Friday, December 30, 2011

Reason to Vote

This morning I read an article on CNN entitled “Candidates, give us a reason to vote in 2012”.  Titles like this infuriate me.  Why should there be a reason to vote in an election other than people died for the right to vote and you are going to do it because it’s the right thing to do?
it's even harder to imagine that the more than three-fourths of Republicans who were thoroughly uninspired by him just a few months earlier would suddenly get excited enough to turn out and vote.
This is exactly what is wrong about American politics today.  We have to be inspired to vote.  We have to be enamored by the candidate to want to take 5 minutes out of our day and swing by the voting booth to cast our vote for a person on Election Day.  All I have to say about that is nasty words.  What’s wrong with voting because it is our right to vote and be a part of a system that allows us to have a voice?  What’s wrong with voting because our ancestors fought and died for the right to vote?  What’s wrong with voting because it’s the thing to do as a citizen?  Why do we have to be fueled with excitement to wnat to do this? 
The Election Board as bent over backwards to have people at the polling place and have it open for 14 hours so it’s convenient for us to vote.  The least we can do is perform our civic duty regardless of the fact the people on the ballot make us yawn or jump up and down.  It isn’t American Idol, folks, it’s the future of the our country which looks pretty bleak at the present. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Little Early

I know I am a little early in planting, but I was so excited about the greenhouse and the grow light that I planted the seeds for the flowers that needed to be planted in January.  I just couldn’t wait.  Over the Christmas holiday I organized all my seeds and determined from the grow calendar which plants needed to be started in each month, carefully plotting on a spreadsheet the months of indoor sowing, outdoor sowing, and transplanting.  Then I took all those plants that needed to be indoor sowed in January and planted them in the little newspaper pots I made with my pot maker.  They are now sitting in the greenhouse with the grow light set for 16 hours.  I also wrote down on all the ones that were planted and the date in my garden journal.
I know it’s a little early, but hey it’s almost January, right?  I figured the more head start I get on these seedlings the better off they will be come April or May when they can go outside, and will be bigger and stronger then.  It is a little strange to walk by the basement door and see this eerie light on down there.  It makes me think someone forgot to turn off the overheads, but then I remember, and it fills me with anticipation and excitement.  Yeah, I know, small things…
So anyway, I am off and running.  Next month there are more seeds to start and before I know it the sun will be shining longer and it will be time to plant all these seedlings in the ground.  In one way it’s a way to deal with the winter blahs that is productive and gratifying. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays

I hope you all had a very happy holiday and it turned out as you wanted.  It is not totally over yet as there is the New Year’s celebration to take place, and I think there are some other year-end holidays that are going on.  But, basically the 2011 is over and 2012 is on the horizon and I don’t know about you, but to me it is a time to reflect and to right some of the wrongs one has control over.

That means getting back on the wagon for health.  I have big plans this year for a garden that will provide me all the fresh vegetables that my family can consume.  That is not a tall order in some respects as it is just my husband and me right now.  It is a tall order in the variety of vegetables that my garden can produce.  My goal is to not have to shop for vegetables at the store.  The other part of the wagon is not eating sugar and fat.  I have already begun drinking my coffee black to cut back on the fat.  I have a mouthful of sweet teeth so the sugar is a hard thing for me.  Of course the third part is the exercise.  My husband and I rode on Christmas day and are planning another ride today as soon as it gets a tad warmer.  It is a matter of discipline and awareness.  I am so out of shape for not doing anything last year that it is going to take some time to get back up to speed, but with the mild winter that is predicted, maybe we will be able to ride all the way through.

So this week and I am going to do some reflecting and list making to see what I can do to improve 2012.  Let’s see where this will go.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Horror

First we have the Catholic priests, then a university football coach, and now a Philadelphia journalist.  All of a sudden people are jumping on the bandwagon with the sexual molestation accusations from when they were children.  What is it with these guys, and why is it all coming out now?  l
I don’t understand how a person can molest a child.  How is a child considered a sexual creature in the first place?  Sure they are innocent and sweet and trusting, but how that makes them enticing as a sexual “partner” is beyond me.  It is so horrible to even think that a child could be subjected to that kind of treatment in the first place. 
These men are men of authority and stature of some kind.  Is it that they are so drunk with power that they feel they can take advantage of a child?  Just horrible.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Unfamiliar Ground

A good friend of mine’s mother died the other day and since she is Jewish, she is sitting Shiva this week.  I am totally new to this and have never visited anyone sitting Shiva so I had to look it up to see what I should do to so that I won't be out of step with anything that was going on when I see her in a few days.  I found a couple websites that explained what the custom is and what to do when you visit someone who is sitting Shiva.  They were very helpful and now I feel much more comfortable about the whole thing.  I know I will still be a little shy about it as I do with any new experience.

Shiva makes a lot of sense to me.  The family is in mourning and it’s the community’s responsibility to take care of them.  The family does not cook, does not clean, or do anything else because the whole time is devoted to reflection of the person who passed and concentrating on their grief and prayer.  It seems a lot more involved than the Christian custom of visitation and burial with a luncheon afterward.  Having recently lost my father, I would have liked to have more time to reflect on his loss rather than having one day to grieve with family and friends and then having to get back to work.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

McCormick

The spice company, McCormick, has a relatively new line of combined spices that has caught my eye.  They are called Recipe Inspirations and come with pre-measured spices and a recipe card that shows you everything you need for a particular dish.  I have tried two of their packages; Asian Sesame Salmon and Chicken Marsala.  Both were easy to prepare and very tasty.  They have quite a few types, but the store I go to only carried a few. 
Since I generally have quite a few spices on hand, I primarily bought them for the recipe at first.  I really consider them waste because of the excess packaging that is involved, but these can be really useful if you are a new cook and not used to cooking with spices, have no more than the obligatory salt and pepper on hand, or want to try something new.  If you have a large spice collection then after the first go-round you can just use the recipe card and do the meal again.  Unfortunately they don’t have the recipes online but I can rationalize buying the package just for the recipe knowing that if it does not turn out the way I like, I can always not use the card again, or make small adjustments to the recipe as I see fit and I don't have a lot of excess stuff around. 
Overall I give this product a big thumbs up.  It helps new cooks experiment with different ways to prepare meals, it encourages the use of fresh ingredients, and it is quick and easy to use.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Festive

This morning when I went to get coffee, the cafeteria had a new flavor for the Holidays.  The flavor was advertised to be bold and festive.  What exactly does festive taste like?  I wondered.  The coffee was bold and slightly strong, but festive?  Even after drinking the coffee I am still not sure what festive is supposed to taste like.
Sometimes the people who market products and food come up with the craziest stuff.   The best are the names that are thought of for cosmetics, especially the colors.  Lipstick shades as Icy Plum are quite descriptive and easy to imagine, but Sweet Surrender?  Really?
I suppose if nothing else it does warrant a blog entry.  Maybe that’s what they were going for.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ramble On

Leaves are falling all around
Time I was on my way.
Thanks to you, I am much obliged
For such a pleasant stay.
-          Led Zeppelin

“Ramble On” is one of my favorite songs of all time.  It was popular when I was in my teens (and I know I am dating myself) and I always enjoy listening to it over and over again.  The message behind it is probably lost on me especially when the lyrics start talking about the Lord of the Rings but I don’t mind.  There are times that I just like to listen to the music and not try to figure it out.   Besides I hardly think that there is some deep meaning behind it anyway.

Music has a way of taking one back.  I think the auditory memory, like the olfactory memory is one of the strongest memories that we have.  When I hear a song of my youth, I can remember certain times that were very important to me, or things that were pleasant.  There is one particular Rod Stewart song that reminds me of the times I had driving back and forth to my boyfriend’s house.  Or when I used the car to just cruise around – back in the days when gas was $.36 cents per gallon and I could put a dollar’s worth in the tank to replace what I had used.  Ah, good times.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Seasons

Normally I don’t mind autumn and winter. I don’t really have a problem with the cold as long as my house is warm and as long as I have enough body lotion to take care of the dry skin that I get during the colder months. This year, however, I can’t wait until spring and I blame my new gardening hobby for that. I have been perusing the gardening blogs and catalog stores on the web and I see wonderful pictures of Cottage Gardens, that I want to emulate, from around the world that are as enticing as a good glazed donut!

I guess it is the anticipation of putting all of those wonderful plants in my garden and the imagination of the smell and texture of all those beautiful flowers. I put a calendar together of dates when I should sow the seeds for the flowers and vegetables I want. My only consolation is that many of the perennials that I want have in the garden should be started in January and February. It’s not that far off and very wait-able.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Equality

The other day I was directed to a video that someone posted on their Facebook page. It was an ad, supposedly in Australia, for same sex marriage. It was a beautiful film done from the perspective of one person showing snippets of a relationship between two people who obviously loved each other. At the end it showed a man kneeling on the ground with the proverbial ring box. It wasn’t until that moment was it known that the other person he held the ring box to was also a man. It was a touching video and somewhat tearful – at least for me.

I am not shocked by the thought of same sex marriage, and fully support it as I may have mentioned in this blog before. I can’t understand how some might feel it damages marriage as it exists between a man and a woman.   Homosexuality has been documented to exist in species other than humans.

So why do people think they can decide for another what makes that other person happy? For one thing, ardent Fundamentalists point to the Bible which in one scripture says it is a sin to lie with a man as is done with a woman. But I seem to remember from my history that the ancient Romans celebrated homosexuality and even one definition of the Latin word for Love means love between two men – women here being pointedly left out again. So maybe the Bible was objecting to it back then. Of course since the Bible was translated from ancient Greek, some might argue that it was lost in translation.

At any rate the bottom line is human rights, in my opinion. Every person should be able to live their lives in a manner that makes them happy if that manner does not cause physical or emotional harm to another person. The pursuit of happiness is even in our constitution, so I support and believe that this country should legalize same sex marriage; marriage not civil unions, not partnership, but marriage. Because until all people are given the same rights regardless of their gender, religious background, race, sexual orientation, sexual identity, and any another other classification you want to throw in there, we are all not free.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Santa

An unidentified man distributed $100 bills the other day in Reading PA according to an article that appeared recently. I find that truly amazing. He apparently distributed an estimated $20,000 at a bus station downtown. First I find it amazing that a person would be able to hand out that amount of cash, and secondly I find it amazing is that he didn’t get mugged while he was doing it. I suppose a person dressed in a Santa suit might be immune to being attacked?

A $100 doesn’t go very far these days, but it can buy a week’s worth of groceries and two tanks of gas for a person who is scrapping together every cent they can get. I remember when that amount was a lot and I was really happy getting only slightly more than that for a weekly wage when I was in high school. Of course back then my mother spent $36 for a week’s supply of food and I could replace the gas I used in my mother’s car for $1.

But still just giving away a $100 bill to that many people is over-the-top generous and should give you pause as to the impact this person made in those poor people’s lives. That is the real meaning of Christmas.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cool Tech

Okay, now I think I have seen everything. Urinal based games have now been introduced in the UK by a company called Captive Media. An article in CNET, an online magazine on technology, highlighted a new gaming series where men can play games directing their urine stream left or right to put out fires, ski down a mountain slope, or other similar types of imagined activity. The urinal stands are in a trial run now in bars in the UK.

I guess the point to all of this is that one’s mind must be entertained at all times, but I personally think this is a bit much. There are those out there who are of a similar mind, as you can see from the comments posted at the end of the article. Too funny…

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For the Love of Flowers

For the last few nights I have been reading a book that I found while doing my other favorite task (not); cleaning. It is an old book on perennials. There are no color pictures in the whole things except for the old faded one on the cover, which feels odd considering there are lots of pictures of different kinds of flowers through the whole thing. But back then it was cheaper to print black and white. Anyway, the book describes in great detail all the kinds of perennials, their colors, their Latin names, and their bloom times.

I have really been getting into this garden thing and I am really quite anxious to get my seeds started for spring. One of my coworkers graciously loaned me a seedling mat that will warm up the soil and help the seeds germinate faster. I brought it home yesterday and put it in the greenhouse. It barely fits, but it should do fine. One problem is that I have so many flats and only one heater so I am going to have to rotate them a bit. I have never bothered to find out just exactly how cold my basement is in the dead of winter, so this should be pretty interesting. I do know that seed like to be a 75 degrees and my basement is certainly not that.

Last night I dreamt about trees. I remember feeling so frustrated because I couldn’t remember the Latin names of the trees for all of my friends. It was weird, but I know that it must mean that gardening is definitely on my mind. So in the meantime I will continue to read my book, collect the seeds I want, and dream of the wonderful color that will be in my perennial bed this spring and summer.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dust

I will be the first to admit that I am a lousy housekeeper. It is very low on my priority list and given the amount of stuff I do I would rather do that than clean my house. I really hate it. I like the end result, but I feel totally helpless with the amount of work that needs to be done when I am doing it. It just doesn’t seem to end. But sometimes I get into these moods and have to clean. It seems to me a matter of camouflage more than anything else. If it looks clean then I am okay with it. If it is tidy, then I am good.


So this weekend I got into one of those moods and started with the living room and ended up in the bedroom. The dust was so thick and it was everywhere. Just where does this dust all come from? My husband and I were discussing that while we buzzed around trying to get things looking halfway decent. I said that if it comes from humans; old skin cells, then why does an abandoned house have as much as a house that is lived in? We decided that it was pushed in from outside and left it at that. This morning I looked it up and lo and behold, we were right. I found an article that shows, indeed it comes from outside and some of it is not all that innocuous.

So maybe after reading this, I will clean more? Not.

Friday, November 25, 2011

End of Year Holidays

This year was totally different from other years.  I guess it was the fact my father is not around any longer, my son is not around this year, and I am not on good terms with my brother.  So I decided that my husband and I would stay home and I got some turkey and fixings at the grocery store when I was there last weekend.  Granted it was just turkey cutlets and not a whole turkey which would have been way too much for just the two of us, but was turkey none the less.  Anyway, at the last minute, two of our friends had invited us over to their house only to change it at the last minute and decide to go to the Holiday Buffet at a local hotel because it was too much pressure to cook at home.  I ended up cooking the turkey meal I had planned for Thanksgiving on Tuesday night so it wouldn't go bad and we went to the restaurant yesterday with our friends.

I will not do that again.  First it was expensive and second the food was so-so.  Finally it didn't feel like a holiday.  Granted they had a large variety of things including turkey and cranberries and all that stuff, but it was not the same as what I thought a holiday meal should be.  To me a holiday meal should be done at home.  Maybe I am just old fashioned, but that's just me.  It just didn't feel the same.

So now we move on to Christmas.  It's Black Friday and those crazy people are out and about shopping like fiends and spending all kinds of money on presents that are going to be given and received and then forgotten about.  I guess I have gotten a little cynical in my old days.  My step-father didn't celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas, the latter being a chance for him to even get out of the country, by himself.  Growing up, his father was a raging alcoholic and it brought back horrible memories.  He also felt that Christmas was something that people felt obliged to do when they should get gifts for their loved ones all the time, not just once a year.  I kind of agree that all this hoopla is phony and we should get back to the real meaning if we are going to celebrate anything at all.  I have told my mother I don't want anything and I am going to do home baked things for the people on my list, and I haven't decided if I am even going to be with my family this year for the big dinner.  We will see. I may just get drawn into the whole thing at the end but it's making my eye twitch just thinking about it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pressure

Over the last year, I have developed high blood pressure. My doctor gave me medication for it but I don’t want to take it as I don’t like depending on drugs. I have stopped going to that doctor anyway and am looking for a doctor that won’t pump me full of artificial things to get me out of the office rather than try to find the reason for it and fix that. Whenever I feel as if my blood pressure is too high I try to relax and think of something that is calming. Looking at pictures of flowers and plants helps. I tried to fantasize about some muscle bound hunk taking advantage of me, but I think that makes things worse.

Gardening really helps with the stress levels. There is something about getting among the plants and digging in the dirt that helps unwind the tight muscles and sooth the frazzled nerves. But it is winter and there is not much to do in the garden now, so I have to resort to looking online at various garden blogs and fantasizing about which flowers I am going to buy and what my garden could look like. That, and maybe a cup of herbal tea. Oh well, got to get back to work now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving

In a few days, you will be sitting down with your family and loved ones to celebrate a holiday that is uniquely North American – they celebrate it in Canada too, which I didn’t know until now. According to Wikepedia.org:
Thanksgiving in North America had originated from a mix of European and Native traditions.[1] Typically in Europe, festivals were held before and after the harvest cycles to give thanks for a good harvest, and to rejoice together after much hard work with the rest of the community.[1] At the time, Native Americans had also celebrated the end of a harvest season.[1] When Europeans first arrived to the Americas, they brought with them their own harvest festival traditions from Europe, celebrating their safe voyage, peace and good harvest.[1] Though the origins of the holiday in both Canada and the United States are similar, Americans do not typically celebrate the contributions made in Newfoundland, while Canadians do not celebrate the contributions made in Plymouth, Massachusetts.[2]
Over time it has taken on a new meaning – the start of the Holiday shopping season. Santa generally arrives at the New York City Thanksgiving parade and the craziness starts with every store vying for your attention as you ponder which gifts to buy your loved ones. But I digress.

Giving thanks on one day is of course meaningless if you don’t really feel gratitude for the things you are blessed with. Some of us give thanks for our family, our health, the fact we have a job, or simply the fact that we are better off than others. We think of those less fortunate and perhaps dole out a penny or two to charities that provide meals for the poor and/or sick and feel good that we have done something, albeit little, to help. Many perform that little ceremony and go around the dinner table sharing what we are thankful for, sometimes shedding a tear when a wee one says something poignant.

What does it all mean unless we practice giving thanks every day? We should, of course and most of us do, but sometimes I think we tend to take things for granted assuming that we will continue in the lifestyle we have become accustomed to without realizing that all too often one event, natural or otherwise, can change our lives dramatically. But before I get into an even more cynical mood, I wish you are yours a Happy Thanksgiving; may you be blessed with all you hope for, for now and forever.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Raised Beds

I am very excited to start this new phase of my gardening. Over my break from my normal job to the campaign, I found a gardening system called Food4Wealth that advocated raised beds and creating an ecosystem for your vegetable garden as a way to effectively plant a wide variety of vegetables in a little space. Not only that, but the whole garden serves as a system which will work to eliminate the need for weeding and getting rid of pests. At least that’s the theory. I was very excited about this prospect because aside from the other benefits, the garden can remain all year round and allow me to plant things that I normally don’t like garlic and onions which have to be planted in the fall. In the past, we turn over the beds and start all over again in the spring and therefore disrupt everything.

So last weekend I started. With the help of my husband, we built the beds and got great compost and put everything together. I have to get the straw to go on top, but I was able to get my garlic and onions in the ground for the Spring. In addition, I purchased a small portable greenhouse and a grow light and set things up in the basement. I put together a calendar indicating when to start my seeds and have purchased a great many types of seeds to start – both vegetables and flowers. I figured in the long run we could save money and start the annuals indoors So, unlike most, I am anxiously awaiting cold, wintery January to start planting.

I also can’t wait until Spring when the real start of the garden will happen. Once the whole system gets started it should work to take care of itself including re-seeding many things. Even if that doesn’t happen and I learn how to use the seeds I end up growing, I am working for a garden that will give me endless hours of pleasure, help with our food bill, and provide fresh food for my family.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ghosts

I am not sure I believe in ghosts, but I do believe that our soul does move on, but could be called back for some reason. As some of you know, my father passed away last month and yesterday some weird things happened to make me think that his spirit was passing through to perhaps comfort me, or remind me of something. When I was driving to work, my iPod was playing songs that were either about my father, or of my father – he was a pianist and some of the compositions on his two CDs are on my iPod. Weird how these things happen like that.

I went down to see him one night very close to the time he died. My iPod which I keep at the random setting, played several selections from his CD on the trip down. I kept thinking that it was because he was thinking of me and trying to tell me that things were going to be okay. It has been several weeks since he died and none of his selections have come up on the iPod. Yesterday they did along with My Father’s Eyes and In the Living Years. I know most of you are saying that in all probability it’s just that the random setting came around to those songs, but I refuse to believe that.

I believe that things happen for a reason. We may not know what that reason is at the moment, but eventually we will. There is some reason why those songs came up like that; in that particular order. I believe that my father’s spirit is trying to tell me something that I need to be open to what that thing is. Maybe my iPod will speak to me again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Return

I was away for a relatively short time from my regular job to participate in a campaign that turned out to be pretty historic. I am very lucky to work at a company who allowed me to take a leave to do this and yesterday was my first day back. Like anything else you engage in for a long time, coming back felt like I never left. My employer felt differently I guess as my security badge didn’t work and I had to wait in the parking lot for about 2 hours until my supervisor came in and I could walk in with her and be her “guest”. It was kind of annoying to be thought of as a threat to security and not be allowed to enter the building after working with this company for 28 years.

It took a day after coming back after five months to get back a sense of familiarity of my job for me. Some things haven’t changed and some others have, but in really small ways. They had someone take over for me and that person made some small changes that now I have to transition to, which is kind of weird. It was nice to know that I was missed but it was annoying at the same time. People kept coming by and asking me about my leave and saying “welcome back”, and it was hard to concentrate on what I had to do.

I couldn’t remember my password to get my voice mail and I was forced to change my password for the company network so I had to remember my old one – fortunately I wrote that one down – but it took me several tried before my fingers remembered the voice mail password. All in all, things are pretty much the same.  I guess this old brain can adapt somewhat to relearning the same things.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yikes

I have a cold.  One week before the end of the campaign when I have to be at my sharpest, I am feeling yucky with a runny nose, a congested head, and sneezing.  I have been shooting vitamin C, oil of oregano, slippery elm oil, and Zycam for the last two days to try to head it off at the pass and this morning I still came down with worse symptoms that yesterday.  I wish I could crawl into bed and sleep, but that is not going to happen considering I have even more hours to put in these last few days.

So here I sit with my head feels like a wad of cotton and my hearing is reduced with all the junk in my ears.  What’s that you say?  I just hope I don’t infect anyone else but it is likely to happen.  Maybe they will get sick after the election rather than before.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Railroaded

If you live near or work in Norristown, you were probably screaming your head off out of frustration driving around this weekend and last few days.  Well, thank you local administration and the Pennsylvania Railroad Commission for your aggravations.  Apparently when they come in to do a job in an area they have the say, and the local municipality is to do what they say.  I suppose since it was a temporary weekend thing it was considered a minor inconvenience. But since we got a freaky snow blizzard in October, it didn't turn out to be a weekend thing. But the question remains, why on earth would they close two major thoroughfares through the town at the same time? 

Because it’s Norristown, that’s why.  Would they do this in Narberth?  NO!!! Why? Because they respect the people over there.  In Norristown they think we are all lowly peasants who don’t work and hang around getting high living on public assistance.  We don’t need to have our houses saved if they catch on fire and the fire company can’t get to the fire because of the road closures, because some wealthy landlord owns them all, and has insurance.  We don’t need to catch criminals because the police can’t get to the scene of the crime because of the traffic that is piled up on the back roads because it's good riddance if one of us gets shot.  It’s just Norristown and they don’t have to be considerate of our feelings because animals don’t have any feelings.

When I was on Council, SEPTA came in and talked to us about expanding the parking lot at Elm and Markley for the Elm Street Station.  Eventually that station is going to be closed down, so I guess they thought they could save some money and instead of paving the lot, they were going to put stone in the lot and actually paint the parking lines on the stones.  My major question to them was would you do this in Narberth?  And if you would not do it in Narberth, you won’t do it in Norristown.  They looked at me like I was crazy.  Maybe if we were treated like we live in Narberth, people might start acting like we lived in Narberth.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rude People

I just hate having to be nice to rude people.  I mean really.  I would love to just love to tell these people off and really get it off my chest but I can’t do that because I am calling on behalf of someone else.  I know that this is probably my penance for being rude to people on the phone myself.  But I have solved that problem by just not answering my home phone.  But this stress is really raising my blood pressure. 

In this job that I am doing now, I have to speak to literally thousands of people.  I can probably count on one had the people who are civil to me.  The rest are neutral or downright rude.  Admittedly I am calling about a subject that people feel passionate about; politics.  However, do you really have to be that way?

I suppose people are inherently rude to others.  When you put the telephone in place of actual face to face communication, you add a layer of anonymity.  I suppose if people don’t really feel that they are talking to another breathing human being the cease to act civil and decide that since you are calling about something they don’t care to know about, you are no more consequential that a flea.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Death and the People Around You

I often get the feeling that you never know someone until they die.  When you go to the funeral there are all kinds of pictures and stories of the deceased that you never knew about.  For example, I attended the funeral of a neighbor a while ago.  We had lived next to him for many years but didn’t know him that well.  They had a small biography of the person and I learned many facts about him; so many that I wish I had known him better.

The same is true when a family member dies, although it’s not really the person who dies who you find out about, it’s the people around them.  As you may know, my father passed away recently and my stepmother has shown me some things that I really don’t want to have to deal with.  I don’t know if it was my father or my step mother, but my mother was “banned” for lack of a better word from going to the funeral.  My parents have been divorced for over 40 years, but they were still on speaking terms probably because of my brother and me.  But I thought my Dad was okay with things.  However, through the years, I have seen some things that I just thought were petty and sad.  For example when I got married I had the ceremony at my mother’s house.  It’s a beautiful house and she and my step father entertained there a lot.  My husband and I were trying to save money and so we had it there.  I talked to my father about it and he was fine for a while and then at the last minute told me he was uncomfortable being there.  Yet when my brother was married, all the parents and step parents flew to Kansas and had a grand old time. 

So now we come to the end of my father’s life and I am going to deal with my stepmother without my Dad around to get in the middle if things get strange.  And they will.  I suppose I could not deal with her at all, but that seems a little harsh, after all she was very good to my father and took care of him for the last years of his life with no complaints, and I guess I would feel kind of guilty not doing anything for her because of that.  Ah, such complications of life.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Tribute to My Father


My father, Orlando Otey, passed away yesterday morning and I thought I would share some thoughts I have of him with you. He was a man of great emotion, as evidenced by the way he played the piano.  He was gentle, but could have loud outbursts of anger when something provoked him.  Those times were few and far between as I remember, although my mother may say differently.  He was also a man of great compassion, but he didn’t really feel comfortable showing emotion and would remain quiet if there were things that were extremely upsetting going on.

When I was in high school, I wrote a poem, which I had a friend who knows calligraphy write up on a large poster.  I had included a picture of him conducting at the Wilmington Music School and decorated it with some press-on designs.  I think I may have had it framed, or maybe he did, but he displayed it in his studio ever since I gave it to him.  That meant a lot to me, even though I never really said anything.  It hangs there still.  Without looking at it, I don’t remember the words, but it was about his music, which was the one thing that really defined him.

I never felt I really knew my father; his nuances, his likes and dislikes, but I guess it wasn’t important to either of us. He was my father, and I his daughter.  That was all that was really necessary.  I knew him enough to know his views on things were drastically opposed to mine and rather than fight about the reason for the world’s problems, political issues, women’s rights, or social injustices, it was more important for me to have him believe that his views were shared.

Only one view we really did share, and that was his love for God.  His was a spiritual person who dedicated his life and his love of music to the Lord whom he thanked each day for the talent he was given.  A talent that transcends all others and one that will be missed by anyone who ever heard him play.  Under his fingers, the piano keys became a life on their own coaxed by his feel for the music.  Whether it was Chopin or Otey, Scarlatti or Bach, the notes emanated from the keyboard with a tone unmatched by others.  Others could play the same composition, but it never really sounded the same.  I was constantly amazed by his ability.

The one thing about his music that astonished me the most was his ability to take three notes and turn them into a composition in any style in an instant.  He would joke and say that Steve Allan, a comedian and musician in the 60s, did it with four.  People would try to make it difficult for him and chose three notes that were wildly apart from each other.  But he was never stumped.  He always just created something right there on the spot.  

But overall I learned a sense of determination from my father.  Maybe it was stubbornness, but he was constantly pushing forwarded, willing himself to live.  That’s probably what kept him going this last few months.  He was just too stubborn to die.  I keep joking with him that he had more lives than a cat.  My step mother would call my brother and me and say he was near death and we would all rush to his bedside only to have him rally the next day.  He may have been slightly dramatic about it and it may have taken a long time, but he never gave up and kept on going until it was right for him. Peace be with you now, Papi. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Garden

For the last few months I have become obsessed with gardening.  I started a vegetable garden this spring and grew the regular tomatoes, hot peppers, melons, and zucchini.  But this year, I also tried broccoli and cauliflower, which I never did before.  I also took on the side flower garden which had been neglected for many years waiting for my husband to do something but realizing that he would not do it in my time frame. 

It turned out somewhat well, considering since the time I started I began a job that would take 75 hours a week and not leave me with practically any time to do anything in it.  I did have a few hours here and there and put some things in the ground, but it was generally a rush and didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.  I wanted the flower garden to be full, like and English Garden and it didn’t turn out that way at all.
The one thing I did do was start a Garden Journal.  I found a website that has templates for recording the seeds and plants purchased so that you can keep track of what you have and how things do.  I found an empty notebook in my office and put some paper and some of the templates in, along with a pocket to house the receipts from the purchases and have been tracking things to the best of my ability along with taking pictures and putting them in the notebook.

So starting next year, I am starting new.  I have a plan for a new garden design for the vegetable garden and will be starting many of the flowers from seed for the flower garden.  I won’t be working these crazy hours so I can devote my free time getting my hands dirty and seeing the fruits of my labor – pun fully intended.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Paranoia

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
-          - Buffalo Springfield

I have written before about the fear in this county.  However, it was brought to light again the other day for me.  I hired three young women to do a job that involved knocking on doors talking to people.  When they found they were going to be by themselves doing it, they balked and walked.  At first I didn’t understand what the problem was.  I do believe I talked about that when I interviewed them, but maybe they didn’t understand fully.  It turned out that they were fearful of going to a door by themselves, not just being in an area that was unfamiliar to them alone.

I could have been because their grandmother got into the situation.  I talked to them alone at first on two separate occasions and when they came in to start, she was with them.  She asked me about it and I told her that the first day they would be paired with someone to show them the ropes, and then eventually they would be by themselves.  That didn’t fly well with the grandmother at all.  The area that we were going into was kind of spread out and a fairly high-end area too, so the houses are kind of far apart.  I always send people out with a partner the first few times but eventually they are out there on their own.  None of the other people have had any problem, but their grandmother kept saying they had horrible experiences and walking the streets “in that area” alone was not a good thing.

Finally I understood what she was talking about, although it still didn’t make sense to me.  The three girls are African American and they would be going into a white area.  She called those areas racist and eventually the girls said they would not do it and left.  I was shocked.  There are other African American people on the team and they don't seem to have any problems, and have not had any issues with any of the areas they have gone into.  It also never occurred to me that there would be any problems like that because I guess I mistakenly thing that this kind of thing doesn’t happen any longer.  It is sad that in this day and age racism is so alive and kicking that three young women were afraid to be in a white area on their own.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This Year Counts Too

Because I am so involved in politics I get emails from everyone in my party about things that are going on.  No different in the email blasts are the Congressional and Presidential pleas for money for the upcoming election in 2012.  I understand their need as they have to raise tons of money for their campaigns so it would stand to reason that they would want to get us early before the heat of things has other people vying for our money as well.  However, the fervor has reached the people and common folk are now talking about the 2012 election as if it is the only game in town.

This year, we have an election too.  We have elections EVERY year though you might not know it talking to some people.  This year’s election is for the local candidates, both legislative and judicial as far up as the county.  We elect our commissioners, council people, district judges, etc this year.  These elections are probably much more important that the Presidential election because it affects our daily lives much more than our federal representative do.  I always tell voters that the President isn’t going to fix the pothole in your street, but your councilperson might. But with all the fanfare and news coverage our federal legislators get, people think they are only asked to vote every four years.

So please, look above the hype that is beginning to surround the elections coming up.  Remember that on November 8th you have a duty to do as well as you do next year.  Get out to your polling place and VOTE.  Make your choice for the people who are going to directly affect your lives, and if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stunned

Today I logged onto my Facebook account and saw that a friend posted an article about the youngest person to be executed in America.  I read the article with sadness and anger in my heart for the justice system that would do such a thing.  As you may know I am no proponent of the death penalty, but it makes me especially made, and should make you mad too that the system should be so corrupt.

Lady Justice is blind as they say and there should be no judgment made until the case is argued and decided.  Lady Justice should also be color blind as well.  People should not be judged by the color of their skin, but for the nature of their crime.  But unfortunately in this country it happens all the time.  The right wing may argue that is not the case, but follow the numbers, people, follow the numbers. 

The person who posted it also posted a comment about it.  He said “Fallible human beings should not assume the power of life and death except in self-defense.”  I agree, for the most part, that we should not play God in our determination of guilt or innocence.  There are far too many mistakes made as to the nature of the person committing the crime and the person arguing their defense.  Death is a permanent thing, and regardless of what the Bible says about an eye for and eye, the only consequence the death penalty in my mind, is that people take it to mean that they can be judge and jury themselves.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Capital Punishment

 “Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders.” ~ Albert Camus.  There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about the pending execution of Troy Davis, the man convicted of killing a police officer in the state of Georgia.  Since his arrest, there has been mounting evidence that places reasonable doubt on the fact that he in fact committed the crime for which he has been on death row for.  However, and some say it’s because of this race, the powers that be are maintaining his guilt and pushing forward to today at 7pm, when he is scheduled to die.

I have never been a proponent of capital punishment.  But then again, I have never had a person close to me murdered, which could possibly change my view.  I think everyone changes their views depending on their personal experiences and it seems that we humans have a strong sense of justice in their hearts.  Whether it’s a natural part of us, or whether it is placed there by society and upbringing, we somehow feel that a life for a life is the right thing to do.  I just can’t get behind killing anyone even if they have supposedly murdered someone especially if there is any possible reason the person found guilty didn’t do the crime.

There are many organizations that talk about the death penalty and its pros and cons.  One such site, has some rather in depth discussions that seem to be fairly unbiased.  It presents rather in depth discussions and is primarily designed to bring facts to the table rather than emotions, which I think color the discussion somewhat unfairly based on the person’s personal experience dealing with crime.  I invite you to take a read while we hold our collective breaths to hear about Troy Davis’ fate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Life is a Beach

I have a Facebook friend who lives in Palm Springs.  He seems to be always going here, there, and everywhere and posting his adventures online.  He is young and has no cares outside of his own existence and is truly living life as he wants.  On some days, hell most days, I envy him because I haven’t seen as much of the world as I would like to.  It must be nice to be a trust fund baby and not to worry about things.

I often wonder what it would be like to be stinking rich and not have to worry where the next cent is coming from.  I would imagine that I would be considerably less stressed than I am now, except that I may fuss over what to do with my money.  I am going to be very honest and say that I would splurge on a few things for my family and me as far as luxuries are concerned if I suddenly came into a lot of money.  But I also know that there are a few causes that are important to me that would see some of those gains.  I am one of those people who has every cent accounted for if I were to win, say $10 million. 

So, my frivolous Facebook friend, you have your fun on your beaches all over the world looking fit and fab and tan.  While I would love to live your lifestyle, I am very comfortable staying right here and doing what I am doing.  Life can be a beach sometimes but there is always sand around to get in your eyes.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Back to Normal

I just read that the Norristown regional rail line was back to normal after the hurricane.  Wow, that took a lot of time.  I kept wondering why my canvasser was always late, and he kept blaming it on the rail system, but I thought he was making excuses.  He really had no control over the conditions of the track.  It is amazing to me that it took so long for the effects of the hurricane to sort of wear off, for lack of a better word.  I was so lucky in my area to not have a lot of damage.  My husband and I had a tiny amount of water in the basement and a leak in the roof but that was it.  I know we were really lucky because some of our friends got much worse and I recently saw an acquaintance of mine who had a sewer backup in her house because of the effects of Irene and the recent development near her home.

Every time I hear of things like this happening to other people it kind of feels like the other shoe is about to drop.  I wonder why I was spared and wonder what I am going to have to go through in place of that.  Everything is in God’s hands, they say, and so far He has been very good to me and mine.  I am blessed and I wish everyone was so as well.  I have heard, and have said before, that God does not give you that with which you cannot handle.  He must know that I am a whimp because I don’t know how some of these people survive with such horror in their lives.  I give them a lot of kudos for not breaking down and losing it all. 

So for a while the rail system is back to the way it was.  Life can resume again. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Moods

So this morning I am mopping about.  Don’t know why all of a sudden my mood suddenly become sour.  I mean things are great.  Well they could be better but in the grand scheme of things, things are great.  Why do people suddenly get depressed?  All of us go through “the blues” or mild feelings of sadness or being “down in the dumps”.  The things to look out for are not being to pick yourself up and get back to your normal state after weeks of feeling this way.

Major depression can be a serious problem.  One needs to watch for those feelings of being miserable lasting for more than two weeks and having a major impact on your life, and that last part is key.  There are many sites on the Internet that talk about depression and what to do about it.  One good one that lists things in a very concise and clear manner is on the PubMed Health page about depression without trying to sell you something.  If you are experiencing this kind of feelings on a daily basis, then you may need more than a quick fix of a new pair of shoes. 

For now the feelings of “the blues” will pass, I am sure.  In the meantime I am going to don my headphones and listen to my favorite Blues singers while I work.  For me, it’s a sure thing.  See you on the other side!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Honor Thy Mother

I know the commandments say to “honor they mother and father”, but in some cases that is rather difficult.  I know my mother means well, but she has an annoying my-way-or-the-highway way about her that rubs me wrong.  I guess she did well raising me.  I have a fairly good work ethic, I don’t lie or cheat, or steal, or any of that other stuff, and I appreciate education and art.  For those things I am grateful for her teachings and her guidance.  But her manner, especially as she ages, is quite another matter.

Last night, I saw an old episode of Law and Order which had a character that so typified my mother I thought it was she they wrote the part about.  The actress played the part of a grandmother who was so driven to do things right that she drove her daughter-in-law to commit murder to get the grandchild into an exclusive pre-school.  The grandmother was nasty, downright nasty, and haughty when she spoke to the police complaining that her son married down and that her daughter-in-law tricked him into marrying her.  The mannerism of the actress was my mother down to a T.  I wish I could have taken a snippet of the episode and sent it to her so that she could see what others see about her.

They say you become your parents, especially when you are a parent.  I certainly hope that I don’t get to be that way, although at times I hear my mother coming out of me when I speak to my son, and it scares me.  I don’t want to become that way.  I don’t want to have those around me fear to anger me or go away thinking that I am a world class bitch.  I want to age gracefully and be thought of as a person with kindness and humility.  I suppose that it will take work and it is so worth it.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy New Year

For some reason, the beginning of September seems more like New Years to me than January 1st .  Maybe it’s the start of a new season, the start of a new school year, the start of a bounty harvest in my home garden, and the start of earnest campaigning.  This morning I heard the cry of a goose flying overhead and all those feelings started rushing back to me.

Sure the sound of party horns and the sting of cold air hitting my face as we rush from the party to the car is what News Year’s Eve is all about, but the smell of newly sharpened pencils does more for me than that.  I mean what do you do New Year’s Day except lie around and watch the parade on TV and relax from partying all night long.  After Labor Day it’s back to the grind of school work, if you are still a student, and looking forward to long hours in the campaign office if you are politically inclined.  It’s productive and it is motivating to start anew for all those projects. 

Or just maybe it’s my Jewish ancestry that gives me this feeling.  After all Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year.  It is the first of the High Holidays, celebrated this year on September 28th.  On Rosh HaShanah it is customary to greet people with "L'Shanah Tovah," which is Hebrew that is usually translated as "For a Good Year" or "May you have a good year."

So Happy New Year or L'Shanah Tovah.  May you have a good and productive start to your new activities this season.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember

I know all of you remember where you were on 9/11 and what you were doing when you heard the news that the Twin Towers were attacked.  I remember it as if it was yesterday.  I was sitting at my desk at work, being one of the first people in that morning.  One of my coworkers came in and told me that he heard on the Howard Stern show that a plane had hit one of the towers in New York and I remember thinking that it was some kind of sick joke because it was that show.  A few minutes later I heard coworker say, “Oh my God a plane hit the Twin Towers! It’s on the Internet.”  I ran over to their desk to watch along with some others, mesmerized, wondering what was going on.  One of my first thoughts was wondering how my son was doing and if he had heard and whether he was scared – he was 10.  I call his school and talked to the headmistress who said that they were going make a decision as to what to tell the children and hadn’t really made any decision to close the school as I heard other schools were doing.   They ended up not closing, but sent home a letter to the parents telling them what they had told the children and suggesting things that we could talk to them about.   My son was not scared.  He felt that our town was very small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things and that we were perfectly safe.  He took it very well, for which I was very grateful.

The next few days were surreal.  I was glued to the TV trying to make sense of what had happened.  I was worried about my family and their safety.  The phone lines were sketchy and sometimes didn’t work so well.  Not hearing planes overhead was very strange which seemed odd to me as I really never notice them in the first place.  At work, we had several radios tuned to KYW which were placed by the windows because there was bad reception at people’s desks.  I remember feeling pretty fearful more than anything.  This event was happening so close, but yet it was a world away.  I remember how packed the churches were all of a sudden with people praying that there would be peace and hearing about friends of friends that were missing or dead.  We went to a special evening Meeting for Worship a few days later and there was such a feeling of closeness in our little worship community.

I remember people hanging flags and being nice to each other, especially to the police and fire fighters.    There was a genuine feeling of neighborliness going on that hadn’t been felt before.  I remember seeing special concerts on TV and hearing songs written about people’s feeling about all that was going on.
All of these things have faded since that time and now people are pretty much back to the way they were before.  Why should it take a life changing event for people to become decent with one another again? Despite our differences, we are all neighbors and should be there for each other.  I shall never forget 9/11/01 and I am sure many others won’t either.

What were you doing when the Twin Towers fell?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Great Flood Waters

I sat in wonder as I was reading the accounts of many of my Facebook friends who had issues with the flooding that are going on today.  Several of them experienced cars flooded with water, basements and homes ruined, and schools closed.  I saw on the news that one school was forced to close because of the mold that resulted from all the wetness.  Many people have made reference to the Great Flood as well as building arks and other types of flotation devices.  I really feel for these people and wish I could help every one of them.  I also feel very fortunate as I have had nothing more than a few rivulets of water in my basement and one small leak in my roof.

When tragedy strikes people I know, I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel a little guilty also.  I hate to see people suffering when there is nothing that anyone can do.  I question the tests that God puts us through sometimes and try to keep the faith trying to believe that God only gives us what we can handle even though it seems insurmountable at the time.  I am very thankful that I am not affected and wonder if I am being tested as well.  Am I expected to do something?  Should I be doing something?

Often we lose ourselves in the walls of our own universe.  We concentrate on our own families and friends and leave the outside world to its own devices.  We tend to close our front doors to the noise and problems going on outside our homes and relish in the peace that our environment provides.  However, we are our brother’s keeper, or so the bible says.  Should we not be concerned with the things going on immediately behind our own closed doors?   Shouldn't we be involved, at the very least, when our family and friends outside the confines of our own homes are concerned?  If we don’t reach out ourselves, how can we expect total strangers to help out?  Let's all see what we can do.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Twenty and Five

Twenty five years ago today, I married the man who would become my best friend as well as my lover and father to our child.  It has been a wonderful life so far and I know that there are more good times to come.  Sure, there have been our squabbles and for a while there I didn’t think we were going to make it, but it has turned out great.

I am not going to say what the secret is to a long marriage.  All I am going to say is what works for us, and that is two people who treat each other with respect and kindness.  We are honest with each other and work to be kind.  Both have to work at it because it is not a one way street.   I think that is where the trouble can be in some marriages; one or the other turn it into a my-way-or-the-highway kind of deal.  There has to be a large amount of compromise for both parties to make the relationship last.

I must say I am very lucky to have found a person who is as agreeable as my husband is.  He has his moments but on the whole he is a kind soul; one who has compassion and that makes it relatively easy.  So here’s to another twenty and five years – if we both live that long.

Happy anniversary, dear one.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Productivity


I wish I could clone some people.  So much more could be accomplished.  I have two really hard workers and the rest, well the rest just do the barest minimum.  I was supposed to have a new person start the other day.  She came in and filled out the application went through the interview and since she was the niece of a friend of mine I thought I could trust that she would be a good worker.  I should have trusted my instincts instead of doing a favor for a friend.  The young lady had my friend call me about a question and then when I called her back, she said she would be in shortly – about 20 minutes.  She never showed up.  Something could have happened, but I think my friend would have called me.  The person I was sending her out with did her job as well as his.  I just shake my head sometimes. 

What makes people do what they do?  The question both fascinates me and infuriates me.  I know I have been lazy myself.  Everyone has.  But there is a time to be lazy and a time not to be and the time not to be is when you have a paying job. Get the job done and then you can rest.  That’s how I was raised.  

Time will see if this person works out or continues to be late or non-existent.  I have a feeling that there are going to be issues, but I welcome the surprise.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Family Resemblance


I have a picture on my bureau of my mother and me and another picture of my son and me and it’s really amazing to me that my son and I look very similar as infants.  I am always amazed at the family resemblances when I look at pictures like that.  My son and I also have similar personalities although he has not followed a similar path in finding himself, I can see that we both come at life from different viewpoints.

It raises the question of nature over nurture that I have heard many times before.  The question is that if the same person were brought up in a different area would he/she be the same?  There have been many research projects, mostly involving twins, which have been done on the subject.  The Wikepedia article on the subject explains it as:

Nature versus nurture" in its modern sense was coined[1][2][3] by the English Victorian polymath Francis Galton in discussion of the influence of heredity and environment on social advancement, although the terms had been contrasted previously, for example by Shakespeare (in his play, The Tempest: 4.1). Galton was influenced[4] by the book On the Origin of Species written by his cousin, Charles Darwin. The concept embodied in the phrase has been criticized[3][4] for its binary simplification of two tightly interwoven parameters, as for example an environment of wealth, education and social privilege are often historically passed to genetic offspring.

With the recent spate of youth violence the subject has come up again in some circles.  Are certain people prone to violence or is it something that can be “nurtured” into or out of the person?  Whatever the situation is we need to figure something out regarding how best to approach the situation.  With the lack of funding that is certain to become more of a reality than it is now, these solutions will need to be creative enough, and workable to the point that our tax payers are not overly burdened or municipality resources not stretched too thin.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Natural Disasters


The flood waters have receded and the blue sky is peeking out all over this morning, one day after Irene.  My husband and I hunkered down in our house during the storm glad we didn’t have to go anywhere.  I was told on Friday afternoon that we didn’t have to come in over the weekend because the Governor had declared a state of emergency so I went food shopping on my way home from work Friday night.  It was nice that I didn’t have to go anywhere during the storm.  I bought what I needed and went home knowing that I was relatively safe.  We were very lucky and had no power loss.  My husband and I took in our porch furniture and rolled up our awnings and sat back and watched a movie while at the same time watching the wall of water that suddenly came down.  The wind was in our favor and didn’t blow the water up under the roof shingles as we feared.  We did get some water in our basement and a little in our chimney with a small amount of water damage on our third floor, but all in all, we had nothing.

I still have to shake my head at the people who bought all the water in the store.  When I went over to the store on Friday the shelves were bare where the bottled water should have been.  I noticed that the chip aisle and the canned meat aisle were significantly down as well.  I supposed people took the warning to heart that they could be out of power for several days and really stocked up on things.  My neighbor filled her tubs with water in the event of power outages and got her mother’s medication so that she wouldn’t have to venture out.  I suppose the medication thing was a wise thing, but in the kind of area we live in there is really no need to go all out survival because we can always walk to get help from someone if we need it.   

We know all our neighbors and everyone helps each other out.  In situations like a natural disaster we have a very good support system and I can’t imagine ever being in trouble in our neighborhood because the people on our block would be very helpful to each other.  But I know others are not lucky that way and if anything goes wrong where they live they would not be able to depend on their neighbors. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing?


I hope the hurricane of 2011 is not as bad as they say it will be.  However, I am hearing now that based on how it is where it is, it’s going to only marginally better here.  That’s if it does not blow out to sea.  I received an email a few hours ago with information about how to prepare in the event we have the worst and you can’t get out of your house for three days.  It has all the things that are needed for a family and some good tips like having recent pictures of your family and pets in a waterproof bag.  They talk about making sure your prescription meds are on hand and that you have enough for the three days as well as clean water for all your needs not just drinking, extra batteries and flashlights, and other things that sound like camping equipment.
There are some things that they don’t mention that I think are important.  They are:
·         Wine
·         Gummy bears
·         Baked beans
·         A manual can opener
·         A solar charger for the cell phone
·         A good book – or a fully charged Kindle

I am sure that everyone’s list includes things that they feel are really essential these are mine.  What are yours?

Several years ago, the weather man alarmed everyone about an upcoming snow storm that was supposed to wreak havoc on the Philadelphia area.  After the date, there was no snow to speak of and the weatherman even received death threats for his lousy report.  You may remember that he suddenly left the area after that and went to another city.  Reporting the weather has been said to be the only job where you can be wrong more than half the time and still have a job.

I know that technology has gotten more advanced and they are doing a little better at forecasting the weather but it doesn’t always work.  For example last night our office had scheduled for people to go out door to door and it got cancelled because the forecast called for a high percentage of thunderstorms.  It was pouring when the decision was made and then it cleared up and was dry as a bone for the remainder of the evening.  Oh well, I suppose we shall see if the hurricane proves to be everything that is being talked about, or it is much ado about nothing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake Twitter


I don’t know about you, but I didn’t feel a thing.  I was sitting in my office working on the computer and two of our phone volunteers were working away making calls.  All of a sudden, I heard a squeaking noise that seemed to be coming from the roof.  I think it could have been the air conditioner unit rocking back and forth.  My office mate felt it, and the volunteers felt it, but I didn’t.  Anyway, the both got up from their areas and walked out the door talking about an earthquake.  I was astonished!  My office mate and I went outside with our volunteers and overheard a woman sitting at a table at the cafĂ© next door talking quite excitedly on her phone about whether the person on the other end of the phone felt it too. 

When we can back inside, I immediately went to Twitter and started reading all the tweets about the quake.  I was amazed reading this stuff and seeing that the epicenter was in Virginia and we were feeling it all the way up here.  As the day went on countless posts, tweets, and pictures were available from all over the East coast.  There were some items that were somewhat funny such as pictures of fallen lawn furniture, and some that were semi-serious of cracks in windows in downtown Philadelphia and New York City.  If it weren’t for the Internet and the social media sites, I certainly don’t think the news would have traveled so fast.

Later that day I heard a geologist speaking about why we felt it up here and the potential for aftershocks.  He said that the vibration carried through the Appalachian Mountain range and that aftershocks could come up to a year later.  That last statement somewhat surprised me because if there is such a time gap between the quake and the aftershock wouldn’t it just be another event?  Well I guess it is a different type of quake.   I then heard on the news later that evening that the last quake of this magnitude we had was 100 years ago.  I had no idea that we could have earthquakes in this area, but I guess anything is possible.

I am sure that everyone will have a story of their own as to where they were and what they were doing when the quake of 2011 hit. What’s yours?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Google Plus


So Google has been dipping their toe into the social networking for the last few months with a service called Google + (Plus).  In order to join you have to be invited by someone in your contact list.  They have a strict age limit of 18 to be a member and you have to have a gmail account to log on.  It has some things that Facebook and others do not have namely a feature called Hangouts which are video chat rooms where multiple people in your circle can talk to each other.  The people in my office invited me and we had only had one hangout – which was mostly business related.  It is interesting as it sets up the video image for each person in a slide show format showing all of them at the bottom on the screen and then highlighting one person for a few second before moving on to the rest.

Apparently there are many more features that exist and people who have used it extensively in the Beta testing phase call it an “Advanced Facebook”.  Among the features is something called Sparks, which is comparable to Stumbleupon, as well as games, and an instant photo upload option for smartphone users. From what I have read they have no advertisements all over the pages as they do in Facebook and I gather other social networking sites have.  I personally don't find the ads on Facebook that objectionable but have had no other experiences with other sites.

Since Facebook and Twitter have been around for a long time, it is questionable whether this will catch on at all.  The little I have seen of it is interesting but I rarely have time to get into many of the things they are including so I can’t tell if I am going to do more with it.  I have gotten a few requests to be added to other people’s circles, so maybe at least the video chat would be useful for quick meetings where travel time is not an option.  Since may people are so used to the other things time will tell if this new network will gather steam.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nothing to Do

The next time I hear someone complain about the fact that the kids have nothing to do, I am going to scream.  You are going to hear it all over because it is going to be the longest and loudest scream you have ever heard.  Well maybe not really, but I will feel like it.

I want you to think back to your childhood if you are over the age of 45.  Did you have every hour of your day organized into specific activities, or did your parents allow you the freedom of running through the neighborhood making up stories with your friends and playing?  Did your parents take you to all the places they wanted you to go such as dance lessons, or horseback riding lessons, or whatever?  Did you parents take you to the park on a lazy summer weekend afternoon to laugh and play in the playground?  Didn’t you have fun just being a kid and not having to be somewhere doing something you didn’t want to do?

I think there are plenty of things to do for kids to do if parents are willing to look for them.  You can always sit down and read them a story, or play make-believe with them.  You can always take them to the library on a Saturday morning and let them join in on the activities they have there.  You can take them to the local zoo which for Norristown residents is lowered fee for many days out of the year.  You can take the kids to a museum, which are often open during the weekend.  Or you can just let them play in the back yard making up stories in their little imaginative brains where they can pretend to their heart’s content.  Kids have the power to be engaged by themselves and frankly it’s the parents who don’t have the time to be with them that complain the loudest.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Market

The financial markets are crazy.  Dramatically down one day and up the next.  It is going to take a while, and maybe another recession for everyone to stop holding their collective breaths a bit, and it's going to take time to rebuild and for the numbers to catch up to the level they were before, but remember, we have all been there before.  1929, 2009, etc. there have been 9 tumbles in all.  We will recover.  I am no way an expert on such things.  I barely can balance my own checkbook.  But I think I am rather keen on observation and I have observed that once the initial shock is over, most people don’t panic but make plans for what is coming up next. 

What has to come up next is a plan for everyone.  The plan in our household is to hold on to what we have and tighten our belt a notch or two.  Trouble is that our belt is already very tight and any tighter might cut off our circulation.  I don’t want to have to re-use toilet paper for example, and we already keep our lights so low my mother complains we are living in a cave.  We recycle what we can and that is not just putting things in the recycle bin, that’s trying to figure out ways to reuse things that we have instead of throwing them away.  It’s tough but it’s necessary.

Do you remember the commercial where two people are talking and one is somewhat complaining about the fact that the one person is so rich why don’t they buy the more expensive product?  The response was “how do you think I got so rich?”  It was really old commercial, and I don't even remember what it was for.  The point is that the last line has stuck with me for a long time.   Even though they say it takes money to make money, spending willy-nilly is not advisable in the best of circumstances, and these times are certainly not the best.  You have to hold on to what you have, spend wisely, and in time you can accumulate a lot.  I just hope the folks down in Washington do something shortly because any less confidence in the market will drive it down further.  We can’t afford it as a nation.  But it is not just us, it’s everywhere.  It’s like giant game of Dominoes. One market falls and others shortly follow, as this article points out.  The best thing we can do right now is not panic.  We are in this thing for the long haul and the techniques that have kept you going will have to keep you going a little more.  Be patient and creative and we will all get through this…again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Horror


A friend of mine recently came home to find that his house had been broken into and everything of value stolen.  He and his wife were very frightened by the event and felt debased.  The police did come to the house and took fingerprints but didn’t find anything conclusive.  He told me that they then found that another house in the development had also been hit.  So the fear has permeated his area.

I remember when I was young, my family and I came back from a vacation – I think to the shore.  We were gone a week and when we came back I remember that the back door was open.  I accused my mother of leaving the door unlocked but as she went up to her bedroom, she saw that the drawers in her bureau were taken out and overturned.  I can’t remember if much was stolen.  My brother’s room was a mess anyway so there was no way to tell, and my room didn’t appear to be touched.  I don’t think the enormity of the situation affected me then, but I do remember feeling somewhat violated that someone who I did not invite was in my house looking through our personal things.

When a crime like that happens it is very upsetting.  In cases like robbery, it is fortunate he and his family were not physically harmed but emotionally they are injured.  In other situations, like home invasions, many people suffer cuts and bruises to their bodies and while they will heal, the injury to the mind takes far longer.  My friend says they feel unsafe in their home now. 

I am angry for him and angry at the perpetrator who had to gall to do such a thing.  That person may or may not be caught and the valuables that my friend lost may or may not be replaced – some are irreplaceable to begin with.  But I can’t imagine having my sanctuary violated so that one would feel uncomfortable to be there any longer.   I can only hope he and his family’s scars heal fast and that even if they don’t recover much that he will feel secure once again.