, 490,000 people developed multi-drug resistant TB globally, and drug resistance is starting to complicate the fight against HIV and malaria, as well.4

The Sixth Extinction

That’s a book I read, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, back in 20165.  My winter edition of the Nature Conservancy magazine brought this to my attention yet again.

Because we’re polluting, poisoning6, and crisping up the earth7, other species are becoming extinct.

…the Earth is losing animal species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate, and as many as 30 to 50 percent of the planet’s species may be extinct by 2050, the Center for Biological Diversity describes.  extinct-animal-species-2018

Overpopulation

This is one of my standard rants:  overpopulation.  Another reason for The Sixth Extinction, as we’re killing off animals and plants to give ourselves more space.  (This photo from the Arizona Daily Star, near Wilmot and I-10.  Notice the scraped land.)

Plastics

This week NPR got me thinking again of plastic-waste. I had written a screed about it over a year ago: notesfromthewest/2017/11/02/plastics.

And somewhere this last week I read about a woman in the US who’s trying to do without plastic.  Thought about that as I brushed my teeth with a plastic toothbrush and toothpaste in a plastic tube, after having taken my daily pills8 from plastic containers.  And when I donate blood, I’m given a plastic bottle of water to rehydrate.  I’m typing on a plastic keyboard, using a plastic mouse.  The hand-me-down printer, which I use primarily as a scanner, is plastic.  Believe the kitchen counters are plastic laminate.  And I’ve only turned my head 20°.  Here’s Beth Terry’s suggestions: https://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/

Styrofoam

I shall boycott Eegees.  Not only do they put their frozen drinks in styrofoam cups, but when the grandkids don’t finish everything (like, always), there’s a styrofoam container for the leftovers.  This is worse than plastic ’cause you can’t recycle it; it just breaks down into little beads which fish and seabirds accidentally eat.  Here’s one of my tirades about that, from last year: notesfromthewest/2018/03/13

High Point

You can be buried in a biodegradable casket in Tennessee to help conserve the land.9

1 https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/tucson-mid-september-2013/
2 Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, who took over the bureau after President Trump fired James Comey, claims Donald Trump dismissed US intelligence on North Korea because Russian president Vladimir Putin had given him different advice. ‘The president said he did not believe that the North Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States … because President Putin had told him they did not,’ McCabe told CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday night.
3 https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2019/02/09/books-movies-dogs-cats/
4 https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antimicrobial-resistance
5 https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/connect-the-dots/
6 https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/monsanto/
7 https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/global-warming/
8 lutein to stave off the family curse of macular degeneration, iron so I can donate blood as I’ve been anemic, and calcium to help – though not as much as my exercise – to keep osteopenia at bay
9 https://www.npr.org/2018/03/11/589974185/tennessee-natural-burial-ground-will-offer-a-simpler-farewell-casket-optional

National Emergency

February 14, 2019

I hardly think that migrants fleeing from violence in their countries, applying for asylum in the US, are our National Emergency.  Our mass killing are.

Today, Valentine’s Day, is the anniversary of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, although I wish they’d call these murders instead of making them sound like a day at the shooting range.  Seventeen students and staff members dead, seventeen others wounded.  There were ±307 mass shootings in the US in 2018, depending on how you define them.  This from Wikipedia:

Mass Shooting Tracker: 4+ shot in one incident, at one location, at roughly the same time.
Gun Violence Archive: 4+ shot in one incident, excluding the perpetrator(s), at one location, at roughly the same time.
Vox: 4+ shot in one incident, excluding the perpetrator(s), at one location, at roughly the same time.
USA Today: 4+ shot and killed in one incident, at one location, at roughly the same time (same as the FBI’s “mass killing” definition).
Mother Jones: 3+ shot and killed in one incident, excluding the perpetrator(s), at a public place, excluding gang-related killings.
The Washington Post: 4+ shot and killed in one incident, excluding the perpetrator(s), at a public place, excluding gang-related killings.

But all were executed by American citizens, most of whom were white males (no women).  As usual, little if anything was changed regarding our gun laws.  This also from Wikipedia re Stoneman Douglas:

Following the massacre, student survivors’ anger and frustration towards the perceived inaction of the Republican-dominated legislature on the wider issue of mass shootings and gun violence led to the founding of Never Again MSD, an organization formed by survivors and students of the shooting to demand legislative action on gun violence. On March 9, Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that raised the minimum age for buying rifles in Florida from 18 to 21. The legislation also established waiting periods and background checks for gun buyers. The law also allowed for the arming of teachers who were properly trained and the hiring of school police. [NPR had a bit on that today.]  So-called “bump stocks” would now be banned and some potentially violent or mentally unstable persons would be prohibited from possessing guns. The …NRA immediately filed a lawsuit that challenged the federal constitutionality of the age requirement clause.

Blah blah blah.  Or as the Onion headline says each time this happens,  ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.

My Garden

It is February and the night temps are going to dip below freezing for the third time; on Sunday I covered outdoor pots and my garden with sheets yet again.  But the mizuna has loved the rains.  (It tastes a bit like arugula but not as peppery.)  The spinach is just getting going.  I think I’ve gotten my last eggplant off my two-year-old plants.  But my brussel sprout plant (according to the map of what seeds I planted where) has yielded no sprouts, which are supposed to occur along its trunk.  (Mine v. what the plant  should look like.)  Then I happened to look at the top of the plant.  Huge cauliflower (dwarfed here by its giant leaves)!  Made cauliflower soup (for 4) with a quarter of it.

The Loft

You Tucsonans know The Loft Cinema, our art movie house.  Saturday went with friends to see Documentaries (Short Subject) nominated for this year’s Oscars.  Most were pretty depressing.

  • Black Sheep was the story of a black kid who tries to be white (down to the blue contacts!) to hang with English thugs.
  • End Game follows five people in San Francisco who are dying, who make different choices on how to die.  A few of them were at the Zen Hospice Project, which I have read about, but can’t remember when or why.
  • The next was A Night at The Garden, quite an eye-opener, as it was footage from 1939 when 20,000 Americans rallied in New York’s Madison Square Garden to celebrate the rise of Nazism.  Rather spooky, these Americans giving the Nazi salute.  It’s very short; you can watch it on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/237489146.
  • Then there’s Lifeboat: German volunteers sail to the Mediterranean to rescue refugees from sinking rafts off the coast of Libya.  It is horrible how many people are jammed into these wooded boats or inflatable rafts.
  • The last was Period. End of Sentence.  In Hapur, a rural village outside New Delhi, where a girl’s period can mean the end of her education…  a sanitary pad machine is installed [and] the women learn to manufacture and market their own pads, empowering the women of their community.

The Estrogen Hour

Went to a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with friends Sunday night, as we’ve done for a few years, to which we added hors d’oeuvres and a couple of bottles of wine.  It was at Laffs and billed as Tucson’s funniest females… for this stand-up comedy.  Best year yet.  They were all good, although not all cisgen – ‘guestosteroneTempest DuJour

“She” shall also host the Very Big Show (of Support) for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona at the Rialto Theatre in downtown Tucson.

Saturday, March 9, 2019
VIP Reception: 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
General Admission: 7:00 pm

You can look it up and buy a ticket if you’re interested (and I’ll go with you).

Books, Movies, Dogs & Cats

February 9, 2019

(This was written almost a week ago.)  It’s a rainy day in Tucson (which we get occasionally in January and February).  So my tennis clinic was obviously cancelled.  Lucky I went to the Friday night one so I am still sore (but a nice sore – no shooting pains).  And it’s a Sunday, so time for my weekly newspaper, something that takes longer to cook (meatloaf), and time to blog.  (Meme from Slapwank – I noticed the plural subject and singular verb.)

Books

I’ve read many books in the past year. These are the two a friend just lent me:
Educated by Tara Westover, which I have not opened yet, but was selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018.  Westover totally educated herself (not having any other choice), before college.

Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, about the Lusitania: not long after the Titanic was felled by an iceberg (and you’ve probably seen that movie) in April of 1912, the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat in May of 1915 (as in WWI).  What you’d expect – stories of the people on board, at least so far as I’ve only gotten a quarter of the way into it.  Very well researched.  The Lusitania sank in just 18 minutes. Nearly 1,200 people, including 128 Americans, died with it.  nytimes.com/books

These are the ones I’ve check out from the library in the past few months since I’ve been home:

Just opened this: Never Home Alone; From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live by Rob Dunn.  Heard about it on NPR.  Anyone who was listening is now trying to figure how to get off their shower head to clean it!  (I bought and installed a new one at Home Depot as I couldn’t get the calcification, from our hard water, off the original one.)  Listen to the broadcast: npr.org//never-home-alone.  Frankly, the book is way too scientific for me, but I’ll slog through it.

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman:  Goodreads says, A shocking discovery on a honeymoon in paradise changes the lives of a picture-perfect couple in this taut psychological thriller debut. The plot twists and turns kept me interested, but the ending didn’t make a lot of sense.

Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay: Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Horror fiction, Psychological thriller, Psychological Fiction.  I found it slow going, but I persevered until the highly dissatisfying ending.  (As you can tell by this book and the last one, I’m trying to escape from our dreadful politics into thrillers, suspense novels, quite different from nightly tweets discussed daily in the news.)

The Source by James Michener: someone in my exercise classes said that she was reading a Michener; I had read a good deal of his years ago, so I got this.  Boring.  I got maybe 200 pages into the tome (1104 pages), then had to return it.

Semiosis by Sue Burke.  This is a low-tech scifi with very interesting ideas, specifically about thinking plants, on the subject of which there have been many recent discussions.  Smithsonian Magazine had an interesting article, “Do Trees Talk to Each Other?”  A controversial German forester says yes, and his ideas are shaking up the scientific world by Richard Grant.  There’s a TED talk on it too: trees_talk.  I don’t remember where I read about the book.  (Semiosis means the process of signification in language or literature.)  Burke is being compared to Le Guin and Atwood.  If you like their work, try this one.

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd: now we’re getting from thinking to Memory.  (I don’t remember why I checked these out.)  This is an apocalyptic story where people loose their memories as they loose their shadows.  And we’re in deep shit when we loose our memories!  Good ending.

A few years ago I read Alena Graedon’s dystopian novel, The Word Exchange.  I’m not sure if I’ve got this right (so I had to look it up on the Web), but basically people forget words, they’re so dependent upon (the equivalent of) their phones.  Then a company comes out with an implant behind your ear (I always said that I was waiting for my Google implant) which are given out free!  Of course, after everybody has one, the company starts charging more and more for the words…  Pretty scary!  (Forget that implant.)  Unfortunately, there is a bit of silliness with Alice in Wonderland references, but the book is an ominous portent of our future.

Kraken by China Miéville: this is the second I’ve checked out of his because the plots are so off-the-wall and his vocabulary is so awesome I have to look up at least one word a page (and I had been an English major!):  diplopia, heresiopolitan, tachyon, katachronophlogiston, leukocytes, moue.  And a few more from a list on the Net (squid-is-the-new-black), and admittedly, he did make up some of them (duh!):

Squiddity
Lacunaed
Chronophlogiston
Pelagic
Hurripilations
Metropolitopoiesis
Groupuscules
Goddery
Unimbloodyportant

So you have to work to get through his books and they are exhausting.  Just try reading interviews with him!  “…we have to mediate that fight for quotidian amelioration with a strategy of tension, an unflinching antinomianism.”

The City & the City by China Miéville received many awards: Hugo Award for Best Novel, Arthur C. Clarke Award, BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) award for best novel, which is why I checked it out, the first of his I’ve read.  There are two overlapping cities, but you’re not allowed to see the one that you do not live in.  Yeah, weird.  He describes it as detective noir (as the main characters are detectives), and Wikipedia has its genre as ‎Crime‎, ‎Weird fiction.

In the corners of literature where such divisions are regarded as important, there is a debate about what genre China Miéville’s novels belong to. He has twice won the Arthur C Clarke award for science fiction, but sci-fi purists complain that his frequent breaches of the laws of nature – magic, in other words – place him in the ‘fantasy’ camp. …Miéville himself dislikes that label, with its overtones of elves and dwarves, and has suggested the term ‘weird’. A more precise category might be ‘urban surrealism’: surveying his career so far, it looks as if his central concern is life in the modern city, though filtered through dreams and nightmares.  telegraph.co.uk/bookreview

His education was rather diverse.  A bit from Wikipedia:

…At the age of eighteen, in 1990, he taught English for a year in Egypt, where he developed an interest in Arab culture and in Middle Eastern politics.  Miéville studied for a BA degree in social anthropology at … Cambridge, graduating in 1994, and gained both a master’s degree and PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics in 2001. Miéville has also held a … fellowship at Harvard University…

At some point I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  This is also a weird fantasy, a la Miéville, but without all of the big words.  According to the author, “Neverwhere began life… as a television series… for the BBC.” (Amazon Prime has it, but not free; it is still $2/ episode.  I watched the first one.) There are two Londons, London Above, where our protagonist starts off, and London Below, a fantasy world with the trappings of a few hundred years ago.  I enjoyed it.

Had just finished The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, for which he won the Man Booker Prize in 1989. A Japanese guy writing as an English butler? (You may know the movie, with Anthony Hopkins.) Had to look him up. His family moved to England from Japan when he was five.  Anyway, Never Let Me Go, according to Time, was the best novel of the year in 2005, so I checked it. out, read the first paragraph, and realized that I’d read it a couple of years ago. It is set in a dystopian world in which human clones are created so that they can donate their organs as young adults. It was also made into a movie.  I’d recommend either of these books.

The Company She Kept by Archer Mayor, one of his numerous Joe Gunther detective series (this one written in 2015) which takes place in Windham County, Vermont.  No awards; good escapism.

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah is fantastic!  But then, I love his politics-as-humor on The Daily Show.  Especially if you’re one of the White Privileged1.  And/or lobbied for the US divestment from South Africa in the 1960s because of Apartheid.

And I bought a book to read going and coming from my November trip to Vietnam/Cambodia: Pachinko, by Korean-American author Min Jin Lee, an epic historical novel following a Korean family who eventually migrate to Japan.   650 pages worked for the 20+ hour flight each way.  I didn’t know much about Korean history, other than the Korean War, so this was an eye-opener.

2019 Oscar Nominated Movies

We Americans have such short attention spans now that that it seems like movies have been shortened to one-and-a-half hours, which is probably not true as Bohemian Rhapsody was 2h 13m and I could have watched more of Queen’s concerts.  Rami Malek was totally fabulous as Freddie Mercury.  (Photo: Alex Bailey/20th Century Fox)  Terry Gross’ interview with Malek was interesting: malek-mercury

On the other hand, Roma was 2h 15m and I was way bored.  (Watched it on Netflix.)  USA Today says You didn’t imagine it: Popcorn movies are getting shorter.  Only Popcorn Movies.  “I definitely see the beginning of a trend,” says Erik Davis, managing editor for Fandango.com and Movies.com. “You never see anybody complain about a short movie, but if a movie’s too long, they’ll complain.”

But I don’t know – isn’t Black Panther a Popcorn Movie?  It was 2h 15m and never dull.  I took the grandkids and we all loved it.  I especially liked the ass-kicking females.

The Favourite looked like a costume drama, but not like Crown!  This is totally off the wall.  The friend I was with was laughing a fair amount (as I groaned at the humor).

Green Book was panned by the NY Times (‘Green Book’ Review: A Road Trip Through a Land of Racial Clichés), so I wasn’t going to watch it, but then it got five Oscar nominations, so a friend and I went to see it.  Green Book is a 2018 American biographical comedy-drama film… set in 1962, inspired by the true story of a tour of the Deep South between African-American classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), an Italian-American bouncer who served as Shirley’s driver and bodyguard.  I was blown away by Ali’s piano playing, but found that

came from the fingers of Kris Bowers, who both composed the film’s score and doubled Ali’s piano playing…  Bowers [said] “For the actual prerecords and all the Don Shirley music that we rerecorded, there’s no sheet music. So I transcribed all of it, note for note, and it was all about trying to make sure that we did it justice. Because he was such an incredible pianist, I wanted to make sure that I was playing everything incredibly accurately. I was practicing eight, nine hours a day. It was pretty intense trying to make sure that we were doing it justice.”
https://www.vulture.com/2018/11/mahershala-ali-piano-playing-green-book.html

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, an anthology of six short films that take place in 19th-century post-Civil War era during the settling of the Old West, directed by the Coen brothers, up for costume design, was also on Netflix.  It starts with a ballad, Cool Water, that my father used to sing, so I could sing along. Watched most of it.  Amusing.

BlacKkKlansman I think was in Tucson for a short time, but not when I was home.  It should be back.  On my list.

Vice (as in Bush’s VP Dick Cheney) is also on my To See list.  Christian Bale is supposed to be fab.

The Oscars will be on the telly on February 24, but I don’t have actual television, only Netflix (courtesy my son) and videos on my tablet.  But I like to see the movies that are nominated.

Dogs

Scary video: robots
This one is funny: Running Man dance You must have your sound on.

Cats

Thanks, Kim, for alerting me to Make America Kittens Again (by tomroyal.com).  I don’t do apps, in general; I show only 27 on my phone, and would like to get rid of some of them, but can’t, as they’re factory defaults.  But hey, if anyone else would like it, check it out for Chrome, Firefox, whatever web browser you use.  I got a kick out of these updates:

Overview
Replaces images of Donald Trump with kittens, because seriously, f*** that guy.
Replaces Donald Trump with kittens. Because:
A) Trump is a disgrace
B) Kittens are lovely, and
C) I couldn’t find a Creative Commons photo of a blobfish to use.

Update 1.2.0 – …there’s a new Custom Block option – banish anyone you want from the web, and replace them with kittens!
Update 1.1.4 – By popular demand, you can now also kittenize Steve Bannon.
Update 1.1.3 – … Also now blocks Trump in Japanese and Russian, and better support for the Washington Post.
Update 1.1.2 – updated for better results on BBC News and The Guardian in particular..
Update 1.1.0 – now with additional kitten-blocking targets! Use the options page to additionally block Mike Pence, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, or the whole awful bunch of them.

1 https://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/my-white-friend-asked-me-on-facebook-to-explain-white-privilege-i-decided-to-be-honest-20170809?fbclid=IwAR3RcAkUedoSVrj66h2OMzoBHi0RjwJshMEKgyy1nORXUAr1DOv9xOpQ5U4

Winter

January 31, 2019

A devastating cold front, complete with extreme low temperatures, wind and precipitation, is hitting much of the United States this week. The phenomenon, known popularly as a “polar vortex,” will move across the Midwest and Northeast, keeping temperatures in many places well below freezing for an extended period of time. (Photo: DieterMeyrl / Getty Images)  arctic-blast

Guess that’s why Arizona is so popular in the winter.  I’ve been going to tennis clinics these past couple of weeks and it’s so warm you don’t even need a jacket.  (Photo not me, just a Racquet Club shot.)

The coldest I’ve ever been in was -20° at Michigan State walking one evening in very dry snow.  (Yes, that was just after the dinosaurs died.)  Hard to wrap my head around temperatures with wind chills of -65°.  I’m sure you’ve all read “To Build a Fire”, the short story by Jack London. I think the guy was told not to go out when it was 60° below.  (?)

Exercise

I go to exercise classes at the local Y five days a week (Senior Aerobics and Piloxing – a non-stop, cardio fusion of standing pilates, boxing and dance) but the Y’s new rule is that classes over 30 need two instructors, which these don’t have.  The 10am MWF Aerobics is so popular that there is a line by 9:30.  Got there then on Monday and the last five of us were overflow and couldn’t get in!  Today there was no sub for our TT Piloxing class, so that was cancelled.  Aargh! Walked fast uphill on the NordicTrack for 15 minutes and did another 10 on the rowing machine, but got bored and left.  Guess if I had music on my cell with an earphone I could have done the 50 minutes, so must be prepared in the future.

The Government Shutdown

Dec. 26 [2018] The Federal Emergency Management Agency issues a “stop work” order to all contractors, telling them they will not be paid.  government-shutdown

Note: I was a contractor, through my company (Fluor), for FEMA.  If I hadn’t quit (end of October) I guess I’d have been home for an extended holiday, not paid.  Sure feel sorry for my compatriots who stayed on.

Impeachment

So if the Prez gets impeached and actually leaves, we’re left with the Veep.  There’s a recent, hostile (read this: NPR review) biography of Mike Pence, The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence, out by Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner.  According to them, Pence is a “Christian supremacist” biding his time until he can take over the presidency from Donald Trump.  Sure, Trump is not fit to be President, but do we want to replace him with a Christian Supremacist?

Back on September 5 there was a NY Times op-ed white-house-anonymous: I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration; I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. Then speculation that Pence could be the author, based on the op-ed’s use of the word “lodestar,” which Pence has used throughout his career. Check out this video from The Late Show: Stephen Cobert

But when it says that docs have been removed from Trump’s desk how do we knows that they weren’t something liberal?  Trump used to be a Democrat.  Maybe he wanted the government to fund Planned Parenthood (hah!) and Pence couldn’t stand that!

Plus, according to the Los Angeles Times’ letters editor (the bold is mine):

God’s presidential plan for Mike Pence
God's presidential plan for Mike Pence

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018.  Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.  (Photo: Vice President Mike Pence gestures while speaking to the Republican National Lawyers Assn. on Friday. Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

Permit me a brief biographical digression. I grew up in the world of evangelical Christianity, having attended schools that promoted things like biblical literalism, doubts about Darwinism, and abstinence-only education, including the lie that condoms contained microscopic pores that allowed transmission of the HIV virus (more on that in a bit). Each week, we attended chapel services that often ended with calls to rededicate ourselves to Jesus Christ, even if we were already professed Christians.

It is this background that helps me understand the behavior of Vice President Mike Pence, the pious man who faithfully serves the famously non-penitent President Trump. Just as the faithful Christians at my school were happy to perpetuate falsehoods about disease-spreading condoms if it served the greater godliness of abstinence before marriage, Pence is willing to abide Trump’s constant lying and personal moral failings if it puts him in the best position to do God’s will by becoming president.  latimes

You must read the whole article, which does quote from the above book.  Scary.  But no, I haven’t read the book.  Can’t even finish the article on Mitch McConnell in last Sunday’s NY Times Magazine (Mcconnell) that a friend says I have to read.  Politics is making me sick to my stomach and am reading mostly scifi for escapism, although said friend did lend me Dead Wake about the sinking of the Lusitania.  It is non-fiction, but a long time ago, and lots of people die (Cousin Hal – I can hear you laughing at my lame jokes), so I can stomach that reality.  Am reading more now that I am not working.  Shall mention the books (a few about memory) in my next blog, if I remember!

Last October

You can kinda tell that I had emails to myself all through the five months when I wasn’t blogging, of what I could write when I got back to it.  Today tossed out all of the FEMA letters to the troops (us) – buck up, next hurricane coming, etc.   But there’s a note from October 19th:

This morning, exiting Orlando for home in Tucson, went better than expected.  First, I had scored on a hotel baggage cart last night.  (They often could not be found at all.)  And gave my leftover food to a compatriot, just a floor above me in the same timeshare building.

I finished packing and got everything in my expandable two bags (one an inexpensive duffel) and a carry-on, not bad for almost a year away from home.  Had never used my bathing suit; had never even gone to the ocean, which I guess I should have done at least once in the year in Florida.  But skin cancer can do that to you.

Pulled up to check out at timeshare main desk and valet said he could do that for me.✔  No traffic to the airport.✔  Person checking out my Avis car got me a valet with cart.✔  ($10 but worth it, as only one bag had wheels.)  Remembered to get a receipt for $40 for second bag to expense.✔  (My AA status gives me the 1st bag free.)  Long line to hand in bags but it went fast.✔  A few minutes to finish my morning coffee (no liquids through security), then a short time through TSA pre-check, well worth the $85 for 5 years, with all of my travels.✔  Full flight, but with AA Priority (gold, not platinum), I got a seat an extra inch wider!✔

A New Year

January 28, 2019

OxiClean for the Eyes

Had my second cataract removed on Tuesday (the other side had been done two weeks ago), replaced by an intraocular lens, and the color I used to see, with a grayish-tan tint, that I had simply thought of as Desert, is now bright, with a hint of blue, rather what OxiClean does for your dingy white sheets.  Or like brightening a photo with Photoshop.  Amazing!  Plus I have discarded my graduated tri-focals and can now read (except for the fine print on prescription bottles), and see mid and far distant.  Wow!

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone…
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright
Sun-Shiny day.

Yes, many of you have emailed me to see if I’m okay, not having blogged in almost five months.  Just over-dosed on computer usage with my FEMA job, and quit end of October.  Have traveled a bit since then, first with Road Scholar (and a marvelous group) to Vietnam and Cambodia, then to my brother’s in northern Sonoma for Thanksgiving, and to my son’s in Vancouver for Christmas.  This year am back to my five-day-a-week exercise classes, seeing friends here in Tucson, these surgeries, and two tennis clinics so far as I think I’ll get back into the game.  Depending on my sticktoitiveness, I’ll try to give you the backstory.

The Wall

But before I do that, I’d like to rant.  We had thirty-five days of the government shutdown, but I’ll bet the prez still had someone to make his bed and cook his meals.  Or is that why he served take-out hamburgers and pizzas to the Clemson University Tigers at the White House?  trumps-sandwich-celebration.  Anyway, I donated yet more money for the Community Food Bank as they had to feed government workers too.  (I wrote this before Trump Announces 3-Week Government Reopen, Threatens New Shutdown If Border Wall Not Funded.  I had to look up the sword of Damocles.)

“I think everybody’s relieved that the government’s getting back open,” said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. “But I think everyone’s still a little tenuous because we’ve got a sword of Damocles hanging over us three weeks from now to see if we can get things worked out.”

But hey, when we didn’t have enough money for our schools (Arizona ranks 47th out of 50 for expenditures per student – least-on-education), we’d do a phone-a-thon.  (I had been chair of our school district’s foundation, and know them well.)  So maybe Trump should call all of his rich buds and get them to fork out the money for The Wall.  And he could spend as much as he got.  Someone else has started for him:

Florida veteran Brian Kolfage, 37, created the fundraiser titled “We The People Will Fund The Wall.”  …By [December 21] the GoFundMe reached $10.9 million…  fox2now.com

Last of Orlando

(Wrote this last October, but never finished the post.)

Hope I never see it again.  Bad enough to be working in a freezing cold office (read about how men decide the temperatures, which are generally 5 degrees cooler than women prefer – chilly-at-work) all day long, then half a day Saturday, in front of a computer, but the work got too depressing with changes in rules.  Imagine if an outfielder caught a fly and at that point it was ruled that flies caught within 10 feet of the fence don’t count, and any that were caught that close within the past 11 months shall be ruled invalid, thus changing the scores of games.  Aargh!  Yes, I know that we were working with an entirely new system (totally computerized for the first time), and “they” were working out the details as we went along, but my applicants were not pleased, and, of course, I was their fall guy.

Here are a few of the enjoyable times from the last month or so:

View across the Lake

This is a sunset shot from my last “villa” rental.  Couldn’t decide which exposure I liked best.

Epcot Center

More photos from Epcot Center from my ears series:

Frank Lloyd Wright

Once voted by The Princeton Review as “The Most Beautiful Campus in the Nation,” Florida Southern College is a National Historic Landmark, and home to Child of the Sun, the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.

There was an ad for the tours on NPR, and it sounded interesting, so I took a four-hour tour.  The buildings had engaging design, but it was depressing to see the lack of upkeep.  That seems to have been a problem with so many of Wright’s buildings.  Shown here are the Usonian House, which wasn’t built until 2013, but is used as the Tourism and Education Center.  Next the Water Dome “symbolizing the fountain of knowledge”, then the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel and one of the esplanades which give needed shade.  (The supports are said to suggest the orange trees that were then numerous on campus.)  I believe the next are the Ordway Arts Building and the William Danforth Chapel.  I have a lot of detail photos of doors set on piano hinges, and so on, but this is enough.

23andMe

My daughter had given 23andMe to my son for Xmas last year, and he gave a packet to me.  They keep asking you to fill out more forms.  I finally got tired of it, until I thought I’d see if I’m going to get Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease or Age-Related Macular Degeneration.  Never mind. That costs $125 extra.

Kavanaugh

I had written this about the Kavanaugh hearing, what, seven years ago?  Seems like ages ago, but so nice to quote…

Krysta Fitch, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mother in Walls, Miss., said she cast the first vote in her life for Mr. Trump and enthusiastically joined his rally in the nearby town of Southaven this month. She said that women have no business running for president. “In the Bible it says that a man is responsible for leading his household,” she said. “And a woman’s only supposed to step up if he’s not willing. Aside from that, women are just too emotional. I feel like it would be dangerous to have a woman in a position to potentially start a war.” nytimes.com/2018/10/12

Phew!  Didn’t she watch Dr Ford’s calm demeanor and Judge Kavanaugh’s literally screaming and crying about calendars? (Getty Images)

May give all y’all more updates more frequently.

Asians

September 9, 2018

Saw Crazy Rich Asians two weeks ago. I also read about the controversy over casting Nick, as Henry Golding is only half Asian. He’s trending now.  Instagram photo of him at Tom Ford’s spring collection, between Anna Wintour and Cardi B. The entire rest of the cast is made up of Asians from all over the globe, including Ronny Chieng who is an annoying senior correspondent on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show; he plays an equally annoying character in the movie.

Rich Asians reminded me of Ali Wong: Baby Cobra (on Netflix); she’s a bit too profane for me but did crack me up at this description of her husband:

Asian-American men are very underrated. I don’t know why people don’t go for them. They’re the sexiest. Asian men are the sexiest. They got no body hair from the neck down. It’s like making love to a dolphin. Oh, my God. It’s so smooth, just like a slip and slide…  And then Asian men, no body odor. None. They just smell like responsibility. That’s where the umami flavor comes from.

The same idea as Rich Asians (rich boy falls for poor girl and mother isn’t pleased) carries two Netflix series – Meteor Garden (Chinese) and Boys over Flowers (Korean), both with subtitles and both based on the same manga series.  But these are set in high school with an edge to the plot – rich boy with attitude falls for poor girl with attitude.  Frankly, good escapism from work.

SNL

Was reading, in the NY Times, about a new Amazon series with Maya Rudolph; I don’t have Amazon, but it mentioned her SNL impersonization of Donatella Versace, so I had to check them out.  LOL. There are three on this link:  Versace. Then, since the last one had Mick Jagger, had to check out his nine SNL sketches (which you can also do from that link).  He’s also a kick.

Epcot

Labor Day last weekend so spent Sunday at Epcot Center with two guys from work.  Probably shouldn’t have gone to the first weekend of the its International Food & Wine Festival; parking was zooey, but there are trams to take you to the in lines (followed by the check bags line). Nine hours, and more than I usually drink, but also more than I usually eat. 90° and 78% humidity, with a few very short rains.  Then, at the end of the day when I was looking like a drowned rat, they thought we should take pictures.

Hurricanes and Other Disasters

We are watching the weather here – please no hurricane until we’ve completed processing the last one!  This from Brock:

Once again, we find ourselves looking at multiple storms threatening the United States at the height of hurricane season.  Right now, a Tropical Cyclone is bearing down on Guam and will likely make landfall early next week, Hurricane Oliva is tracking towards Hawaii with effects potentially starting as early as Tuesday, Hurricane Florence will begin to intensify again as it heads toward the East Coast, and there are other storms brewing in the Caribbean and off the coast of Africa.  I cannot recall a time when so many intense storms threatened the United States in such a short timeframe.  Added to that, the area of concern spans more than half the globe…