Friday, June 29, 2012

A Good Book

I just finished the book by Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts entitled A Reason to Believe. I wasn’t totally sure he penned it himself or had a ghost writer do most of it after reading the acknowledgements, but after hearing him speak I feel otherwise. Governor Patrick has had the most remarkable life.  He started out growing up on the South Side of Chicago and ended up a Harvard graduate, lawyer, and currently elected official.  Considering his roots, he is one of a very small population of those who have transcended the effects of the ghetto to really make something of himself.  He comes across, both in the book and in person, as a compassionate individual who really has the best interest of his Commonwealth at heart.  I was genuinely touched as I read many passages in his biography that expressed extreme difficulties dealing with racism and discrimination simply because of the color of his skin along with descriptions of the kindness and personal interest of several of his teachers.  He definitely would not be where he is today without those people in his life.
People like him impress me.  Certainly he had good breaks along the way but his character as a person enhanced those opportunities.  He was a good student, a right and honest man, and grew up with a religious foundation.  Those experiences helped mold him and allow him to accept the path he has taken with all the pitfalls that come along.  Governor Patrick has made the best of sometimes a bad situation and seems to have done it in a gracious way turning them around to a positive experience.  It is those types of people that are great to be around. People who have a positive outlook despite adversities in their lives and people who rarely complain, and if they do have issues try to do something about them. It is those kinds of people who I feel comfortable in leadership positions. 
I feel very privileged to have heard him speak in person and wish I had the opportunity to interact with him more. His speech was interesting and motivating with humorous anecdotes that really held my attention.  He has a commanding presence at the podium while at the same time exhibiting a humble nature. Considering his current political standing I expect this man to go places and we may even see him running for a higher office.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Freedom of Speech

I read a recent article about the Bucks County high school teacher fired after they found the blog she wrote last year.  Attached to this particular piece were several links to the previous news coverage of the story including an impassioned speech made by the principal.  In his statement, he compares the privilege she has to write the blog versus the moral and ethical right to do so.  Her blog was filled with anger and vitreous comments about her students where she called them names and chastised their parents insinuating they were irresponsible.  The principal went on to quote statistics showing his school is ranked high in the nation, that they have high SAT scores, and that a large percentage of students go on to prestigious colleges.  It seemed to me quite a defensive plea meant to impress upon the listening public that his students are nothing like the kids she was talking about.
One thing that struck me about the whole issue is whether the school district had the right to fire her.  She does have freedom of speech and a legal right to express her feelings.  Not reading the blog I am not sure if she identified her students or spoke anonymously as she claimed she did.   But even if she did not name names, clearly the principal’s main job to maintain order and as her comments inflamed and enraged the student body they had to have had a large impact on moral.  On one hand I think that people have to get a backbone and stop being so overly offended.  On the other, I totally understand his decision because no school should have such a tenuous moral due to public scrutiny as this issue created.  It begs the general question of whether employees have a responsibility to maintain the fa├žade an organization is trying to portray if there are a few people who are causing unrest.  It is a complex situation, no doubt.
I spoke to a coworker whose sister is a teacher.  His sister had read the blog and said it accurately described the majority of students’ behavior and that the blog was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek expose rather than anything abusive.  From what he said, parents these days are very defensive and will blame the teachers for the bad behavior rather than their children or themselves.  His sister apparently has been a teacher for a while and has seen a subtle shift over the years toward this kind of blame placing.  It’s sad really, that any blame placing has to be done and it is sad that a teacher would resort to name calling and profanity to express her frustrations about her job.  As an “educated” woman I would expect her rants be more civilized. While I will fight for her right to say what she wants, I have to agree that taking her out of the situation that can cause such angst for the student body is, unfortunately for her, the right thing to do.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Abuse

Many who don’t recognize the name Bibi Aisha, but they should.  She is the teen who appeared on the cover of Time magazine two years ago when her father-in-law cut off her nose and ears because she tried to run away from her abusive in-laws. A recent article in that magazine reported that the man who did this act is free now and only spent six months in jail.  No one else involved in her mutilation had any kind of punishment.  Apparently it is typical for Afghanistan that the man would go free after committing such a horrible act against a woman.
Women have been suffering at the hands of abusive husbands for as long as time has existed.  In the United States though, if a man were to do that to a women, he would be given a slightly harder sentance and I am sure the other inmates in there would find some way to make his life miserable.  At least in this country there is some regard for women, but is there?  Considering the War on Women that is being waged these days it is a wonder that there is any regard at all for the “fairer sex”.  But this is not about that.  This is about domestic violence and the horrible situation it causes for everyone around, not just the woman dealing with it.
There should be no excuse for Domestic Violence, as the bumper sticker says.  But women all over this world accept all kinds of excuses for being treated no better than a dog and in many countries have no recourse.  While we here have some help, often the help offered is little more than reassurance that it won’t happen again and very often the woman has to leave with no more than the clothes on her back in order to get away.  I know, I’ve been there and I can tell you it is not a pretty place to be.  The one thing we can do is to work with women in this situation and help them overcome it because in many cases they feel deserving of that kind of treatment.  Furthermore we need to raise a generation of women who won’t take it in the first place.  Without the future we will be stuck in the past; a past where violence against women is an accepted thing.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bad Neighbors

I live in a town that has a lot of crime.  Last week there was a shooting on my block that was associated with a long string of domestic violence in a home.  The house is at the far end of the block so my husband and I didn’t even know what happened since the incident took place very early in the morning until the person who lives next door told us about it.  He stopped at my house to discuss what we could do about getting rid of the tenants who live there.
I did some research and looked up neighbor disputes on the web and found a very interesting program in California called Safe Streets Now.  It relies on having the project listed as a nuisance property and empowers citizens to take action though civil action using small claims court as a way to rid the neighborhood of issues.  There is a process, but it is a very user friendly process and can yield some pretty dramatic results.  I am not sure that Pennsylvania has a basis for this law, but am working to find out.
When I was on council I implemented a way to list a property as a nuisance which allows the municipality and county to take action.  By adding the Safe Streets Now pieces to that existing ordinance, providing our state has provisions in it to do so, residents in the municipality can put things in place in a manner that can help clean up the town.  I hope that Council will take action to do just that.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Babysitting

It’s been a very long time since I did any babysitting, and a long time since I actually had any interaction with a baby.  But over the weekend, I had an opportunity to do just that.  I guess I was getting my grandmother training lessons started. 

A new friend of ours has a new baby boy who is 10 months old now.  He is really cute with the requisite chubby cheeks and all and quite a nice disposition.  I wasn’t sure I was ready for this, as I am not around babies a lot of the time, but things went quite swimmingly and I am confident that I will be okay when it comes time for my son to bring home his  child – whenever that may be.
The one thing that I did find out is that it is really tiring to run after a toddler.  I remember doing that when my son was 10 months old, but as an older woman it really fatigued me!  I hope that someday, while I am still able to get about and not to totally old, I will have a grandchild of my own.  For now I’ll just have to pretend with the children of my younger friends.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fixer Upper

My husband is a great procrastinator.  It takes him a very long time to get any projects done around the house and usually I have to fight with him to get anything done.  Case in point is the most recent bathroom renovation project.  Admittedly he got injured in the beginning of the project but it has been months now and the injury is better and still the bathroom is in a state of disrepair.
In the meantime I grew tired of dropping suggestions and hints that I wanted the work continued.  So I thought that I would I would try a new technique after I found a toy of my son’s when he was young.  It is an action figure of the creature from the black lagoon that my son would play with in the bathtub.  I put a note around its neck that said “I am going to get you if you don’t start work on this bathroom soon!” and put it in a prominent spot.   Over the last few weeks, I have changed the note three times since with each one saying something equally silly about what the creature would do if my husband didn’t get the work done.  The last one insinuating that my husband was going to be a very old man by the time the bathroom gets started.   Lo and behold, my husband called me the other day and told me that work was about to commence. 
I don’t know what worked.  We recently befriended a new neighbor who is a contractor and who offered to help out.  May it was our friend, the last note, or the fact that I started scrapping off some of the wallpaper the other night and left bits of paper on the floor.  It seems as if that latter was probably it as my husband and I have differences on the methods on which to get work done.  He is very particular when it comes to remodeling and often my ways of getting a job done are not to his standards as he is quite the perfectionist.  I must admit that he indeed does a beautiful job – when he actually gets around to doing the work – much better than me.  As such we have divided up the tasks in our home so that I do the design work and he does the implementation with me helping as little as possible. That division saves quite a bit of arguing, believe me.  But aside from that I hope that I will be able to post pictures of the new and improved bathroom very soon.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Future is Now

I read an article the other day about how they are finding a way in the lab to power implants in the brain by using the glucose already present in the brain. These implants would eventually be able to move paralyzed limbs, something that has been experimented with for years.  I would imagine that it could also be used to move prosthetic limbs as well. It is really exciting to read but I am sure that it’s somewhat off in the future before this kind of technology is used on a more global scale.
According to a New York Times article I found on the web, almost 2 percent of people in this country have a form of paralysis, most of which are due to strokes or spinal cord injuries.  Until recently there really wasn’t an accurate count, but now with these numbers known it is easier to understand the impact on policy and medical costs.  It does cover quite a bit of types of immobility, but whatever the number, to have something as extraordinary as the ability to move a non-mobile limb for any amount of time would be groundbreaking.
This kind of news never ceases to amaze me.  We have come so far in medical technology or any kind of technology really, in such a relatively short time.  Before you know it the images of rebuilt limbs and giving people the ability to walk again could be a reality.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gore Theater

Anyone who has been stuck in traffic knows it seems like human nature to want to see gore.  This is the sentiment behind the author of an article about a man recently arrested who was doing snuff films on the Internet.  The article goes on to talk about various snuff sites on the web and the mentality behind them.  These kinds of videos are not just common in other countries but the US as well and apparently it is not illegal to watch a snuff film online.
It may not be illegal, but it is highly disturbing to me.  I can’t imagine anyone would want to consistently watch this genre.  I do like to watch CSI and I suppose it is not really any different than that, but I do not rubberneck on the highway.  I even get upset seeing a dead animal on the road, and I do get a little squeamish when I see blood.  Maybe that’s the real reason why I have decided not to eat meat.  Anyway, I remember having to clean up a large amount of blood when a friend put his arm through a window and I had to take him to the ER.  I got pretty nauseated smelling it when I came back to clean it up.  But I definitely draw the line at watching people getting their limbs ground up in a meat grinder.
I am constantly amazed at the different things that get people off.  I can understand porn but I can’t understand gore.  I can even understand reality shows, but I think that people who get off on watching someone being dismembered while alive needs psychological help.  Maybe it’s just me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Confrontation

We had a slight confrontation on the bike trail over the weekend.  As we were coming onto the trail two young children were coming off.  Their father was walking behind them and talking on his cell phone.  He was not watching what his kids were doing.  As a result, we almost ran into them because they were really too young to understand how to move out of the way.  My husband yelled at the father and he put his conversation on hold and started yelling back at us as we were riding away. He kept saying that it was none of our business what he was doing but I think that was in regard to his conversation. 
I am constantly amazed at how little people take into concern those around them.  Often people will stop right in the middle of the trail and risk others crashing into them.  They will actually hold conversations with others right there, blocking traffic in both directions.  The other day I read in the paper that the exact same thing happened and the person who ran into the person who stopped was pretty seriously wounded and an ambulance had to be called.  Do these people who just stop really think they are the only ones on the trail?
I tend to think that not only has civility gone away, but consideration as well.  It appears that generally people only think of themselves and do not take into account that their actions affect anyone else.  Case in point was the woman who was driving and picking her toes!  My husband said the car was going all over the road and at first he thought someone was texting while driving.  Imagine his surprise when he came upon that car to see her doing that!  I guess she felt no one else was around and it was okay to groom her feet while going to her destination.  Unbelievable.  Have we really become so selfish and self absorbed?  It appears so.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Garden Gone Wild

 
This is my garden recently.  It has gone absolutely wild with all my lettuces bolting and the tomatoes getting big.  Lettuce is a cool weather crop so it naturally will bolt with the summer heat.  Although it hasn't been that hot, I guess it is hot enough to make it do that.  That's okay because some of it I am letting go to seed so that it will self sow for a fall harvest. the little flowers you see there are marigolds which are reportedly planted to keep away tomato hook worms and groundhogs.  I am not sure about the later but I haven't seen any worms so maybe they are working.  They look pretty anyway.

The tomatoes are fruiting and I can't wait until they do because I just love fresh tomatoes from the garden with mozzarella, basil and a little olive oil.  I just hope my basil doesn't bolt and lasts that long.  I am pinching it and drying what I have left over so I am hoping that the bolting will be suspended until after the tomatoes ripen.  It really is a game having to play to make sure you get what you need when you want it.  I am learning slowly how to play that game.

I love my garden.  I get a great sense of satisfaction to see things "growing on" and being able to go out there and pick greens to serve with dinner. I am anxious about the fall planting and making the cold frame so that I can work to harvest all winter long.  Because of that plan I have put the majority of lettuces in the center bed so that I can plop the cold frame over them and work from that.  Of course I have to work with my husand to get it built and that is always a challenge.  Almost as much of a challenge as the garden! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lemon Tree Very Pretty

During the month of March I ordered a Myer Lemon tree online which was received very quickly.  I promptly put it into a pot and kept it in my dining room near the window.  As the weather got warmer I would put it outside from time to time and after all danger of frost passed kept it on the patio.  Shortly after receiving it, it broke out in a profuse of wonderful smelling blossoms, which have now turned into tiny prospective lemons.  Two of these lemons are now the size of a grape and two really tiny ones, no bigger than a nail head turned yellow.  I assume they are ripe, but they are way too small to do anything with. There are many others which I gather will fatten up shortly.
Yesterday I noticed more blossoms on the tree. It already has a plethora of tiny lemons and with the new blossoms it appears that I am going to have more lemons than I can use!  That is if all of them ripen.  I currently use lemons for my iced tea but I am looking into many more uses including making fresh lemonade now. 
There are also many other things that I have to start using lemons for in regular cooking such as steamed broccoli and other vegetables, not to mention fish.  I tend to forget about them since I am not a huge lemon user regularily. But lemons are quite good for you aside from being a large supplier of vitamin C.  Apparently they also have strong antibacterial, antiviral, and immune-boosting powers as well as containing many substances--notably citric acid, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, pectin, and limonene. This is more about lemons than I ever knew and something you can read up on here.
So even if the lemon tree is very pretty and the flowers are wonderful smelling, the fruit gets a big thumbs up from me and something that I am going to add to my diet.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Marriage Equality

I am a big supporter of Marriage Equality.  To me, this is a basic civil rights issue.  I know that many people are afraid of this and that some even believe that it is a threat to marriage between a man and a woman.  That part I don’t get.  Maybe people who believe this think that if gays are allowed to wed then the population is in peril.  With however many billion people on this earth currently, I don’t think that is a problem.
Homosexuality is not a chosen lifestyle any more than having brown eyes is a choice.  People are born that way.  I am a big supporter of accepting people as they are.  I may not agree with it, but as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, I will defend anyone’s right to express that lifestyle.  The bottom line is that in this country we are supposed to be able to pursue our happiness and if loving someone regardless of who they are makes them happy, doesn’t that help everyone? 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Civility

Rudeness is the new norm, says an article I read the other day.  While this article is about rudeness in politics, politics are not the only place where rudeness occurs.  I must admit that I have been guilty of being rude a time or two.  Okay, well maybe more, but sometimes the situation warrants that kind of behavior, like when a telephone solicitor doesn’t take no for an answer.  I know I should be better at that since I have been doing cold calls from time to time for politicians I am supporting. But in the heat of the moment, I stop thinking.
But the amazing thing of this topic is that Americans are more accepting of rudeness.  According to the article, 21 more percent of people are accepting of rude behavior this year than last.  That to me is the most telling of all.  It is one thing to be rude and quite another to shrug it off as something that happens all the time.  It means we have become complacent with it and that is not a good thing in my eyes.
Civility is the basis of civilization.  Once we lose the ability to communicate with each other in a way that is courteous and respectful, we lose the ability to be human.  We might as well revert back to the wild and be the animals we came from.  Then again dogs are kinder to each other than some people are to each other, so this makes us lower than dogs. Not a good thing for our future.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fairy Garden

I made up this fairy garden a few months back and one of the plants I put into it died originally.  I found a site online that specializes in miniature gardens and ordered a replacement (the one with the flower) and put it in this morning.  I just love having a green thing on my desk and since I have planted it the baby's tears has really taken off.  I hope that the new plant, whose name I can't remember will do the same. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Rose by Any Other Name

The former CEO of the company I work for is an amazing man.  Not only is he brilliant in his chosen field, but he can remember your name.   The man is over 80 an every time he sees me he calls me by my name, which blows my mind as there are so many people in the company and I see him so rarely.
They say that one way to help remember people’s names is to use memory pegs – something that reminds you of the person.  However that doesn’t work for me. As an example I still remember my seventh grade teacher as "Mrs. Cauliflowerhead" instead of her real name because her head of tightly coiled white curls looked exactly like that vegetable.  I think the point is to have a memory peg that is similar to the name and not what they look like.  Nevertheless, I have not had much success with that particular technique.
Another method I have heard is to use the person’s name three times in your first conversation with them.  I am not sure what it is about the number three, but it must possess some incredible powers.  It is in the name of many fairy tales, it supposedly has magical powers in witchcraft, and is the basis of Christianity.  That number is used frequently in many things and its use apparently yields some wonderful results.  I think it is inherent in the human brain to remember things in threes.  But I digress…I think the bottom line is that some people have the name recall skill and others do not.  I just have to resign myself to remembering that I fall into the latter category.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Eyewitness

My mother forwarded me an email she received from a woman she knows in London who witnessed the Queen’s procession down the Thames.  It was really cool to have a personal eyewitness account of all the action.  She is a poet and wrote such a wonderful description of the flotilla passing the spot she was standing in with thousands of other Londoners “determined to party despite the cold wind, grey skies and pouring rain”.  It sounded brilliant.
Events such as this amaze me.  I remember being down on the Delaware River one July 4th.  My mother had gotten tickets for the whole family to attend a party to be given on an old ship that was moored at Penn’s landing.  At the end of the night, as is the custom, we witnessed the fireworks display.  I had often seen the display on TV but it did not compare to being there in person.  I remember standing there with the other people on the boat and looking around at the hundreds of other people standing on the shore.  All I could see were people looking up and hear the music blaring through the speakers keeping time with the pyrotechnics as they burst in the air.  It was not a milestone year, such as the bicentennial or the millennium, but all the same the celebratory feeling was there as we celebrated yet another year of America’s birthday.
The Diamond Jubilee that is going on now in England is a special time for that country.  From what I have read, Queen Elizabeth II is a much loved monarch and according to a BBC article I read “conveys a sense of history the like of which we have not seen in Britain since the reign of her great-great-grandmother Victoria”.  Past jubilees have been slow but this one is apparently has had much interest and warmth toward the Queen.  It is fascinating to see and read about England’s relationship to their monarch and I hope that my mother’s friend sends more.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Window to Heaven

Yesterday I was waiting at a light and looked up at the clouds in the sky.  The cloud formation directly in front of me had a perfect rectangle of blue sky in it and to the left were some much lighter clouds.  It looked very much like a window with a shutter on one side.  Unfortunately when I got my camera phone ready it was gone.  They have a stairway to heaven, at least in the song, so maybe this was a window to heaven that was open just long enough for maybe one or two lucky souls to get there.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Lilies

You can tell that we are in or very close to summer.  Technically summer doesn't arrive until June 20th at 7:09PM when we have the Summer Solstice in the northern Hemisphere.  But those flowers  are blooming in my yard and they look great.  I spoke to a botanist the other day and he said we are three to four weeks ahead of normal this year.  Everything is coming out earlier than expected.

I love lilies. There are many different varieties with a nice range of color.  I have the ones in the picture here and some Daylilies that have yet to bloom.  I recently purchased some other daylilies of the stella de oro  variety.  I see them all over the place and just love their cheery yellow bloom.  I am going to plant them in amongst my daffodils so I have a little succession of bloom there. The leaves of the daffodil look so sad now so next year that will be camouflaged a little with the new blooms of the lilies.  At least that is what I am going for.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy

When you are on a diet the scale, or your clothes, usually tell you if you are doing okay.  But generally you don’t see much difference from day to day.  Yesterday I ran into a woman at work who I don’t see all that much anymore.  She called me a “shrinking violet”!  She said that it looked like I had lost a lot of weight and that I looked younger.  I have been seeing a slight change in the mirror and on the scale, but it is great to hear a confirmation.  I have only lost about 15 pounds so far and from the amount I have yet to lose it’s easy to think that it will never come off.  I mean after all my fat and I are really good friends.
The new eating lifestyle (notice I didn't say diet) that I have been doing is probably working.  I am staying away from processed foods and all things artificial.  I am also trying to eat less and exercise more.  It’s not a great secret but it was really hard in the beginning.  I have noticed, however, that I have more or less lost the desire for gooey desserts.  The thought of a cheesecake with strawberries on top doesn’t totally turn me off, but it doesn’t leave me salivating either.  I know that if I wanted to eat it I could and I also know that after I had a little I would probably stop (although that hasn’t been tested).  Now I crave fresh food – a crisp green salad or bowl of fruit - more than the sugar laden things I used to crave. Even chocolate doesn’t have the same appeal anymore.
I have also entered a newer phase of eating and that is to eat far less meat.  When I met with my nutritionist I told her that I was drawn to eating even better and we discussed eating more vegetarian.  My initial goal has been to replace 2 meals per week with a vegetarian option.  Last week I replaced six and if we hadn’t gone to dinner at a friend’s house it would have been seven.  I am exploring macrobiotics and all kinds of different foods like sea vegetables and other plant based meals.
So, I am happy that others are starting to notice a difference, whether they tell me or not.  It validates my efforts and helps me move forward.  It is one thing when your husband tells you that you look good, but quite a different thing when an acquaintance tells you; the acquaintance doesn’t have any hidden agenda.