Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

An All-Inclusive Church

January 17, 2017

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”  So I was delighted when the BBC read this the other night.  It is posted on the Hereford Diocese Inclusive Church, England, among others.

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, gay, confused, filthy rich, comfortable, or dirt poor. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rake or could afford to lose a few pounds. You’re welcome if you are Old Leigh, New Leigh, Not Leigh, or just passing by.

We welcome you if you can sing like Pavarotti or can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woke up or just got out of prison. We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven’t been in church since little Jack’s christening.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like ‘organised religion.’ We’ve been there too!

If you blew all your money on the horses, you’re welcome here. We offer a welcome to those who think the earth is flat, ‘work too hard,’ don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost on the London Road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts… and you!

Seen Today

bobcatI was in my bedroom (second floor, with a view of the relatively animal-less hillside beyond), and was so excited to see a bobcat ambling down said hillside.  I grabbed my camera, but there is a dreadful block wall behind, so all I got her his/her ears and back.  To think that I had them lounging on my back patios at the last house.  (Google bobcat notesfromthewest, and set it to Images and you’ll see a lot of the shots of bobcats I’ve taken over the past five or so years, with other miscellaneous photos from those same blogs.)

Reading

obama-booksCan’t remember if it was on NPR or in the NY Times, but it was mentioned that President Obama read books late into the night.  (Photo of President Obama reading “Where the Wild Things Are” to children at the White House in 2014. Doug Mills/The New York Times.) This wasn’t the article, but it mentions three books that I have read1:

And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction2.

I am just finishing Our Kind of Traitor, by John Le Carre, which President Obama mentioned in the interview that I heard, along with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz, which I also “read” (listened to the audiobook version, narrated by musical maestro Lin-Manuel Miranda), although it was very strange (magical realism).  Maybe I’ll try to read more books on his list.

Then I saw this: Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon nominated for book critics award.3  I just picked up Chabon’s Moonglow from the library.  Enjoyed his The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.  And Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto.  I think we’ve all read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Ann Patchett, Michael Chabon and Zadie Smith are among the nominees for the National Book Critics Circle awards in the US…

Margaret Atwood, the Canadian author of novels including The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye, will receive a lifetime achievement prize…  The winners will be announced on 16 March.

Patchett’s Commonwealth, Chabon’s Moonglow and Smith’s Swing Time were all fiction finalists, along with Erdrich’s LaRose and Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone.

So there’s more to add to my request list at the library.

Monsanto Continued

A friend emailed me this question: If they are growing genetically modified corn in green house, it should not need pesticides.  Are you concerned about fertilizer?

I answered: Watch The World According to Monsanto on youtube.  It’s way long and boring but skip to the section on corn in Mexico, 1:25:20; it’s an eye-opener.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6_DbVdVo-k

1https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/books/obamas-secret-to-surviving-the-white-house-years-books.html?_r=0
2https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/17/michael-chabon-zadie-smith-nominated-book-critics-award-margaret-atwood-national-book-critics-circle-
3https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/connect-the-dots/

Santaland

December 23, 2016

xmas-colorsStarted this two days before Christmas, then got busy.  (Photo of Tucson’s Christmas colors.)

It’s not even close to beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  The desert outside my window is in shades of tan, grey, chartreuse (Pantone 362 – the palo verdes), and a turquoise green (Pantone 374 – the prickly pears).  But after our rain the past few days, the clouds got snagged on the mountains, so Mt Lemmon probably has snow.

david-sedaris-as-elfAt least I’m not tired of Christmas carols yet.  Did not even step into a mall. Tried to find a kid’s toy at Target and got frustrated. Plus I don’t even remember what cheery music they were playing.  So got a couple of gift certificates and ordered everything else online.

But what made my day today (so far – I shall be making Christmas cookies with the kids soon) was hearing David Sedaris read from his Santaland Diaries on NPR this morning.  (Photo here of author David Sedaris in his actual Macy’s elf costume.)
http://one.npr.org/?sharedMediaId=506475364:506687049

La Encantada

I thought it would be nice to take the kids to see the lights at Tohono Chul (Holiday Nights, A Million Lights!) the weekend before Christmas, but it was pricey ($16 apiece, for six of us), so my fake-snowdaughter suggested seeing La Encantada’s “Enchanted Snowfall”, which was free.

Enchanted Snowfall will take place in the gorgeous Tucson Lifestyle Courtyard at La Encantada… delicate sprinkles of snow will cascade to the ground and fill the shopping center… keep toasty with hot chocolate from Williams Sonoma.
http://www.arizonafoothillsmagazine.com/tucson/tucson-travel-and-leisure/1561-la-encantadas-enchanted-snowfall.html

Don’t ever do this!  There was one Christmas tree, “artistically” decorated (read sparingly), and some garlands on the second floor handrails.  The “snow” was made of soap bubbles, which did not fill the shopping center, but made us cough.  The free hot chocolate was in 4 oz paper cups.  And there were three women with screechy voices, singing Christmas carols into a not-very-good sound system.  (Photo of me, my daughter, and granddaughter, taken between coughs.)

Cookies

img_6643 img_6644img_6642This is always fun, but having seven people (my son was in from out-of-town too) in my daughter’s kitchen was cozy.  We made walnut kiefel, pecan butterballs, chocolate spritz, and peppermint cookies, as well as the decorated sugar cookies.

img_6640 img_6638 img_6635I took a plate of the cookies to my next-door-neighbor the next day, and heard a bit of gossip about the neighborhood.

CAS Holiday Party

bear-grassThe TMA Contemporary Art Society Holiday Party was a couple of weeks ago at Tucson’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which is housed downtown in what used to be a fire station.

creosoteThe current show, Aranda\Lasch and Terrol Dew Johnson | Meeting the Clouds Halfway,  is quite nice.  Terrol Dew Johnson is a Tohono Oodham basketweaver, and this new work blends traditional Native  American craft with contemporary design.  (Benjamin Aranda and Chris Lasch, who collaborated with him, are architects, http://arandalasch.com/, as well as artists.)  The show runs through the end of January.

Terrol’s favorite is the endless knot with creosote (top right), but I liked the hanging one done with bear grass.  His work is in permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., and the Heard Museum
http://nationalbasketry.org/artist-profile-terrol-dew-johnson/, so it is quite pricey.

Christmas Day

My daughter and her family drove up to Fountain Hills (northeast of Phoenix) on the day before Christmas, to exchange gifts with the inlaws, so the grandchildren already had a surfeit of toys, but with Santa’s presents, their parents’ and my presents, there were enough toys (and clothes, and books) for all of the children of Gabon.

But everyone seemed to like their gifts.  My granddaughter liked the hamster T-shirt (she has a pet hamster), the cat liked the boxes, the middle grandson liked his bicycle helmet with a Mohawk, the youngest can’t be pried away from his Pretend & Play Cash Register, the decor was fun (including the fake fire in the fireplace), and the breakfast (my daughter’s traditional sticky buns), dinner (scalloped potatoes, roast, veggies, mostly prepared by my son), and dessert (rum cake, with whipped cream) were fab.  All in all, one of the more successful holidays.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

img_6675img_6676img_6666

img_6654img_6650

Connect the Dots

December 4, 2016

Climate change is hard to think about not only because it’s complex and politically contentious, not only because it’s cognitively almost impossible to keep in mind the intricate relationships that tie together an oil well in Venezuela, Siberian permafrost, Saudi F-15s bombing a Yemeni wedding, subsidence along the Jersey Shore, albedo effect near Kangerlussuaq, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the polar vortex, shampoo, California cattle, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, leukemia, plastic, paper, the Sixth Extinction, Zika, and the basic decisions we make every day, are forced to make every day, in a world we didn’t choose but were thrown into. No, it’s not just because it’s mind-bendingly difficult to connect the dots. Climate change is hard to think about because it’s depressing and scary.1

This is from (of course) the New York Times, a month and a half ago.  It took me a while to find the 15 connections.  I had never heard of the Sixth Extinction, so I read Elizabeth Kolbert’s book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.  Had to research the albedo effect near Kangerlussuaq, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the polar vortex, shampoo.  So a challenge to you too.

You might also like to read the entire article, entitled When the Next Hurricane Hits Texas.  Great photo from the hurricane in 2008.

hurricane

The Worst Word in the English Language

…the website of Oxford Dictionaries called off its search for the worst word in the English language before I got a chance to have my say. When the survey was halted — the Oxford folks said that too many people were sending in offensive or insulting words — the word “moist” was in the lead…

I no longer think that the word I most dread in the English language is “maintenance.” That realization came to me not long ago, when I was in my car, by myself, at a red light. Ordinarily, I would have been thinking about the points and plugs of my car…

And here we come to the word in the English language that I now most dread: “Upgrade…”

Here’s how I imagine an upgrade to a computer operating system comes about. In the offices of a tech company in some West Coast loft building, Jason and Justin, two impossibly young-looking techies, are having a desultory conversation after finishing their 10th Ping-Pong game of the day. They’re killing time until the weekly foosball tournament starts.

“You know,” Jason says, “I think most of them are getting so they can find their calendars and their contacts pretty easily.” (“Them” is Jason’s word for grown-ups.)

“Remember how much fun it was to complicate the way to get to contacts on that smartphone we worked on?” Justin asks.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Jason replies. An expression of intense anticipation comes over their faces. They resemble the fraternity boys in “Animal House” just before someone yells “Food fight!” Suddenly, Jason and Justin shout in unison, “Upgrade!”2

I have to agree with Calvin Trillin.  (He’s an American journalist, humorist, food writer, poet, memoirist and novelist.  One of his most famous quotes is, The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.)  Read the entire article – it’s quite humorous.  And see my blog on that subject, when I upgraded.3

Cuba

I have no comment on Castro’s death.  But I do recommend that you read Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana, by Isadora Tattlin.  One of our art group recommended it, and I read it before we went to Cuba in 2012.  You can read my blogs, starting with this one: https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/cuba-day-1/

Work

Shall get a pile of essays on Wednesday. (That supplements my weight training.)  My last day of school is December 16th.  Have gotten to like most of these students.  Shall I miss teaching?  Yes and no.

1http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/09/opinion/sunday/when-the-hurricane-hits-texas.html?_r=0
2
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/books/review/calvin-trillin-on-the-scariest-word.html?_r=0
3https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/computers/

2 September 2016

September 2, 2016

LOL

Recent obituary in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the age of 68…

(I verified it: http://www.snopes.com/obituary-trump-clinton/.  It also mentioned  the obituary for Katherine Michael Hinds said that “in lieu of flowers, do not vote for Donald Trump.”)

My Desert

Two days ago we had a terrific storm, lots of rain and wind.  ‘Course, this lasted maybe 20 or 30 minutes, but knocked out two of the stoplights on Oracle.  However, when I got to the college, no storm.  (When the weather person says 30% chance of rain, I figure that 30% of the city shall get rain.)

Yesterday there were myriads of clouds north of here, and two partial rainbows, one over the Catalinas, another among the clouds, which would make it hard to find that pot of gold, unless you’re a skydiver.  Unfortunately, no rain hit here.  But it was “cool” – 94°, until you read the small print – feels like 105°.  The humidity keeps your skin from feeling that every droplet of moisture is being sucked from it, but we Tucsonians aren’t used to sweating…

This morning I saw one rabbit, a few quail, some doves, and goldfinches on the birdfeeder as I had filled it again with Niger thistle seeds.  Plus a loud squawk, almost like a duck.  It was a raven on the neighbor’s roof.  (Nice video of a raven’s call, if you can get past the annoying commercial:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDv_PlrBg14.)  The right side of the screen advertised a video on the difference between crows and ravens, and it was interesting too.  (My cat watched it for a few minutes, attracted to the bird “song”.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9-wTnqIidY.)

Many years ago I had taken a (motorized) raft trip down the Grand Canyon.  Each day, for lunch, we would stop at a sandbar, guarded by a pair of ravens (who are believed to mate for life).  We made our own sandwiches, sans plates or paper napkins, and balanced the potato chips on top.  I believe that the soda or beer, which had stayed cold by being kept in a mesh bag, dragged behind the raft as water temperatures in the Colorado River average 50° year round, was in recyclable cans.  We returned the cans at the end of our lunch.  After we had boarded our rafts to continue our adventure, even before we pulled away, the ravens descended upon the sandbar to find any crumbs that we might have dropped.  Obviously, the sandbars were immaculate.  Each sandbar was “owned” by a pair of these intelligent birds, although not a one voiced Nevermore.

Last week, still August, PetSmart had their Halloween costumes out.  (Yes, costumes for your dog or cat.)  I really do dislike the holiday creep.

Insomnia 

Having trouble getting to sleep at night? I have a new sedative that a friend recommended: Middlemarch, by George Eliot.  A page and a half and I’m out.

Spike Jonze

A friend had posted this on her Facebook page:
http://nofilmschool.com/2016/08/watch-spike-jonze-kenzo-commercial and my brother mentioned: Spike Jonze is kind of well known for his ‘musicals’ — check out his Bjork video from the 90’s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEC4nZ-yga8&list=PLH3U5LaE2-0YETfe5BFkOeZCcfZeeWy-9.  Enjoy.

Good News, Bad News

August 30, 2016

Well, this isn’t news, just two items that made me laugh.  First, the one paragraph in the book that I just finished (The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson, which I discussed in my last blog) that made me laugh out loud:

Years ago, when my wife and I were just dating, she took me on a day trip to the seaside at Brighton. It was my first exposure to the British at play in a marine environment. It was a fairly warm day — I remember the sun came out for whole moments at a time — and large numbers of people were in the sea. They were shrieking with what I took to be pleasure, but now realize was agony. Naively, I pulled off my T-shirt and sprinted into the water. It was like running into liquid nitrogen. It was the only time in my life in which I have moved like someone does when a piece of film is reversed. I dived into the water and then straight back out again, backwards, and have never gone into an English sea again. 

Then this video, which was mentioned on NPR yesterday, Web Site Story:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtPb8g8Jl6I

Bad News

Last week got my Sierra Club magazine.  A lot of gloom and doom –

  • If Trump is elected he will bring back coal, its pollution and greenhouse gases.
  • Kids today spend four to seven minutes outdoors playing each day and up to seven hours staring at a screen.
  • IMG_6503[1]We should stop using plastic.  (There has been a plastic bag stuck high in a mesquite tree in the desert behind my house, too high for me to retrieve it, kinda a portent for the future.)
  • 44% of honeybee colonies were lost between April 2015 and April 2016, probably due to neonicotinoid pesticides.
  • A Maasai man in Kenya said that the young Maasi children grow up now without ever hearing a lion roar at night.  (Photo of me next to our Maasi guide in Tanzania at the bottom of a blog1.)
  • Coral reefs are bleaching in the equatorial Pacific, including as much as half of the Great Barrier Reef.  (Guess I should see it before it’s gone.)

And so on and so on.  Regarding the last four items, who can dispute that there are too many people in the world?  If each couple had only two children we could stop the insane overpopulation.  If I were a god, that is what I would dictate.  But none of our gods micromanage, so we must do it on our own.  How?  (I’ve already written about this in a blog2.)

Our growth is not healthy.  Governments want growth, but what we have is more like a cancer, enlarging itself and killing its host.

Everyone should read about the Tragedy of the Commons. (The concept and name originate in an essay written in 1833 by the Victorian economist William Forster Lloyd...  The concept became widely known over a century later due to an article written by the ecologist Garrett Hardin in 1968.3)  This from the Web, re Hardin4:

1. The world is biophysically finite.

  • The more people there are, the less each person’s share must be.
  • Technology (ie, agricultural) cannot fundamentally alter this.
  • We can’t both maximize the number of people and satisfy every desire or “good” of everyone.
  • Practically, biophysical limits dictate we must both stabilize population, and make hard choices about which “goods” are to be sought.
  • Both steps will generate opposition, since many people will have to relinquish something.

2. Over-population is an example of the tragedy of the commons (ToC).

  • Commons are un-owned or commonly-held “pool” resources that are “free,” or not allocated by markets.
  • Hardin’s ToC model assumes that individuals are short-term, self-interested “rational” actors, seeking to maximize their own gains.
  • Such actors will exploit commons (have more babies, add more cattle to pastures, pollute the air) as long as they believe the costs to them individually are less than the benefits.
  • The system of welfare insulates individuals from bearing the full costs of over-reproducing.
  • When every individual believes and behaves in this manner, commons are quickly filled, degraded, and ruined along with their erst-while exploiters.
  • A laissez-faire system (letting individuals choose as they like) will not “as if by an invisible hand” solve over-population.

3. The “commons” system for breeding must be abandoned (as it has been for other resources).

  • In other words, something must restrain individual reproduction. . .
  • but it must not be individual conscience; appealing to conscience will only result in fewer people with conscience in the population (assuming here that it is genetic, or perfectly transmitted by learning).
  • It should be accomplished by “mutual coercion mutually agreed upon.”
  • Sacrificing freedom to breed will obtain for us other more important freedoms which will otherwise be lost.
  • “Coercive” restrictions on breeding could take a number of forms.
  • The “right” to determine the size of one’s family must be rescinded.
  • This will protect the conscientious traits in the population.

4. The problem is then to gain peoples’ consent to a system of coercion.

  • People will consent if they understand the dire consequences of letting the population growth rate be set only by individuals’ choices.
  • Educating all people about the ToC, its consequences, and the alternatives to it, is necessary.
  • Then various restraints and incentives for low reproduction can and must be instituted.

This is one of my rants (in addition to ZPG).  I wrote about it in 2010, at the bottom of this blog:
https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/the-state-of-the-union-address/

1https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/birds/
2https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/world-population-day/
3https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons
4http://faculty.wwu.edu/gmyers/esssa/Hardin.html

The Oro Valley Desert & Readings

August 27, 2016

The Desert

I loved to watch the wildlife at my last house – the deer, raccoon, javelinas, bobcats, rabbits (cottontail and jackrabbit), and all of the birds (especially the roadrunners and hawks).

There is a hill of desert behind the house I’m renting.  Because it is separated from the rest of the desert, typical of developers, (unless a creature, scarab_beetleusually a coyote, dares to cross the ring road around the subdivision), I can see only a few rabbits, cactus wrens (in the prickly pear, eating not the fruit, but the bugs after the fruit), doves, quail, and goldfinches.  And ants – lots of ants.  Also, recently the beautiful emerald green scarab beetles (also, according to Wikipedia, known as the figeater beetle, whose habitat is primarily the southwestern United States and Mexico).  Their photo.

“My” dove (see her photo in this blog: https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2016/06/27/pause/) raised one chick and both of them left.  (Not sure if there was a father around – sometimes the nest was not being tended.)  Lazy, I didn’t get rid of the nest on the back patio beam.  A week later, the dove returned, laid one more egg, and raised one more chick.  They are gone now.  Reminds me of friends who had one daughter.  When she went off to college, being empty nesters, they thought it was the right moment for the second child. As she said: One morning woke up and realized it is now or never and voila!  (Kids are 18 years apart.)

Our monsoon rains have brought out flowers on the barrel cactus and many fruit on the prickly pear cactus (called tuna in Spanish).

IMG_6493 IMG_6495

IMG_6502[1]Here is a photo of insect eggs, yellow and gold, laid neatly in lines on my bedroom window.  (Okay, I didn’t work hard enough to get their color – it was too bright outside.)  Each is approximately 2mm long.  I googled insect eggs and found no match, but all of these gorgeous others.

insect-eggs-2insect-eggs-1

insect-eggs-3insect-eggs-5 insect-eggs-4

Reading

Just read The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty.  In 1972 it won her a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was a nice novel, but I didn’t think that it came up to the quality of The Orphan Master’s Son, Olive Kitteridge, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, or other winners that I have read.  (But 1972 was when Marcus Welby, M.D, and My Three Sons were popular on TV.)

I am presently reading The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain. Bill Bryson married an English woman and now resides there and writes.  This book is a walking tour through Britain (with humour  and many snarky remarks).  I last visited the British Isles, approximately 25 years ago, when my children were young.  For the month-long vacation I had rented four cottages, two in England, one in Wales, one in Scotland (to see Blair Castle, but that’s another story), each for one week.  I remember being surprised that there was a footpath going right past the front garden of our Welsh cottage.  That’s when I learned that Britain has 140,000 miles of footpaths all across the island. 

Can’t imagine our Agro-Giants allowing people to walk through their crops in the US.  Plus, I checked, and Britain is about 57% the size of California.  I googled people who have walked across the United States, and there have been 19 recorded from 1896 to 2015.  A few more have bicycled; a young woman who I worked with in FEMA did it.  She had a hard time getting in enough training beforehand as we were working 60-hour weeks after Hurricane Katrina, and the storm had decimated most of the roads.  Also, my nephew rode across country back in his college days.  If I know two people who have done it, there must be hundreds.

But the walking tour brought to mind the walk a friend had taken with another, from Tucson to Nogales, approximately 70 miles (back when we were all younger).  Unfortunately, most of the way they walked next to a highway, breathing in the particulate matter and many noxious gases.  Their wives met them in Nogales for dinner.  (Google said that it should take 23 hours, 45 minutes for that walk, but I think they did it in half of that time.)  Believe that was the end of his long treks.

 

Water

May 6, 2015

California is cutting its water usage.  I emailed my brother, who lives in Sonoma County, and his son has a small apartment in San Francisco:

I spoke with the guy in charge of our water consortium, and he told me we’re ‘under the radar’ as we all use waaay less water than the most minimal users. I’m pretty sure Ian is also a low user…apartment renters aren’t watering lawns etc.  The most water I ever used was in Orinda, and we got charged very large penalties during the first drought.

Also emailed friends in San Diego:

Are you having mandatory water cuts?  As you no longer have a lawn to be watered, and I’ve never seen you wash a car in your driveway, are you going to have to start taking showers every other day?

She answered:

We already only shower twice a week…  only cut I can think of is to replace the toilets.  It’s going to be hard for us to meet the goal of a 35% cut.

Rain

clouds 008

Three words you generally don’t find in the same sentence: Tucson, Rain, May.  However, the past two days I awoke to the patter of raindrops.  Billowy clouds edged the sky.  The air was cooler and softer, yet the humidity was only 29%.  Today the clouds have thinned out and the humidity is back to 12%.

Plastic bags 

139 cities and counties in California have banned the use of plastic bags1.  Guess the major political party of the governor and legislature.  Arizona has passed a law to make it illegal for cities to ban plastic bags2. Guess the major political party of the governor and legislature.

Read

Victor LaValle’s new novel, The Devil in Silver (Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012, New York Times Notable Book 2012), takes place in a mental hospital where the protagonist is dropped for the convenience of the cops who arrest him.  All of the patients are so drugged up, for the convenience of the hospital personnel, that they are barely able to function.

Different from 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, which you might have read, or the 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson, which you might have seen.  That book is mentioned in The Devil in Silver:  Four of the patients are at their book club. A nurse has suggested a book for them to read.

“How about Ken Kesey?” Josephine suggested. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? That book meant a lot to me in high school. I think you all might really like it.”

Sammy frowned. Well, why don’t you read Slaughterhouse Five to a roomful of cattle.”

Josephine didn’t give up. “I just thought you all might like it because it’s about a mental hospital.”

Dorry took off her glasses, which instantly made her look less nuts. Her eyes were smaller, and she seemed younger by ten years. She blew on the lenses, and small specks of dust, flakes of skin, and dandruff fell like flurries toward the tabletop. She put the glasses back on and, nutty again, looked at the nurse.

“Here’s what you have to understand about that book, Josephine. As good as it is, it isn’t about mentally ill people. It takes place in a mental hospital, yes. But that book is about the way a certain young generation felt that society was designed to destroy them. Make them into thoughtless parts of a machine. To lobotomize them. That book is about them, not about people like us.”

Josephine stammered, trying to respond, but Dorry didn’t stop talking.

“If you remember the patients who really mattered in that story, most of them were voluntary. Do you remember what the main characters called the other ones? The ones who would never leave because they could never be cured?”

“No,” Josephine admitted quietly.

“The Chronics. Most of them were vegetables. Brain-deads. Maybe violent. Chronically sick. Diagnosed as everlastingly damaged. All of us here at Northwest? That’s who we are. Northwest is nothing but Chronics. We’ve all been committed, and most of us are not voluntary. So why would we want to read a book that barely mentions us except to tell us we’re f–d in the anus?”

Well, maybe that quote doesn’t catch your fancy.  But the book does have a lot to say about mental hospitals, and there is a bit of humor.  (But no guns or car chases, and the romance is very short.)

Bugs

spiderMade from used computer parts1, watch parts and light bulbs2:

bug

1http://money.cnn.com/2014/09/30/news/california-plastic-bag-ban/
2http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/arizona-lawmakers-tell-cities-they-cant-ban-plastic-bags/2015/04/30/6f6939c0-ef57-11e4-8050-839e9234b303_story.html
3http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/04/nintendo-insects/
4http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2012/11/mechanical-arthropods-and-insects-made-from-watch-parts-and-light-bulbs/

Attack of the Crane Flies

March 10, 2015

250px-CraneFlyThe crane flies have been all over the house and attacking the windows for about a week.  According to Wikipedi, Although crane flies look like mosquitoes, they do not bite humans. Adult crane flies do not eat at all; most adult crane flies only mate and then die.  The larva eat the roots of grass so they no doubt love the golf courses here.  Looked at old blogs — didn’t mention crane flies last year.   Maybe was too busy to notice.  But two years ago they showed up in April, not March.  This must be a warmer year, climate change and all.  (For all of you folks back east, buried in snow, notice that I didn’t say global warming.)

Spring

meadow 011
Imeadow 003t’s spring, and with the bit of rain we’ve had, the flowers (mostly alyssum) that I seeded in my “meadow ” are thick, as well as the volunteers in my vegetable garden, from snapdragons that I’d planted years ago to wildflowers, California bluebells (shown here), desert verbena with both thin and wide leaves.    Plus my Lady Banks rose, which I have tied up
to the back fence, is roses 007 starting to bloom more than it ever has before.  BTW, this website is good for identifying flowers and recommending ones to plant: http://www.cvwd.org/conservation/lush_book/lush3_8.html

But even nicer to look at than flowers are the bicyclists of spring, packs of svelte bodies clad in lycra, riding up or down Anklam, taking in Gates Pass.

Seen yesterday: six cars stopped on the main drag through Starr Pass (a road with very little traffic) as a small herd of javelina crossed the street.

Life In The Universe

This week’s lecture, Intelligent Life Beyond Earth by Christopher D. Impey, University Distinguished Professor, Astronomy, was killed dinosaursthe best!  Chris has such a great sense of humor. (65 million years ago a comet killed off the dinosaurs; unfortunately it missed Barney.)  You must watch the podcasts.  All are on this site except for this one, which should be there in a week:
http://cos.arizona.edu/connections/life-in-the-universe
Here is the introductory spiel:

One question rises above all others when it comes to our place in a vast and ancient Universe, ‘Are we alone?’ With a billion habitable locations in the Milky Way galaxy, and more than ten billion years for biological experiments to play out, a search for intelligent life beyond Earth is well-motivated. Unfortunately, the single example of life on Earth gives no clear indication of whether intelligence is an inevitable or an extremely rare consequence of biological evolution. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, is more appropriately called the search for extraterrestrial technology. So far, the search for intelligent aliens by their electromagnetic communication has met with half a century of stony silence. It’s challenging to define life, and even more difficult to make general definitions of intelligence and technology. We’ll look at the premises and assumptions involved in the search, the strategies used, and the profound consequences of making contact.

He also mentioned that, according to the eminent physicist Stephen Hawking, “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans,” … He argues that, instead of trying to find and communicate with life in the cosmos, humans would be better off doing everything they can to avoid contact.

Scandalous Women

This week we discussed the movie Mildred Pierce,  with Joan Crawford, 1945.  Here is some of the editing that was done:

Mildredmildred pierceApparently the book would not have passed The Code.  So, in addition to the language being cleaned up, the panoply of screen writers (including the uncredited William Faulkner and Catherine Turney), changed the plot to a murder mystery, simplified characters to make them either bad or good, and killed off one of the “bad guys”.  It was a box office hit, and won many Oscars.  You can get it from the library or Netflix.

CSA

This is what I picked up at the CSA today: Beets, Carrots, Collard Greens (which I traded for more beets, as I can cook them and freeze them), Hakurei Turnips, Navel Oranges, Salad Mix, Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Chard.  Lots of veggies to finish before the weekend, when I leave to visit my brother during spring break.

Reading

You don’t have to see a picture of James Beard to know what he looks like, just read the descriptions of his breads in Beard on Bread, [They] should be eaten fresh, with plenty of good sweet butter.

Scandalous Females & Sex

February 5, 2015

This semester I’m taking a class from the University of Arizona Humanities Seminars1 (once a week classes for old people for no credit, presented by professors), Scandalous Females in Film, taught by Mary Beth Haralovich, Ph.D.2 (film and television historian).
In previous semesters I have taken Climate Change3Classic Comedies of European Theatre4, Twentieth Century Art Movements4Utilitarianism: The Greater Good?5 What’s Bugging You: Insects and Culture6Nobel Laureates of Literature7,8The Cheat (1915) Posterand Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance!9,10

Last week, for early film melodrama and the conventions of femininity, we were to have viewed a silent film from 1915 by Cecil B. DeMille, The Cheat. (There are youtubes of most of the films, and the others I’ve ordered from the library or netflix.)  We watched a few shorts in class. If the hapless female got caught up in “white slavery” (prostitution) or sex outside of marriage, she was saved at the last minute, thus teaching the women in the audience not to be dumb.

Interesting readings, concerning Love, Marriage, and Hollywood Performance.  I love this quote about the basis for most marriages over the centuries:sex2
A Free Soul (1931) PosterThis quote did not come from class, but it fits:

Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.
Ambrose Bierce

For this week, the independent woman: resisting the companionable couple, we are to have screened A Free Soul (Norma Shearer), who gets saved from the bad guy (Clark Gable!) by her father (Lionel Barrymore, who won an Oscar for his performance), but (spoiler alert) still doesn’t marry the good guy (Leslie Howard, who you probably remember as Ashley Wilkes from Gone with the Wind).  Our readings for this are about Romantic Love, and The Love Goddess.

junoFor net week, teen moms and 3rd wave feminism, we are to see either Juno, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2007 (and which I just watched, about a pregnant teen and her decision to have the baby and give it up for adoption – it’s called a comedy-drama) or Precious.

I read the book, Push, by Sapphire, and the character’s plight was so horrible, being raped by her father, having learned neither to read nor write, and having an abusive mother, even if it does have a somewhat hopeful ending, that I hadn’t Preciousoriginally wanted to see the movie, but I got it.  The movie won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Academy Awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Mo’Nique (who is a stand-up comedian, but plays the mother from hell), and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay for Geoffrey Fletcher (who became the first African American to win a Best Screenplay Oscar) as well as many other awards.  The film was was produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry.

I found it interesting that the nerdy dad in Juno is played by J. K. Simmons who plays the foul-mouthed, abusive music instructor,  Terence Fletcher, in Whiplash, which I saw over the weekend at the Loft (and was at Sundance last year, and is nominated for five Academy Awards , including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, and Best Adapted Screenplay).  I did a double take when I saw him in Juno, and had to look on the credits to make sure that it was the same person.

Sex

Commentary from Sunday’s New York Times regarding The Manners of Downton Abbey: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/style/better-check-the-beds-edwardians.html?_r=0

And on a different tack, also from the times, Flesh of my Flesh, about Bat Sheva Marcus, an Orthodox Jewish sex counselor.  (If you’re not well acquainted with ultra-Orthodox Jews, they have many similarities to Muslims.  The women have to cover up, although not with a burka or niqab in the United States, but they do cover their faces in some other countries.  They have to walk behind their husbands.  They are separated in the temple.  Unmarried men and women should not touch each other.  Marriages are arranged – although Jews are only allowed one wife – and so on.)

The Talmud “indicates that during marital relations, the husband may not look at or kiss the wife’s makom ervah,” her private place, the manual warns. The lights should be off, a sheet should cover the couple, the position should be missionary — the wife is charged with keeping sex spiritual, keeping it chaste.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/magazine/the-orthodox-sex-guru.html

Fascinating that this exists in the US.  But most Hasidic Jews do not watch television, go to movies, or read popular secular magazines.  Guess that’s where we’re supposed to be informed.

1http://hsp.arizona.edu/
2http://tftv.arizona.edu/faculty_staff/bio?netid=mbharalo
3https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/climate-change/
4https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/seminars/
5https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/the-greater-good/
6https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/entomophagy/
7https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/books-and-more/
8https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/february-fireworks/
9https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/time-travel-and-the-red-shoes/
10https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/genomics-now/

God

January 28, 2015

I know, it’s an age old phrase that many people use – “You shouldn’t talk about religion or politics.”   Oh well.

This from Sunday’s NY Times:

[Pope Francis] was on the papal plane, en route from the Philippines back to Italy, and he was reflecting on the relationship between third-world poverty and extra-large families. He told reporters that Catholics needn’t feel compelled to breed “like rabbits,” a zoological simile that’s sure to have legs.1

OMG!  (A bad expression for me, as I have no god.)  But imagine if the pope figures out that families would do better with only two children.  Maybe he could start handing out condoms to the poorest of the poor?  Zero Population Growth2 would help solve most of the world’s problems.  (See my note towards the bottom of my blog, October Evening3.)

God and Me

… But what is he

Who fills the world with trees and stars
And leaves us alone
With our wars and atrocities
Our deadly human nature
Our sad dominion over the fish and the fowl

Look
No one knows why
There is so much silence in the upper spheres
And so much suffering down here

The Almighty skipped over our houses4

— Edward Hirsch

Seen today

OK, a lighter topic.  In my neighborhood – a woman driving a golf cart as she walked her dog.  At the college – a guy with short hair except a long swirl of orange sherbet hiding half of his face.

Life in the Universe

In January/ February of each year the University of Arizona’s College of Science offers free evening lectures once a week at Centennial Hall.  (Of course, because they’re free, the audience is mostly retired people, which means that if you get there half an hour early, you won’t find a seat.  We ended up sitting behind the camera, leaning way over in each direction to see the stage.  Oh, and talking about the camera, these lectures are recorded.5)

I had previously attended Living Beyond 1006 and Genomics Now7.  (These lectures from previous years can be seen on http://cos.arizona.edu/podcasts or chose a lecture from a previous year here and watch it on youtube: http://cos.arizona.edu/connections/ua-science-lecture-series.)  This year’s series concerns Life in the Universe8, and the first lecture on Monday night was What is Life? presented by a Jesuit Brother, Guy J. Consolmagno (BA and MA from MIT, PhD from U of A, postdoc at Harvard and MIT, and served in the Peace Corps in Kenya before he took vows as a brother, now Planetary Scientist, Vatican Observatory Research Group), who was a fantastic speaker!  He even got Stephen Colbert cracking up on the Cobert Report9.  Marvelous sense of humor.  Our hour listening to him went all too fast.  (But the conclusion was that there is little agreement among scientists on What is Life?)

Riffing on Cobert’s comments (watch that video), I had read The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber10 back in December.  Plot: a preacher goes to another planet in another galaxy to convert the natives, along with a group of people going there to colonize and mine the planet, leaving his wife back on a collapsing earth.  Not your typical scifi, but I was rather captivated.  (Note: you have to employ suspension of disbelief as Peter has to be put into a state of suspended animation to travel the vast distance to the planet, but emails to and from him and his wife go through almost immediately.)

1http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-pope-francis-birth-control-and-american-catholics.html
2http://www.populationconnection.org/site/PageServer (ZPG is now Population Connection.)
3https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/october-evening/
4http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/27/miquel-barcelo-edward-hirsch-picture-poem/?_r=0
52015 – Each lecture will air on television after a one-week delay on Mondays, beginning February 2 at 8PM. The broadcast will repeat: Tuesdays at 2AM, Fridays at 1PM, Sundays at 1PM and again on Mondays at 12AM and 2PM.
Comcast Subscribers: Channel 76  Cox Subscribers: Channel 116
6https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/100/
7https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/genomics-now/
8http://cos.arizona.edu/connections/life-in-the-universe
9http://www.frequency.com/video/colbert-report-gold-frankincense-mars/69752258
10http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-Strange-New-Things/dp/055341884X