Archive for March, 2008

Hillary, give it up

March 31, 2008

Now, I’m neither the youngest nor the brightest lightbulb in the fixture, but I do want to make it clear that I know my subject line isn’t the same as “Give it up for Hillary.” Nor do I mean it to be.

There’s a terrific Jimmy Margulies cartoon in today’s “Week In Review,” the op-ed section of the Sunday NY Times. The interviewer/commentator says: “The math is against you in delegates needed for the nomination. . .” and Hillary responds: “I didn’t give up at Valley Forge. . .I didn’t give up at Gettysburg. . .I didn’t give up at D-Day. . .and I’m not giving up now.”

Hillary, you have proven yourself a prevaricator without even the sense to understand when your untruths have been detected. I know you haven’t claimed to have invented the Internet or saved the free world single-handedly. But you have demonstrated the one characteristic that sends me running to the bathroom in case of projectile vomiting. You are the ultimate politician.

Sweetie, I’m your target demographic, an over-50 woman with a couple of college degrees, a lifetime in business, and a strong belief that a woman in the Presidency would bring something that’s badly needed.

But not you. Not now, not ever.

I’m old enough to have voted for both John Anderson and Ross Perot, knowing in each case that I was probably wasting my vote but hoping for something other than business-as-usual. I can honestly say I never even contemplated voting for Ralph Nader, however.

I’m of that rare breed called the “truly independent.” I was a registered Democrat for an extended period of time until I decided that the Democratic Party had lost its marbles. So then I became a registered Republican. Ditto with that party. For some time now, I’ve been registered without party affiliation.

I pay a price for that. I can’t vote (in Oregon, anyway) in any of the party primaries. I contemplated registering again as a Democrat just so I could vote against you in May, but then I realized how many fund-raising and ideological mailings I’d get and decided against it. I think my fellow Oregonians will take care of you here. Many of them actually have some sense.

But if you are banking on calling in chits with the “superdelegates” (and what a crock that is–a group of party “elite” in place to override the will of the voters in case they aren’t smart enough to choose the right candidate–this is democracy?), I hope you will think again. A candidate who gets there by such means will have no more credibility than a President elected by the Supreme Court, to quote someone else’s recent example.

So give it up. Now. Let’s get on with a race between two people who arguably are outsiders from the political establishment, let them present their views, and let the people choose. At this point you are merely a spoiler.

And while I’m busy ranting on this topic I almost never comment on, I have a few words for the other major candidates in this race:

Barack: The Jeremiah Wright thing told me a great deal more about your character than almost anything else you’ve done. I congratulate you for being forthright. I have lots of “sparring partners” with whom I don’t agree (otherwise, we wouldn’t be sparring now, would we?). In fact, if people evaluated my character by the folks that I tolerate and even like to argue with, they’d be way off the mark. Your response to these attacks told me you are really a grownup with a well-developed sense of a diverse world.

I don’t have the background to know the things that you “know” about racism. But I congratulate you on your ability to articulate your position without blowing in the wind.

John: I’m a long-time admirer of yours, but I frankly liked you a great deal better before the GOP apparently started coaching you on what was required to get elected. You’re sounding like a politician, and that isn’t one of your strengths.

I have a certain amount of faith in your common sense and straight talk. Don’t waffle now. Stay who you are, and I might even vote for you. Unlike many of my acquaintance, I don’t think foreign policy is going to be made in the campaign speeches. I just want to elect someone I feel comfortable can make it. No matter who is President, we don’t be out of Iraq tomorrow. But you buy yourself nothing by being so belligerent about it.

Now a few words for “my fellow Americans”: Hey, guys, if you haven’t noticed, the world is changing. It’s not just global warming, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the devalued dollar, and the globalized economy. It’s a comeuppance to the sort of economic colonialization that the U.S.A., as an economically powerful superpower, has been able to indulge in for decades.

If one definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and hoping for different results, then go toe your favorite party line and vote accordingly.

But if you are concerned about a viable (not necessarily wealthy or over-consuming, just viable) future for yourself and your childen, then take some time to look beyond the heirs apparent for a leader who can actually think. And vote accordingly.

Whoever is elected this fall steps into a mess. He/she will need all of our good wishes and help, so vote for someone you want to help advance “in the direction of your dreams” (to paraphrase Thoreau), not someone you think can fix all your problems.

That person doesn’t exist.

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All the little plants seem snug in their beds

March 30, 2008

Woke up to snow on the ground. The morning offered more snow, hail, rain, and occasional sun breaks.

Mid afternoon we got one break long enough for me to get brave and dash down to the garden to check things out. Everything looks fine, if a tad rumpled in places. I think some of my sunflowers have sprouted, although it also looks like in a place or two the mice found the seeds. I’ll know more in a week or so, assuming that it doesn’t snow non-stop until then. Maybe even if it does.

I made chicken and dumplings for dinner. I can’t remember the last time I did that. I used the White Lily flour for the dumplings, and they were superb–light, fluffy, and flavorful. I am so bummed to hear that their plant is closing. I even got a nice note from one of their employees on my White Lily post. I think that post has drawn more comment than almost anything else I’ve written.

That’s tonight’s update. I would write a note or two about politics, but the whole thing is just too depressing to deal with tonight. Are there any other fans of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” out there? That’s the only time of the week I feel routinely like laughing at the news (which is the only truly sane approach).

There was a great “stupid crook” story on this morning’s show. Seems a guy in Chicago decided to rob a store. The employees told him that no one but the manager could open the safe and the manager wasn’t there. This mental giant said, “No problem.” He left his cell phone number and asked them to call him when the manager returned. They did, after first calling 911. There were a few extra people waiting when he returned to get the manager to open the safe.

Now, that really is it. . .

Well, this just chaps MY hide

March 29, 2008

I’m getting darned tired of this stupid weather. Spring officially arrived a week ago, and the next day I planted most of my early garden–brassicas, lettuce starts, green onions, snow peas, sunflowers, a few potatoes (the rest have to wait until we can till the bed again). I also planted another dahlia and four lilies.

Every day since then, it has rained, hailed, snowed, and otherwise generally misbehaved. If this is leading up to an April Fool’s Day blizzard, I am going to be really pissed.

I checked the starts yesterday and they looked fine. I’m afraid to go back and look again after a morning of snow and hail and a full afternoon of monster hail storms. So I’m ignoring things, at least for the moment.

A chicken carcass is simmering on the stove. I roasted a chicken tonight, made mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy, and as we were stuffing our faces Ben looked over and said, “That chicken cries out to be made into soup.” And I started visualizing chicken and dumplings.

After a week of crappy weather I am really tired of feeding fires, but I told Ben if he’d feed the stove so I could do something else, I’d cook the chicken down and make something wonderful. He agreed, and before too long I’ll be able to set it off to cool and deal with it tomorrow.

I met all the poetry contest deadlines only to discover some other writing challenges. I’m working on a Malayan pantoum at the moment about a funeral. The pantoum lends itself wonderfully to ritual, and I suppose that’s what’s on my mind now. A week from tomorrow is Tom’s wake, and I’m running out of energy to deal with the emotions (other people’s, not my own–I’m just tired) that are surfacing around that.

So that’s what’s going on here tonight. Even the hummingbirds have been fighting all day. But I did re-engineer my feeder today and it works much better. It was prone to developing an airlock, and you had to go up every so often and give it a good whack. But as I was refilling it today, I found a spot that was obviously supposed to have a little air hole but hadn’t been punched all the way through. So I got a push pin and fixed it. Now it works great. I’m quite smug about that little piece of problem solving.

But I’m still going to be grumpy until I get some sunshine for more than 10 minutes at a time. . .

Tapping on the Buddha’s nose: a dilemma

March 20, 2008

So, I have this new toy, and it’s presenting me with a bit of a dilemma. I’m relying on my faithful blog readers to help me resolve it.

A friend who is an excellent metal sculptor made me a steel drum after learning how enamored I was of the music I heard in the Caribbean. It’s not your standard professional model. It’s a work of art. Hammered on the drum is what I think Fritz intended to be a sun with rays extending out to the edges.

However, the sun’s face looks exactly like the Buddha. If I had never noticed this, it would have been no problem. But since I have, I’m asking this question:

If I hit the Buddha’s nose with my mallet, and I being disrespectful?

I await your answers. This kind of thing keeps me awake all night.

A poem worth noting

March 18, 2008

I’m about to cut and paste a poem from today’s Writer’s Almanac. I’m sure I’m in deep violation of some copyright law or another, but this poem reminds me so much of Tom’s last days that I’m going to do it anyway. If it touches you, subscribe to Writer’s Almanac.

Poem: “Snow” by Elizabeth Tibbetts, from In the Well. – Bluestem Press, 2003.
Reprinted with permission.

Snow

The old, blue-eyed woman in the bed
is calling down snow. Her heart is failing,
and her eyes are two birds in a pale sky.
Through the window she can see a tree

twinkling with lights on the banking
beyond the parking lot. Lawns are still green
from unseasonable weather. Snow
will put things right; and, sure enough,

by four darkness carries in the first flakes.
Chatter, hall lights, and the rattle of walkers
spill through her doorway as she lies there?
ten miles (half a world) of ocean

between her and her home island.
She looks out from a bed the size of a dinghy.
Beyond the lit tree, beyond town, open water
accepts snow silently and, farther out,

the woods behind her house receive the snow
with a faint ticking of flakes striking needles
and dry leaves-a sound you would not believe
unless you’ve held your breath and heard it.

Tom died tonight

March 17, 2008

Thanks to all of you who have borne with this saga so patiently.

Tom died peacefully, apparently at full rest.

I will miss him tremendously, but I am so glad he has gone on to whatever comes next.

And then there’s Geraldine Ferraro

March 15, 2008

What a blithering idiot!

I’m sure she’s still smarting over the allegation that her selection as Mondale’s running mate was due to her gender and his wanting to pander to women. (I suspect, by the way that this allegation has a certain ring of truth.)

But her remarks about Obama were so far outside the acceptable limits of politics that she should be pilloried and sent off in disgrace.

It’s interesting to me that when one of Obama’s campaign staff called Clinton “a monster,” she abruptly left the campaign. After Ferraro’s remarks, Clinton said merely that she didn’t agree. Ferraro can’t seem to understand what all the fuss is about.

Clinton is a fierce campaigner, but her propensity for letting her staffers say completely unacceptable things and then just shrugging them off is one of the reasons I will never trust her (there are plenty of others). It feels to me like a deliberate campaign strategy to play dirty while keeping the mud off one’s own hands.

Politics and polis–the Democrats’ dilemma

March 15, 2008

You can’t be following the news on the political front this week and not hark back to Will Rogers’s gibe: “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

What really set off this tirade is listening to Hilary Clinton maintain over and over that she can “win in the big states, the ones that matter.”

What the Democrats don’t seem to get is that the “big” states are going to vote “blue” regardless, unless of course they run a blithering idiot for President. Even then, perhaps, they can win in those states. It’s happened before.

What the Dems need to win is a candidate who can appeal to a broad cross-section of voters, urban and rural, white and blue collar, rich and poor, anyone from any walk of life who has a reasonably open mind and likes to think about things.

That candidate is NOT Hilary Clinton, and all of this dithering is simply doing the entire liberal movement a huge disservice.

Clinton represents just more BAU (business as usual). I can’t imagine any circumstance under which I could vote for her, much as I think it would be terrific to see a woman in the Presidency. (I really thought that Laura Bush and Theresa Kerry would have made a much more interesting pairing than their husbands did. . .)

I’m sure my viewpoint is colored by living in Oregon. Although my state has been much in the news lately for its facility with “vote by mail” (of which I heartily approve), it’s really worth looking at for another reason.

More than half of Oregon’s population lives in one major metropolitan area. If you add in the residents of the other “cities” in the Willamette Valley, the percentage is probably closer to 70% of the state’s population being urban in nature. Portland becomes, in effect, the “polis” for the state, and the interests of the rest of the residents be damned.

The “big look” committee charged with looking at land use laws is back in action again. The committee was abruptly defunded at the middle of the year last year when it became apparent they were trying to balance urban and rural concerns, which was not what the governor or the legislature had in mind when they set the thing up. The public uproar over the defunding has reversed it.

I have high hopes for this group. One of the members was quoted as saying something like, “It’s clear that what works in Portland and Washington County does not necessarily work well in other parts of the state.” Well, doh. . .

But that needed to be said. Out loud. Urban Oregonians have ridden roughshod over the rest of the state’s residents for decades now. The result is absolute polarization and a complete inability to get anything of meaning done. Sound familiar?

I’d like to see an environment where our elected official returned to doing the business of the electorate as it relates to the economy, social needs, and foreign policy. I’d like to see them stop using sexual escapade investigations and forays into athletes’ use of performance-enhancing drugs as an excuse to avoid facing the really tough challenges that deserve serious attention.

I don’t think being titillated should be the direct aim of any elected official.

I’d like to see a strong U.S. and a strong dollar again.

I’d like to vote “for” someone for the first time in a long time (as opposed to voting “agin”).

I’ve long been an admirer of Senator McCain, but frankly, I’m a little disappointed at the waffling and snake-oil sales pitch he’s pulling out to not alienate anyone. I expect him to be confrontational, and if he wants to get elected, I think his strengths lie in that direction.

I’m one of those independents they keep talking about. I consider myself  fiscally pretty conservative but socially very liberal. I have no objection to funding social programs, even those I may not benefit from directly. (I’m pretty sure I would benefit indirectly from some of them.) But I do think we need to be operating on a “pay-as-you-go” basis, not accumulating debt for our children and grandchildren to pay off.

That’s the way I run my personal finances, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask our elected officials to take the same approach. I think we might find some smarter decisions made if we took very seriously the concept of operating on a cash basis and paying the bills as they come due.

Whew! This has gone very far afield from where I started, so let me make another abrupt jag.

Dear Democratic Party: Please give me a choice in November. I can’t commit to Obama right now, but I’m interested enough to want to hear a lot more. I’d like to have the dilemma of two good candidates that I have to choose between.

This election is the Democrats’ election to lose. I just hope they don’t screw it up with back-room politics. If they do, they should probably consider disbanding and leaving the task of representing liberal social policy to some group more qualified.

Death watch, and other miscellany

March 7, 2008

I’m back, although I have to confess that there were times today I didn’t think I could make it home tonight under my own power. But the regenerative characteristics of Starbuck’s bottled frappucinos (sp?) is amazing.

This business of trying to help someone you care about die with a certain amount of dignity is tricky. There are so many moments of sadness, loss, frustration, and sheer terror.

But then, there are also all of these opportunities for the blackest of black humor. Talking with the hospice nurse today, I relayed a couple of stories and noted, “I have a very black sense of humor.” She laughed and said, “You have a great future with hospice care should you ever want one.”

To wit, one: Tom still believes in his heart of hearts that he can do any thing he sets his mind to. His muscles are failing him (that could have something to do with the one-third or more of his body weight that he’s lost–one of Lisa’s questions for the hospice nurse a few weeks ago was “How can anyone so thin still walk?”), so getting up and out of bed is a challenge.

But Tom is an engineer, so he has figured out that if he can get positioned and rock back and forth enough, he can catapult himself to his feet. This has a good side and a bad side.

Last night on Tom-watch I lay down beside him and he decided to get up. Before I could get around the bed to help him, he used the catapult technique to catapult himself right into the dresser, head first. I didn’t even see the cut over his eye when I first helped him up. But I heard him hit.

Here’s where the terror comes in. I’m thinking, “OMG, concussion at the very least.” I’m starting to panic, wondering if I should call hospice or 911 or someone. Then reality kicks in.

Concussion. Headaches. Confusion. Trouble in recalling words and speaking clearly. What would be different? A brain tumor is something like a permanent ongoing concussion, or at least this particular brain tumor is. A part of me wants to giggle. Another part wants to cry.

The hospice nurse reinforced that. She said, “At this point, almost nothing matters.” The hospice primary care person said, “Now we talk about weeks rather than months. How do we keep him comfortable?”

As part of the comfort therapy, I drove across Salem today to pick up two prescriptions. A hospice volunteer was with Tom, who can’t be left alone at this point. Tom’s treatment plan changed abruptly today, and I thought if I picked up the medications, it would save Lisa a struggle with how to do it. The prescriptions were to be filled at a pharmacy about as far from Tom and Lisa’s house as you can get and still be in Salem, because the pharmacy happened to be the only one that had one of them in stock.

When I got there (about a 25-minute drive), the pharmacy had decided they could only fill one prescription without additional faxes and information from the hospice prescribing physician. So I could fill one prescription, but not solve the main problem.

I almost went ballistic. I even considered just leaning across the counter and bursting into tears (I was so-o-o-o tired at this point). But instead, I decided to get what I could get and go fight the battle elsewhere.

Then the clerk behind the pharmacy counter said (prescription medication in hand): “Since Tom has never filled a prescription with us before, we need to develop a profile for him.” (It is worth noting that at this time there were eight people behind me in line for this single clerk.)  I bit my tongue, gave her his full address (I couldn’t remember the zip code exactly, and after 2 minutes of dithering around with her computer and throwing various options at me, the clerk said, “Never mind, we’ll fix it later.”)  and phone number, date of birth, location of any moles, and so one. Then the clerk asked, “Does he have any allergies?”

That stopped me cold. “I don’t know,” I said, “but since he’s dying of terminal cancer does it really matter?”

“Well,” she said, “we wouldn’t want to make him sick now, would we?”

Now I’m having a lot of trouble even categorizing this post. I’m going to quit and go to bed. Lisa was so worried when I left that I called to tell her I got home safely (still feeling guilty for leaving her alone with Tom). She said (with a rueful voice) that he was stuck in the hall again. So we kept the conversation short and I felt guiltier than ever at leaving her to deal with this alone.

It should not be this hard to die.

Nathan Zeldes leading the charge to sanity?

March 4, 2008

Well, I finally got around to the Sunday NYT today (except for the book review and the magazine, which I’ll take with me to Tom’s tomorrow).

There’s a great little essay by a man who’s forcing himself to become unwired one day a week. It’s an interesting piece overall, but I got a chuckle to discover one of my Intel buddies, Nathan Zeldes (full disclosure: our acquaintance is an online one, since he’s half a world from me), quoted regarding his efforts at Intel to reduce e-mail.

Nathan, when I was there (not so long ago at that) I seem to recall that we wrote about something in excess of a million e-mails a day. I notice now that you refer to more than 3 million a day. Doesn’t sound as if your efforts are being particularly successful. . .;^}

For those of you who haven’t made Nathan’s acquaintance, you’ll find his Web site linked in my blog roll.

When I first moved out here, I suffered a bit from technology withdrawal. I had gotten used to being online all the time. Not being able to do that made me a little uncomfortable.

But now I have to confess that not only have I gotten totally used to scheduling my online time (usually when the generator is already running unless there’s something major that I need to do), but I’m also rather enjoying living mostly in the real world again. (I make an exception for Super Mario Galaxy, of course.)

I’m off to Tom’s again for a couple of days tomorrow. I don’t even take my laptop with me any more. We have so little time left to share that I want to just be there, even when he’s sleeping.

On the Big Elk front, spring is definitely early. The daffodils are blooming right on time, but the first hummingbird showed up three weeks early, buzzed me, sat down and folded his wings and said, “Where’s the feeder?” It was up the next morning, and he found it within an hour of daylight.

I remember this hummingbird from last year. He’s a bit of an odd duck. He’s a rufus, but he seems to not know how to hide his bright ruby-colored gorgette the way most of them do. He flies around glowing all the time. Since to other hummingbirds this is a “fight” challenge, things are interesting when he’s around. He also makes a sort of odd metallic sound when he’s buzzing around. At any rate, there’s no mistaking him, and I’m glad to see him back, even if I wasn’t quite ready to deal with the feeder yet.

Now the pot roast needs attention, and I will ride off into the night.