Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Not a Disorder

This morning I read an article that someone posted on Facebook about ADHD and the rise in the sales of the drugs designed to "treat" it.  I say treat it in quotes, because I don't believe it is a disorder or an illness, and selling these drugs is simply laziness on the part of educators and some parents.

I read a book a few years ago that turned my life around.  It's called Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perspective.  The theory behind this book is that ADHD is not a disease or a disorder.  It is simply a trait that makes children classified as such, different.  People with ADHD have brains that are wired differently from other children.  But rather than teach these children differently - in a way that works for them, we medicate them and force them to behave in an environment that is foreign to their talents.

What makes me laugh is that America has turned into a country of addicts - legal addicts taking pharmaceuticals - and yet they don't legalize a natural plant such as marijuana. Everyday I see ads on television and in magazines about a different drug.  When I go to the doctor all she does is write out a prescription for another drug.  We need to get behind the natural talent these children have and stop becoming a nation of pushers.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thought Provoking

I have been surrounded by talks about race this week.  I attended a dramatic reading of the play "Bee-Luther-Hatchee" by Thomas Gibbons at Theater Horizon, a local theater in Norristown, on Monday which featured a talk about race relations afterwards.  I have seen many postings on Facebook about the "What Would You Do" episode about a black guy with a white girlfriend in a Harlem barbershop. Then today I saw an article about "microagressions". It is an interesting subject matter, and the last one really caught my eye, especially because sometimes I find myself saying things that I don't mean to be rude and would not have thought would be.

I have been through several diversity classes where I used to work and try to be sensitive about talking to people.  Maybe I am too sensitive because sometimes I worry that I have offended someone but don't want to bring it up because it seems like such an emotionally charged topic.  If I hear someone say something bad to me, I usually just brush it off figuring they don't know any better and I realize they really don't want to offend me, but they do.  If it is really blatant, I will speak out, but generally I don't.  Sometimes I think people just get offended too easily, and I don't want to fall into that trap.

But I wonder why things come up in batches like this.  Is this a subject I should be thinking of? Is this age of political correctness something that needs addressing? Should we even care? Should I be speaking out when I do hear things? Have race relations really changed in this country? I think the answer to that last one is no.  What about you?


Friday, December 6, 2013

Microsoft - The Great Assumer

As I blogged earlier, I recently got a new laptop with Windows 8 on it.  Microsoft, I believe in trying to make things easier for the less than computer savvy, assumes too much in my option.  My new laptop is made by Lenovo, so I expected that there would be "blow-ware" - demos of those applications they want you to try and sell.  However the basic operating system for Windows has titles on the Metro UI that are for things I don't want or need changed - more than the blow ware from the manufacturer.

Take music for example.  If you click the music tile, you get launched into a music app that takes the music from your PC and makes you sign in with our Microsoft account and presents you with a way to get more music with their app similar to Pandora.  If I wanted their app I would have installed their app, but I can't figure out how to re-program their tile to launch Pandora or my iTunes program.  I guess I will find a way, but it is frustrating to me that I have to go through all kinds of time removing stuff and then re-installing things when I could have just installed something if I wanted it.  Not everyone has the same taste in music.

I suppose Microsoft has done enough focus groups to think they can determine what people want, but I am not thoroughly convinced they pay attention to diversity. IMHO they should leave more to the user to customize their operating system to their own liking rather than assume they know what the average user wants.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Not Far from the Tree

"Okay, so I know I was in the wrong and I said I was sorry for blocking the intersection, but hey, you don't need to use the F-word in front of your little girl."  I said, but she didn't hear me through the window.  I didn't actually hear what she said except for the F-word as she practically spat it into my front windshield.  That's exactly where this stuff comes from; young kids using language that will melt paint as they walk down the street.  This is aside from the fact that she is probably not an upstanding citizen of society in her own right, but I am sorry for her offspring.  Her little girl is bound to be part of the group of children schooled in the ways of street life and sounding like it.

So maybe I am old fashioned.  I try not to curse, I take care with the language that comes out of my mouth, and I expect my son to so the same.  Yeah, well maybe that last part is a little hard to do, but I do get on him when I hear him talk like that.  I am fortunate in that my husband is not the type to swear also.  It makes you sound so...common.

Good language is hard to come by these days.  I am not talking about big words and a polished accent, I am talking about everyday speech and the absence of the F-bomb being dropped every other word. It seems as if it is lost in today's society. I don't care - it still highly offends me and I am sticking to that.  I can still hope, can't I?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Early Christmas Present

Shortly before Thanksgiving, my laptop bit the big one.  I noticed it had been getting very slow and applications were not responding.  I opened it up last week and immediately got the "blue screen of death" and then tried to recover and it would not boot.  So I figured since it was 7 years old and running Vista, it was time for a new one and since Christmas is just around the corner...  I was kind of afraid of using the new operating system because all I had seen of it was the tiled user interface that I see on the TV ads.  However, I gathered up my courage and went PC shopping right before the mad rush for Black Friday.

I found a great little Lenovo Ideabook PC at Office Max for a good price with slightly more powerful configuration that I was looking for.  I ended up buying it online and the picked it up at the store on Wednesday night.  I have been playing with it over the Thanksgiving holiday and found that Windows 8 is really not that bad. Of course Google searches on how to do things help tremendously, and I found one blog site which has a whole bunch of information on it. For example I found that the tiled screen is called the Metro UI, so now I will be able to sound at least as if I somewhat know what I am talking about.

So if you are new Windows 8 user, give the site a try.  If you are like me and just kind of jump right in and try stuff without reading the instructions, this can help reduce a great deal of the learning curve frustrations about using a new operating system. Of course, there is still some degree of frustration in using computers just due to the fact that generally Microsoft tends to think they know how you use a computer rather than leaving those decisions up to you. But that is fodder for another blog entry.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why?

I have read several articles about the report on Sandy Hook shootings, and they are most disturbing.  It is not only the fact that we will probably never know why he did what he did, but that there were so many signs pointing to the potential of what could happen and nothing was done.  I will admit that I haven't been the best parent in the world, but I think I would have done something if my son was obsessed with mass killings and probably not made guns so readily available.

However, I know the resources that are available to parents dealing with mental illness are very small, especially for those whose financial situations are not good.  Aside from the impression I have that dealing with the mentally ill is such a challenge for anyone, especially a parent whose feelings toward their child can be somewhat defensive.  The stigma of mental illness is such that I would imagine no parent would want to admit that their child has the potential to act out in a manner that could hurt so many.

It is not just the right to bear guns that is the issue here, but the lack of attention to those who can use guns so horribly.  Often even if teachers see behavior that raise red flags they may not have the ability to do anything about it.  I am by no means an expert in these matters, but I would imagine that if more knowledge of warning signs exhibited by the mentally ill toward the potential to mass killings is available, maybe future incidents could be thwarted.  Still there are questions, but it is better to be safe than sorry about this issue.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chromecast

My husband and I don't have cable.  Yes, I know that makes me about as un-American as they come, but we figured we have saved a lot of money over the years.  We love to watch movies, and so for many years, we have had a base subscription to BlockBuster and gotten DVDs through the mail.  We purchased a large HDTV a few years back and the set up has been perfect for us.  Now we hear that BlockBuster has been bought out by Dish Network and going out of the rental business.

No problem.  There is BlockBuster OnDemand, NetFlix, and other streaming services like Hulu.  But I the only computer that has an HDMI cable capability was the Chromebook that I had purchased for my husband last year.  Enter Chromecast.  I saw it advertised and found it on Amazon for $35.  However since my TV was not hooked up to the Internet, I was concerned that I would not be able to use it.  No problem, as it turned out.  You simply plug the device into the HDMI cable input and go to your tablet or laptop and download the Chromecast app. It acts like a wireless HDMI cable and connects any device to your TV through your home network.  It is really very easy.

Now we can stream movies from any service on the Internet we want and have it show on the big screen and we are back to enjoying the movies we like. You can connect other devices, even your phone, to the TV through the app and eventually I will connect my husband's Chromebook to it too,and maybe my phone, but in the meantime when BlockBuster goes dark on December 15, we will still have access to anything we want.  In my mind, it's just as good as cable.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Day of Horror

Many of my Facebook friends have been changing their profile pictures to pictures of JFK to honor him this day, the anniversary of the assassination. In addition, they have been relaying their memories of that day. My personal memory of that day is a little foggy simply because I was 9 when it happened and obliviously not fresh in my mind.

I do remember being in school.  I believe I was in 5th grade.  Our teacher was called out of the room and then came back with tears in her eyes and told us.  I remember at some point after that a large television was brought in and we all watched the news about it.  I don't remember what went on when I got home, but considering my mother's liberal leanings, it was probably not the best of days.  I remember watching the funeral procession days later and thinking to myself that he must have been a wonderful, powerful man to have such a procession through our nation's capital.  I suppose being 9 years old, the severity of the event was somewhat lost on me.

We all have memories of world events that shape our lives.  Some of them such as the assassination of JFK, 911, and Columbine are things that one is likely to remember for years to come.  They not only shape us but shape the world.  I only hope that those horrible days do not repeat themselves too often and that we can begin to heal our nation of the hate that surrounds us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fascinating

Okay, call me geeky, I don't care.  I had the chance to attend an election recount yesterday and found the whole process fascinating.  This year, there were several very close races and two of the three races that ended in a tie were no better off after the official tabulation that is always done on the Friday after the Tuesday's election.

Even though the process was a little tedious, it was very interesting to me.  The room was filled with supporters of the two candidates; Democrats on the left of the room and Republicans on the right (I am not sure that was intended, but it ended up that way). Each precinct was taken individually and the chair of the election board read the tapes and then looked at each absentee ballot, made a judgement, and then passed it to the other commissioner to agree or disagree.  Finally the third commissioner had a chance to weigh in. Four times during the review, the commissioners broke off into executive session to argue any differences there were on the ballots they had looked at and then came back with a report of their decision. One of the two races still ended in a tie and lots will be drawn, as per the process, this Friday.

Maybe it was because it was my first time to attend a recount, or maybe it was just another way of witnessing Democracy in action, but I was enthralled with being able to witness thee process. The more I learn about this operation the more I am intrigued with it.  It may not be perfect, but there is much that is in the works to make it as fair as possible.  It has been working for over 200 years, so we must be doing something right.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's A Mad, Mad World

My husband and I were watching the news last night and amid all the shootings, stabbings, natural disasters, and people going crazy like the Toronto Mayor, we turned to each other and asked "are things going crazy?"  It seems like lately more and more violence and craziness is a happening.  Is it just me?

Social media and digital news allows mankind to report things faster and more accurately than ever before.  Couple that with the fact that people love to spread dirt around, maybe it's just that we are able to see more reports of bizarre behavior.  It's kind of like thinking there is an epidemic of an illness when in actuality more people are reporting it.  That could also be the case for the increase in violence that I observe.  According to a site I came across, the FBI has been reporting statistics since 1957 and there has been an increase not only in criminal acts, but incarceration for those acts as well.  This site also supports the theory that violence media is a cause. I used to poo-poo that idea, because I grew up with westerns where people were shooting people all the time and I didn't grow up to be a killer.  But I recently heard that PG-13 rated films have had a dramatic increase in violence scenes over the last 5 years so now I think that there really is a whole media-induces-violence thing going on.

Apparently killing for humans is not natural, again according to this site, and people have to be trained to do so. Violence also begets violence; we learn this behavior from our parents and therefore from others close to us as well.  According to the writer, when a young person sees a violent act happening on TV, it is as if it is really happening because that's how their brain works.  Seeing violence over and over again desensitizes the brain to these acts and after a while they bear no relevance to the difference between fantasy and reality and they begin to act in kind. So yes, I think the world is going crazy after all.  It's time to make a change.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rub a Dub Dub

I attended a class this weekend on handmade soaps.  It was really easy, but very precise and time consuming, and I came home with a huge block of soap that I am going to cut up and give away.  The soap has to cure for several weeks before it is able to be used, but it smells fabulous!

I like making things by hand because it makes me more aware of the effort that goes into having items that we all take for granted.  So when I saw this class advertised I just had to attend.  It's not that I am going to continue in this, largely because there is a rather expensive investment for specific equipment that I might not use elsewhere, and it takes a lot of time to do properly.  But it was fun and I was able to create something that I can now take to various parties over the holiday season as hostess gifts.

Soap making is nothing recent.  I learned that ancient people were making soap around 2800 B.C. and that the lye ingredient was found by accident after the noticed that fats boiled with ashes from sacrificing animals cleaned the clothes they were washing in the stream. I then found by doing a Google search that the Ebers papyrus revealed that the ancient Egyptians mixed animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to produce a soap-like substance. But I think the addition of all kinds of chemicals to make lather and fragrance is a US manmade invention.  I like getting back to basics when I can so even though this was a fun thing for me to do, if anything happens at least I can still stay clean.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Public Apathy?

Last night I attended a budget workshop held by the municipal administrator.  This is the first step in the budget process where the administrator makes a proposed budget to the council and lays out all the things he would like the next year's budget to cover.  From here, the budget is poked and prodded and possible changes are made and then the council votes on it at the end of the year. 

I was rather surprised at the lack of attendance both from council and the public. Granted, this is the first step and there is not really much that happens here, but only two council people showed up, along with one director and one person from the public.  Not only was the meeting not mentioned on their website, but I did not see any advertisement in the paper even though someone told me it was there.  The only reason I knew about it was an email from a friend, who incidentally was not there himself.

Something like this is important for the public to weigh in on.  This proposed budget recommends a $32 average tax increase, which for me and other working folks is doable, but for many others is not.  I understand the need for the various things they mentioned, and I was pleasantly surprised that the administrator talked about a 5 year capital plan, something that has not been presented in a long time.  The presentation given last night will be on the website and there is a public input period that has to happen.  I will be watching closely to see if there will be more notice given.  I am anxious to see what happens from here out and if the public apathy continues or they suddenly wake up and scream because a tax increase is pending.  Perhaps it was just poor notification that the meeting was ill attended, or perhaps the public just doesn't care anymore.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

East Coast High

A news article came to my attention this morning that Portland, ME passed a referendum, known as Question 1, to legalize pot for adult recreational use.  The city already has medicinal use legalized and they have become the first east coast city to do legalize recreational use.

For several years I have argued that the decriminalization of marijuana would help our economy, and the slide show associated with this article supports that theory.  For example, according to the New York Times, the city of Oakland, CA raised $1.3 million in tax revenue from medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011 alone, which is 3% of the city's total business tax revenue. During the same time frame, the state of Colorado took in $5 in sales tax revenue.  That would pave a lot of streets.

While I do not smoke pot myself, partly because it is illegal and because I don't really like the effects, I understand the end result. We are not winning the war on drugs and it is senseless in my opinion to spend tax money fighting a substance which in my mind is no more dangerous that alcohol, and probably healthier for you anyway. I advocate decriminalizing marijuana and treating it just like we do several other drugs of choice; booze, cigarettes, and coffee. We are not going to stop people from needing a release from the grinds of everyday life, and while many can do without anything to take them away, using something such as pot is going to occur. We might as well realize what we can financially from it and stop fighting a war we cannot win.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Equality

Last night I participated in a Meet the Candidate forum and a reporter from the online newspaper, Patch, was there. This morning I went online to see if there was anything about the session.  There was not, but I did find an article that was of interest which talked about the 10 most LGBT Employment-friendly states.  They are (in order): California (naturally), Connecticut, Iowa (really?), Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.  Now, you might wonder why I, a straight woman, would care about this.

I do care about it and I think everyone should.  America has always touted themselves as the home of the free and we are not free until everyone one of us as the same rights as everyone else.  In Pennsylvania, it is still legal to fire someone because they are gay.  HB300 is a bill that would change all that but it has been languishing in committee and with this current administration probably won't come out this session. If you don't think that is more important than the economy or the environment, you are wrong.  Having an employment friendly state affects our bottom line.  People will come here for jobs.  People will come here to live, and they will spend their money here.  Our economy will be stronger because of it.

Additionally, Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers.  One of the fundamental practices of that religion is acceptance and it is unthinkable that we should not have a commonwealth were acceptance is the norm.  Yes, that was a long time ago, but the standards should remain the same.  If we as a Commonwealth begin to practice the same acceptance, it will benefit us all.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Living off the Grid

I have recently become aware of the term "prepper".  It is the name for anyone who is preparing for the apocalypse, or at least a change in life as we know it.  They know how to grow their own food, build their own shelter, and basically live very simply. I recently read an article about a man who left the world as we know it and live without modern day conveniences.  In this article he talks about how he survived and what he did to substitute certain things that we all have come to depend on.

I am not sure that I would totally go this route, but it does make sense to learn how to fend for yourself without the conveniences of just in case something should happen.  For example I don't totally eschew electricity, but I do try to use as little as possible simply for cost cutting measures.  We have done well, my husband and I, because recently I found out how much our neighbor's electricity bill was and we were at least a third less and that is taking into account that we have only two people to their five people living in the house.

The article was very interesting and goes to show the inventiveness that people can employ when they get into a situation where they need to handle something unfamiliar.  But I think that everyone should know certain things so that they can survive if a calamity should occur.  It may not mean living off the grid, but it could save your life.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Messing Up

I have never really been a person who has a great aptitude for attention to detail and sometimes it really gets me in trouble.  I recently made a mistake that was kind of really bad.  It didn't alter the universe but it could lead to some confusion and I felt really bad about it.  I had depended on another person to proof the work before it went out, but that person also did not catch it. I really caught heck for it.

Some people are born with attention to detail; I was not.  Everyone has a certain set of talents and sometimes one has to go a whole lifetime to discover them.  Grandma Moses only started painting in her seventies and there are other stories of how people "suddenly" acquire a new talent that shocks the world.  I do look at life as a series of discoveries about oneself as we are always emerging, always growing. Furthermore, it is never to late to make corrections in your life.  Attention to detail though has always been my albatross.

I looked up ways to improve my attention to detail. I thought it is never to learn something new to help me get better.  I came across a site called Lumosity which promises to exercise your brain. They say you can increase your skills by just play a few games online each day.  It is a fun way to spend a few minutes, no doubt, but I don't know if it will make a difference, but I will try.  Of course to "get the full potential" you have to pay for the premium package. For now, I will stick to the free program and see what happens.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Mortality - Part 2

My good friend who has been sick for so long died on Friday.  The viewing is tomorrow and the funeral service is Wednesday.  One more reminder that we are only temporary residents of this planet and we all need to face our ultimate demise at one point or another. We had known each other since the 5th grade along with another.  The three of us were so close we were like the Three Musketeers.  Even though she had decided I was not good enough to talk to in the last two decades of her life, I still call her my good friend.

She was sick since 2008 when she developed a pain in her side which would not go away.  Her doctor sent her for tests and ultimately discovered that she had Primary Peritoneal Cancer, which is pretty rare. Most people discover it when their belly swells, but because of the pain they caught it somewhat early.  Her tumor had attached itself to the abdominal wall so she that is why she was experiencing symptoms sooner.  After that discovery she went through chemo several times and toward the end, there were many trips to the hospital to open up her kidneys that the cancer shut down. Despite the fact her obit says she went peacefully, our common friend said that was not the case.

As I mentioned she stopped talking to me shortly before I was married - to this day I have never discovered the reason why.  Even after many attempts to reach out to her, she remained silent to the end.  She did however, accept my friend request on Facebook so that may have been a silent acknowledgement of our continued friendship; at least I took it as such.  I suppose now I will have to wait until we meet again, in heaven or another life, to find out the reason. I will remember the many good times we had together. Rest in peace, Mary Al.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Beautiful Neighborhood

I came across a new web site yesterday that I was invited to join.  It's called NextDoor.com and it is a social networking site designed to help neighbors get to know each other.  I suppose there are those people who don't bother actually knocking on the door of the person who lives next door, or a few doors down and talk to them face to face.  Interestingly enough, I actually met someone at a party who didn't have a clue who his neighbors are and actually started dating a girl before he found out she lived on the same block as he did. But I digress.

Next Door.com allows people to sign up and virtually meet their neighbors in a social, non-threatening way, and be able to share information such as an emergency alert, neighborhood event, or the ability to discuss community issues.  I joined the group simply because I was invited, which is the way it grows. I suppose it will prove to be worthwhile, especially the aspect about discussing community issues because people tend to be more vocal online than in person, IMHO.  One thing that amused me was a statement by the website people that said:
We believe in the traditional notion of neighbors as people who help and look out for each other. We hope that Nextdoor members embrace the concept of being neighborly to each other.
I only hope that this is the not world we are becoming where people need to have a website help them watch out for each other rather than common courtesy and simply being human.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mortality

It is a challenge at this time of life where we see our friends' parents die and we are reminded that death is there, waiting for us whether we like it or not. One of my childhood friends called me yesterday to inform me that her mother died.  Her mother was the same age as my mother and it suddenly makes me think of the mortality that we all have.  

When I remember my friend's mother, I chuckle, because she so patiently dealt with all of our practical jokes growing up with such grace.  I specifically remember one time when we were probably in sixth grade.  They had just gotten a new station wagon with all kinds of bells and whistles.  One of the features was a speed alarm that would go off when one got to a specific speed to prevent one from speeding.  My friend and I had been taken on an errand before dropping me back at my house.  We were told to sit in the car while her mother went in the store to pick up something.  I turned the speed alarm down very low, turned up the radio very loud, turned on the wipers, and turn on the a/c to an extreme setting and then we both got back in the back seat where we were told to stay.  Of course when her mother came back and turned the key, all hell broke loose.  Although her mother was not amused, she just murmured something and went on about the way.  My friend and I were busting up laughing in the back seat, but her mother's reaction was not the one we wanted.

I will always remember this instance as an example of how calm she used to be and how much of a lady she was.  Even though I didn't keep in touch with her much after she and her husband retired to Florida I still considered her a friend as much as her daughter.  She will be missed.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Dinner and a Show

Theater Horizon opened their doors in 2009.  Last night I attended the new theater opener for what I believe is their third full season.  They had the event in partnership with several restaurants in the area that offer subscribers dinner coupons to so that dinner and a show is available.  I got goosebumps when I heard that because there has never really been that concept since I have lived here, and it is very exciting.

We have had a cultural center here for a while, and they have a wonderful venue for theater, so it is very exciting to have another theater in our little town. Now we have to work on getting more restaurants in town so there is more of a variety for theater goers as well as bringing in new people and things to do for our own residents.  Two of the restaurants who were at the event are not in the town and one of them is rather far away and would require people to drive rather than walk, which in my opinion does not make it a viable place to go to before a show.

Things seem to be getting better at least as far as cultural events are concerned.  I believe that once we establish culture as a destination reason, we can help establish our town as a destination place.  It is a matter of time.  


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dreaming

I am reading the most wonderful book called Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart-Cooking Mama's given to me out of the blue by a friend of mine.  He said he saw it and it reminded him of me. It is really interesting and has gotten me fired up on the aspect of not eating food that is highly processed. While I was reading yesterday the image of a community surrounded by farmland came to my mind.  I imagined a farm outside a little village where each person in that village got what they needed from the farmer.  In the village, there were little shops that carried local wares and in the village, there was a school, some churches, and the people of that village could walk to the central part to do their local shopping.  I thought to myself that if I were Queen that's how this world would work.

Wait a minute, that is just how things used to be way back when before we all got "civilized"!  It was like that before we took away all the farmland and built McMansions on it, before we decided that stores would carry cheap, easy-to-break crap from China, and before we started manufacturing food rather than enjoy what comes out of the ground. There were little villages like that where people lived and were healthy because they ate was God intended and not things that no one can pronounce. Furthermore, there are places like that still in Europe more or less. Why can't we get back to that?

We are close to having reached the point of no return (at least in my neck of the woods) in this country.  But there is hope.  We can model the village life in some of the small cities in towns in America.  We can have the community gardens and local CSAs grow the food, we can create walk-able communities, and we can buy locally produced goods.  It will take desire and the political will to do so.  In the meantime, I will keep dreaming, looking for local produce, growing what I can, and boycotting food I can't pronounce.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Nuisance

Another article appeared in the paper today about the ACLU's lawsuit against Norristown that challenges the constitutionality of ordinances such as the one called the "three strikes rule".  This ordinance was put into place with the intention of protecting the peace and order of the neighborhood by forcing landlords to lose their license if there are multiple calls to the police for that property.  Unfortunately, in the case of Lakisha Briggs, she was evicted because the domestic violence relationship she was in caused her to call over and over again despite the restraining order against her abuser.

There are many things at work in this case.  First and foremost, domestic situations are very tricky things to deal with.  For a short time, I did work with a domestic violence support center doing hotline crisis calls. During the training, as well as my personal experiences, it was stated that domestic violence relationships go in cycles.  After the crisis is over the victim takes back the abuser because the abuser makes promises that it will never happen again.  The couple enters a "honeymoon phase" and things are great until the next time. It was therefore during my time on council before that I argued the ordinance should be exempt for cases of domestic violence.

In every situation there are two sides to every story.  I do not know the amount of times the police were called to that property so I cannot say whether I side with Ms. Briggs or the municipality.  I can say that the municipality's intention was to give some quality of life to neighborhoods by helping alleviate as many nuisance properties as possible. In cases of domestic violence, one simply cannot predict what will happen and to legislate an ordinance such as this one without taking that into consideration can only bring difficulty. I only hope that during the time when the municipality is not enforced the ordinance due to the lawsuit Council does the right thing and re-address the law.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Quiet Reflection

I came across a blog entry for a blog that I follow called Urban Gardens the other day that really made me want to go visit.  It is a cemetery in Minnesota that is designed in such a way that preserves the environment and provides a chance for visitors to have quiet reflection.  It is a beautiful space with interior and exterior spaces.  I love walking through old cemeteries and looking at the old tombstones, but I often wonder if others actually visit their dearly departed in them. My father passed two years ago and since his plot is in Delaware, I have not been there since the funeral.  That is not to say I don't miss him, but I "visit" in my own way.

Apparently according to some sites I looked at, death was viewed very differently by our most recent ancestors.  Death and cemeteries in the Victorian times were visited quite often, I am told but could not find evidence to this fact online.  Apparently, families would pack picnic lunches and have Sunday outings on their family plots.  Perhaps it was a way to re-connect with their loved ones or just enjoy a nice outside day, although I am not sure people would do that now.  Recently I did come across a bike tour of the West Laurel Hill Cemetery which actually looked kind of interesting.  It was a way to view some of the more notable grave sites while riding your bicycle; something right up my alley.

Our superstitions on death and dying in America has loosened up a lot since the Victorian age, but we generally still have a problem with death, in my opinion. Our doctors still try to prevent it at all costs feeling as if losing a patient is a failure rather than a natural progression of life.  I suppose since I have only lost my father and step-father, along with a few friends, maybe I am not really the person to judge on this topic, but I consider myself a realist and take death as part of life.  We all have to go at some point and cemeteries are for the living more than the dead. I am glad there is at effort to make them a place to honor and reflect.




Thursday, August 29, 2013

Storm Water

The town I live in is looking to do riverfront development. Over the past few years, there has been a lot of development all around us and more and more land is getting covered up with buildings and paving, so storm water runoff is a problem.  It is so much of a problem for that matter that the river that runs by us generally flood more often and higher than it has before.  The reason I know that is because one of my friends lives on the river and he has told me that there have been more floods in his time at that location recently than before.  It is getting to be a big concern for him.

A few weeks ago another friend of mine, who is a supervisor in Upper Merion, sent me a copy of his constituent newsletter with a link to a video about pervious asphalt. This new material is really the same material they use for roads but put together in a different fashion to allow water to pass through into the ground rather than run off.  I watched the video with my jaw on the floor.  There was such a fast re-absorption rate, it was amazing.

The great thing about it is that this method is actually less expensive than using the standard method.  If using this new method, planting more trees, and using other ways to reduce runoff, to me is a win-win.  It is not that I am advocating developing everything in site, but our riverfront development is an important project to help drive up our economic base and the last thing I want to have happen is cause more problems down the river.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Little Secret on Cancer

Read an article this morning in the most recent edition of Nutrition Action (which is not available online as far as I can tell).  I am not entirely hooked on that magazine, but my mother bought it for me and they often have articles of interest especially when it comes to processed foods to look out for.  My favorite column is their food porn write-ups where they compare some fat laden food to another that is much healthier for you.

But this month they had a two whole articles on prostate cancer, which I read word for word.  The take away here is that if you stick to a healthy diet, full of good food and exercise, quit smoking (or not start - why would you anyway), and do all the things that everyone is telling you to, your chance of developing prostate cancer is low.  However if you do get the lethal kind, there are treatment options that help extend your life, albeit with high rates if incontinence and impotence. The one thing I didn't know is that men get prostate tumors just from getting old and according to this article, 1 out of 2 men have prostate cancer and don't even know it.

But the biggest take-away I got (no surprise here), was that in America surgeons want to cut and radiologist want to radiate.  The article said that in Canada, this is not necessary the case.  It is just another way for people getting money from other who don't have it when the treatment may not always require cutting or radiation.  This article said that not all cancers are lethal and even though the PSA test score may be high it may not be require surgery and the full blown cancer treatment because you will not die from it.  The bottom line here is that you have to be your own advocate and make a decision that is based on your risk factors, something called a "Gleason" number, and the fact that as men age they are naturally prone to prostate tumors which are not going to kill you. Sometimes something called "watchful waiting" is all that is needed.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

CSA

CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, is a way to have fresh, local produce available to you every week.  You buy a share in a farmer's yield in the beginning of the growing season, and they get the money up front so they can have what they need for the year.  In return you get locally grown produce.  Many times you get to try things you would not normally get from the supermarket. Since I found out about this concept, I have been trying to find one that is nearby and lo and behold there was an article in this week's paper about one right in my neighborhood!

I am most anxious to try this and plan to get a half year subscription for next year.  The share period is over for now as the growing period is pretty much over for the season, but I think the price they are asking is very reasonable for fresh produce.  I figure I spend twice that at the market for a year's time and there are things that I don't grow in my garden.

CSA's are growing (pun unintended) in popularity.  As of 2009, more than 12,500 U.S. farms reported marketing products through a CSA.  These local farmers don't just sell their own grown things, but things they get through people they deal with and some will have access to things like soaps, honey, and even meats.  I believe this is one way we can beat the conglomerates at their own game.  Buy local or go home.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Men and Long Hair

Almost cut my hair
It happened just the other day
It's gettin' kind of long
I could've said it was in my way


Read an interesting article today that a friend posted on Facebook.  It appears according to this article that the reason that the Native Americans never cut their hair was that the long hair served as some sort of antenna that allowed them to be more aware of their environment. The friend who posted it is a woman who has long hair and not only has she not cut it, but she also dyes it as I think it is mostly grey.

Men's hair has always been short and generally when men grow it long it is a way to rebel against the establishment. My son tried it but his hair is not conducive to growing long as it is quite wavy.  But he had several friends when he was a teen who had longer hair than they do now that they are grown and trying to make it in the adult world.  Frankly I don't mind the hair being long as a way to rebel.  To me it's better than tattoos, but then again, that's just my opinion.  

Long hair has been used as a fashion statement as well, and many famous men have long hair.  The one who springs to mind is Fabio. I don't think he is doing it as a rebellion, but then again maybe he is or maybe it is just about the money.  I did a search for long hair on men and various sites came up advising men on how to keep their long hair looking good.  So maybe this thing with Native American long hair is not just history, but current fashion as well.



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Amen!

An editorial appeared in our local paper which pretty much echos my thoughts. It addresses one of my major pet peeves; swearing.  I grew up in household where swearing was frowned upon and my parents never uttered the f-word.  My mother would occasionally say "damn", but she never dropped the f-bomb. I suppose my father, a native of Mexico, didn't have those words in his vocabulary and if he swore in Spanish, I never knew it.

I don't know the reason it has peppered our day to day language, but I am not a fan of it.  It screams vulgar, commonplace, and ill-educated.  Maybe I am just showing my Main Line roots here, but I fail to see the reason for dropping the f-bomb in one's daily missives.

It's not that I am offended by the word - well maybe I am.  I get a kind of visceral feeling in my gut when I hear it, so maybe that's what offense feels like.  I must admit I occasionally drop it myself sometimes in times of extreme anger or frustration, but I feel very bad when that happens.  But overall I see no need for it, and I was really surprised - and refreshed that someone did a piece on it.  Thanks!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

City or Town?

Lately there has been some scuttlebutt about Norristown being referred to as a city. It appeared in a blog entry asking to stop calling Norristown a city. The term was brought up at a zoning meeting where the County's planning person called us a city and said we had an urban feel.  The author of the blog article insisted we are not a city and refers to the place as a town or by our old name "borough".  In her mind, the word "city" implies a feeling that she apparently does not feel in Norristown and probably furthermore implies a crime ridden area.

What is in a name? A rose is by any other name is still a rose. To me the words city, town, village, urban area, and borough are somewhat interchangeable.  Technically, the dividing line between those words generally revolve around population count and density.  Norristown is definitely not a suburb because we are not an area that has homes on larger sized lots with driveways and sidewalks.  Norristown has a population of over 35,000 people, has mostly densely built out areas and very little green space.  The word city is much more descriptive of how we are.  Webster's definition of a city is "a : an inhabited place of greater size, population, or importance than a town or village".  We are the county seat, so we have some importance.  That somewhat supports my claim.  Wikipedia says "city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings..." This means to me that town or city are appropriate names for where we live.

The bottom line to me is there is no doubt in my mind from a planning perspective that we are an urban area. We have small amount of areas where development can occur, we have dense housing, and generally we have a large, diverse population.  That spells urban.  What we don't have is the businesses, shopping, and arts areas that give a hustle and bustle feel to a place whether it be town or city, and that is where I believe our efforts should strive to accomplish. Regardless of what you call Norristown I still call it home.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Parenting 101

Every so often an article appears about parenting.  Sometimes  I read it and feel as if I was lacking in one way or another because new research now shows that one should not have been doing something that old research told you to do.  For example recently it was stated that letting your baby cry is a no-no, where as before, it was thought to be necessary to help them grow independent. Now it is shown that you have to answer their every cry to instill a feeling that they can depend on you.

An article appeared on Facebook today that made me feel a little better.  The one thing I got from this article is that the best thing you can do as a parent is to be there for your child.  I don't claim to be a great parent, and I feel very guilty for the bad state my adult child is in now, but I do feel that I was there for him; supporting him in all his twists and turns regardless of my personal feelings.  Children are not little us's.  They have their own personalities and often develop ideas that are very different that you.  I have always heard stories where the parents are very liberal and the child grows up to be very conservative.

Regardless of what the child grows up to be, the best thing you do can do is support your child and be there for them while they are growing.  Children are like plants; they need strong roots and good nutrition to grow healthy.  They need clean air, water, and loving to grow strong and thrive.  While they may stray, they should be able to depend on you to be there when they return. To me that is the basic lesson.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Unanswered Questions

Another shooting happened in Norristown.  This time a 16 year old was shot in broad daylight and the shooter was reportedly riding a bicycle.  The crime happened a short distance from my house, although I was not home at the time.

This leaves me with a sense of anger and frustration.  I have a series of questions going around in my head which will probably never get answered:

  1. What is wrong with people who do this?
  2. Do they know it is wrong?
  3. Do they think there are no consequences to their actions?
  4. Is there a different code of morality in their minds?
  5. Are they conscious of what it means to potentially take another life?
  6. Do they lack the feeling of power and have to do this to gain power?
  7. Is it anger, frustration, or simply desperation that drives them to commit these actions?
  8. What message are they sending with their actions, and are they even aware that they are sending a message?
  9. What drives them to do the act in the first place?
  10. Are there warning signs that someone could have observed to prevent this from happening?
I would really love to find out the answer to some of these questions, especially the last, because it might just help resolve the situation of crime in our town.  The victim is reported to be in stable condition.  Nevertheless the town is grieving because there is yet another nail in our coffin toward the ultimate end of humanity caused by the repeated acts of people who commit these crimes.

Monday, August 12, 2013

How Long?

The other day I attended a community meeting, and during the meeting a question was posed to a person talking.  That person held a position of authority as being chair of an advisory panel to Borough Council and was pretty well schooled on why the group make the decision they were discussing.  One of the members of the audience point blank asked him where he was from.

I hear that a lot and it never ceases to amaze me that people either constantly ask me, or anyone who holds a position of authority, where they are from.  Does it make that much of a difference? I have lived here nearly 30 years now, yet I believe I am still considered an "outsider".  It appears that no matter how long you are here, if you weren't born here, you are not worth a plug nickel.

I asked a group of "natives" exactly how long it takes before a person is considered relevant. I explained that my husband and I have been here almost 30 years, we have raised a son here, and we have been active in the community almost as long.  The person looked at me somewhat quizzically and said he thought 30 years warranted  a "vested" status. I suppose I surprised them with my question, but I was really curious.  Does being born in a place grant you special powers to make decisions for the town? I supposed experiences or education from outside don't give you any special consideration.  I fear that with that kind of narrow thinking, this town is not destined for much.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Equality

Last weekend, I stood at the wedding at one of my LGBT friends' wedding, and next weekend I will stand at the wedding of another couple.  I am so proud to be witness to this historic moment  for Marriage Equality in the county that I live in.  I also attended a rally the other day to support the Montgomery County Register of Wills, D. Bruce Hanes, on his quest to abide by the US Constitution and against DOMA, and why it is so important.

Same-Sex Marriage is one of the last civil rights issue.  It has been a long time coming, but it is the right thing to do.  Our Gay brothers and sisters deserve this; they deserve the ability to wed who they love, they deserve the ability to be with each other and have the rights that all other married couples enjoy. Furthermore, they deserve the ability to be who they are and not be shunned for that.  Marriage Equality is in no way harming my marriage as a Straight woman and causes no harm to anyone.  I just can't understand why people would be denied the ability to be with who they love.

Years ago, African-American were lynched and forced to stand away from white folk.  Millions fought for their right to be recognized as humans who are just like anyone else.  The world didn't end because they earned those rights; the world did change though, and now it needs to change again.  Marriage Equality is just like that battle and it is time we begin to see that the Constitution really does mean that everyone is entitled to the pursuit of happiness.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Social Media

I work in a small office and generally, we take time during lunch to peruse Facebook and Twitter. Occasionally we share things we see through those mediums and it occurred to me the other day that I get most of my news from Facebook postings. I do look at my local paper online, but I really can't stand their website, so I tend to look at their phone or tablet app which gives me the news articles without the annoying pop-up ads.  I also listen to KYW, but it is in the morning when I am getting ready so my concentration is not there.  

I thought that learning things through social media was akin to learning all my news from the slanted Fox News, but I think that the reality is that the news that I get is more varied; more subject to truth and opinion from people I trust.  I don't really think it is that bad to get information on what is happening around me via that medium. Since I was a communications major in college I learned that Marshal McLuhan said "the medium is the message".  It was introduced in his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964. Hot medium, such as movies make more of an impact on the viewer than cold medium, like television.  I would suspect that Facebook and Twitter would be considered a cold medium, one that can loose part of the message due to the distractions possible when viewing television.  I wonder what he  would say about social media today. But the fact of the matter is that social media, cold or warm, engages people to connect and opinion.

I know this medium has a permanent place in our culture now and I would not be surprised to find that others learn about what is going on through their own "friends". The people we connect with through social media have become our reporters and editors in the world around us.  We trust their content, probably more than the content from paid media, because we have more of a connection with them and trust them.   

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Childless

I came across an article the other day about living child-free. It was stated that America's birth rate has declined 9% from 2007 to 2011.  I find that terribly interesting.  I also wonder if it is by choice or by fertility issues due to environmental stresses. Apparently from the article 1 in 5 American women end up child-less.  I have two friends who fall into this category.  One was very driven by her career and kind of "lost track of time" and the other made a conscious decision with her husband to not have children because she felt that the world was too screwed up to bring a child into.  Both of these women are in their 50s now so it is unlikely that they will change their status.

I can somewhat understand the reasoning for the decision not to have children because of the condition of this planet. It is screwed up and I often wonder if my decision to have a child was wrong.  My son is not in the best of places but I love him to pieces and feel as if I am leaving a piece of myself behind.  I sometimes wish I would have had more children, but my husband and I decided that one was enough.  It was further "enforced" for lack of a better word because I had all kinds of problems getting pregnant to the point of even possibly needing surgery to accomplish nature to take its course.  Maybe God was telling me something. But whatever the reason, I am happy I have my son and I pray for him every day.  It does give me something to live for and I kind of can't picture myself without a child.

I understand completely those women who make this decision, or in some cases have his decision made for them as they are unable to have children. But it seems as if many people cannot accept it.  The article goes on to say that many childless women get flack from everyone about it. I suppose that having children is in our human nature to survive, but sometimes ever though our species are designed to procreate, many people I see should have made the decision to be childless rather than neglect the children they have.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Update - Bike Rack

So a while ago I posted about my attempts to get a bike rack for the rear of my bike to put my backpack on.  I managed to craft something that worked rather well this morning.

I went to Michael's craft shop and found a set of 1 1/2 inch wide D rings and canvass binding tape.  I was looked for a more substantial webbing, but they didn't have it.  I put the D rings on one end of about a 3 foot section and sewed the end flaps down.  I then threaded the straps through the spring loaded section in the center of the bike rack figuring that the pressure would hold the strap in place.  To use it, I put the backpack on the rack and fastened the straps around it cinching it tightly.  Since the binding is very thin, the cloth bunches up in the D ring, but it held enough to get me to work.

I will have to look for a better strap material, but in the meantime it works well enough to hold it on the rack.  My main concern was not only holding it on, but causing me to have a different ride with the load on the back.  The rack is rated for up to 5 pounds and the backpack is no where near that weight, but I have never really ridden with any load on the back so I was concerned that I would be unable to handle the weight distribution.  I hardly felt it and whenever I stopped I had to reach back to make sure it was still there!  So here I am with my clothes change in the front basket and the backpack on the back rack.  I feel like a real bike commuter!

Friday, August 2, 2013

This Little Town of Mine

Last night when I got home from work, we heard siren after siren which we thought were fires.  I have a scanner app on my tablet and tuned in, but I didn't hear anything other than a breathing problem situation at a street in the east end of town. This morning I went to the local Patch.com website and saw there was a shooting not far from my home, a drunken person who crashed into a day care center in the afternoon, and an article about a motorcycle being stolen, recovered, and then stolen again. Facebook didn't give any clues either.

The town I live in has its fair share of crime.  Most of it is minor, vandalism stuff but in the last few years there have been more and more shootings.  I suspect that many of the shootings have to do with drugs, but since I am not in that scene or have guns, I wouldn't know what causes people to want to shoot each other.

Many people have been complaining that there is too much crime and I agree.  It is not an easy problem to fix and there is no easy solution.  I think that more jobs could work toward less, but I also think that people need to take a stake in protecting their blocks by calling the police and actually testifying if they witness crimes happening.  There are stories after stories of towns taking back their communities by standing up to criminals but it is not easy.  Until people stand up for what they believe in and not hide behind their front doors, status quo will remain.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Different Routine

For the last few weeks I have been commuting to work on my bike.  I live approximately a mile from the office and thought it is a shame to drive that short distance when I am able to commute without my car.  I do have a large hill to climb on the way in, but I am getting better at it over time. Plus I am using my mountain bike rather than my road bike, and the knobby tires make it a little more challenging. This past weekend, I put a rack on the back and my intention was to put my backpack on the rack and put my change of clothes bag in the basket on the front.  The bungee cords I have, however, did not go around the backpack so I tried putting the bag on the rack and cinching it down with the bungee cords.  At first everything was fine.  Then right on the hill I felt a pulling and noticed that one of the bungee cords had come undone and was being wrapped around the wheel.  Not good!!!  Fortunately I caught it in time before either I or the bike got hurt (translation - fall down).

I guess Plan B is in order. What Plan B is, I am really not sure but I have been doing some experimentation in my head to dream up ways that I can accomplish this.  My thought is two belts of sort that can be threaded through the rack's structure and attached around the backpack. I haven't tried it yet because I don't have the belts I was thinking of.  I have to do further research. I am also not sure how the backpack on the back will affect my balance on the bike. I know it will be different, but I am not sure how.

However, the fact of riding to work has more pluses that minuses for me.  I get some exercise, fresh air, get to see what is going on around, and save a ton on gas.  On the flip side, I have to bring a change of clothes to work with me because I get sweaty even in that short time frame and I really can't do any lunchtime errands out of town unless I plan for that.  I even imagine that once the weather cools down I won't have to bring a change so that con will be out the window, so to speak.  It is a challenge to ride in traffic, but I am dealing with it rather nicely.  All in all, I think I have made a good decision to use this alternative.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Destruction

I used to think squirrels were cute.  However, these ears of corn that are pictured, are the only ears of corn that I got this summer.  Why?  I had planted several rows of corn back in cold March and some more in April - which the malicious little rats with bushy tails quickly attacked and dug up.  The plants got nice and tall but one by one they disappeared at the hands of those nasty creatures in my yard. For a while, the corn bed had a fence around it, but part of the fence was a cast off metal one and my husband noted that the squirrels could sit on the top and munch as the ears were at that level.  So we took the fence down.  Bad mistake. The next day - after I picked these four - the rest of the bed was destroyed.

Most of my gardening life is centered around trying to fend of various animals who are intent on devouring my food.  I throw out scraps plenty of times but I suppose they are not enamored of those even though the food quickly disappears.  No, if they can get into my garden, they love to nibble most anything that I have planted.  I did resort to shrouding my fruiting bushes with netting to protect the berries from the birds, and my vegetable garden is surrounded by construction fencing that is stapled to wooden stakes around the beds so that the groundhogs won't get in under the fence. But this year's corn was kind of open until we put the makeshift fencing up. Next year we plan to cover it completely in either netting or a thin row cover.

The squirrels are the bane of my gardening life.  They also dig in the flower gardens, as well as flower pots.  I have a large planter of day lilies and after I had added some bulbs in it, huge chunks of dirt, along with the new bulbs were missing shortly thereafter.  Of course they get at my bird feeders and almost completely destroyed one that was made of wood.  They dug up my tulip bulbs despite my little piles of small logs on top of the newly planted items.  Short of getting a gun I am kind of at my wit's end. I may just end up posting recipes for squirrel at some point.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Mindful Eating

Yesterday I had an engaging conversation on Facebook about a product that contained mostly chemicals. My husband had brought the container home because a coworker drinks it and he wanted me to check out the label.  The third ingredient in this powder is propylene glycol.  I looked that up online and found that  which is used as an antifreeze and to absorb water, which I posted online asking the question "Why would anyone in their right mind want to ingest this?"  My Facebook friends and I went back and forth about what people should be eating.

As you know for the last year or so I have been advocating, and trying, to maintain a whole foods diet.  Occasionally I do "fall off the wagon" and eat something that is off the track for that, but generally I am pretty good about processed stuff.  When you think about it, most of what we eat is processed, i.e. cooking, or prepared, even meat is processed to a point as we don't just sink our teeth into the side of a cow or something.  But I am pretty good about staying away from foods that have chemicals in them because I try to read the labels for the foods I buy.

Some of these chemicals that are in the foods on the shelves at the grocery store are really scary when you read about them. Sure they don't generally put a whole lot of the stuff in, but even a small amount can change your internal balance.  The human body is an incredible system with a delicate balance that should be maintained by giving it the fuel it needs.  While I sometimes I would love to just take a pill that supplies all my nutritional needs, purely as a matter of saving time used in food preparation, the body needs to have its fuel delivered the way it was designed.  And while I am not where near the image of ideal health I think I am moving toward that direction rather than away.  The standard American diet is killing us IMHO and it is time to get back to basics.  This means voting with our pocketbook and not buying crap to eat.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Historic Day

I wept with joy as I read the many tweets and Facebook posts about what D. Bruce Hanes did yesterday in Montgomery County, PA.  But the one that really got me going was the interview on the Rachel Maddow Show that a friend posted there.  Mr. Hanes granted marriage licenses for five same-sex marriage in despite of Pennsylvania's ban on Gay Marriage. My tears were not only for the historic event this was, but for the freedom that the county I live in is allowing everyone who lives here.

Same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue plain and simple.  It is right for a couple in a committed relationship to be able to have that relationship recognized by the law like anyone else's.  The right to allow survivor benefits, the right to provide medical decisions for each other, the right to raise a family, among others. It is just unthinkable to me that those couples would not be allowed those rights simply because they are the same sex.

I know this incidence is not going to be a one day story.  As I write this one of my good friends is planning his own wedding.  He and his partner have been together for 28 years and they did have a religious commitment ceremony several years ago.  He told me that when they stand before their minister and recite their vows on the steps of the county courthouse that it is an act of civil disobedience more than anything else. But I think it is so much more and I will weep tears of joy again as I witness their legal union.

Monday, July 22, 2013

No Mow Lawn

Today a friend of mine came into the office and I suddenly noticed that he was looking all tan and summer-like.  I had not seen him in a while so I asked him if he got the tan on a vacation or in his backyard mowing.  He sighed and said the later, to which he added that he hated doing the mowing.  He made some jokes about being an elected official and therefore should be easy to find someone to do the lawn for him to which we all laughed.  I then brought him over to my computer and proceeded to show him site after site about the lawn reform movement.

There are many people who have decided that turf is not all that desirable any longer.  There is too much work for very little benefit, and I totally agree.  I personally don't mow the lawn because a) I don't have the time, and b) am allergic to grass.  But my husband does this job and even though he complains bitterly about it I think we secretly enjoys doing it.  He not only mows our lawn, but helps out our elderly neighbors and others who just don't do it right in his opinion.  I have been trying to convince him to make the big change, but he is reluctant to do so.  So I have been slowly adding things to the backyard which reduces the amount of grass we have.

I think the whole concept of a golf-green lawn is so totally overrated.  For one thing in order to get all that green grass, one has to put chemicals on it which greatly affects the ecosystem and could possibly be making the environment poisonous. But there are far more pleasurable ways to spend the afternoon IMHO, and one way would be to plant plants which will create a more beautiful yard than all that grass.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Frankencorn

From the what have they done to our food section, the article I read this morning puts a lot of questions in my mind about the safety of our food.  Christina Pirello presents things about the wonderful summer corn that we all enjoy this time of year, and what GMOs have done is truly disconcerting.  I am not sure I want to engage in this game of Russian Roulette on my health.  I am taking the time to buy organic corn, when I can find it, and growing my own.

I have never grown corn before and this is really more of an experiment than anything else, but I can see little ears starting on my stalks.  The corn is sequestered in this new little raised bed surrounded by fencing so the squirrels don't get to it.  This picture is weeks old and the corn is now much taller than the fence.  My husband remarked when he got home from work the other day that the corn fields he saw were as tall as mine is, so we are on track.

I am excited to be able to pick my own corn that was grown under conditions I know about except whether the seed was actually organic because I bought these before I knew about the dangers of GMO seeds.  But next cycle when I plant more, not having had some experience, I will make sure to plant organic corn rather than treated corn.  Again, as I have said before, we need to speak with our wallets to make sure we are getting food that is helping us to survive and not making us sick.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Whole Foods

When I was at my last employer, they provided an online course for their employees on the Mediterranean Diet Plan with Dr. Will Clower. If you don't know the program it is a way to lose weight and get healthier by eating better food, also known as the French Don't Diet Plan.  I blogged about this previously. I came across another nutritionist recently named Patrick Quillin, when my mother gave me the book Wisdom of Whole Foods.  I read this over the weekend and fell in love with the premise.

Many of you may know that for a while I have been touting the benefits of eating real foods; those that don't have preservatives in them or at the very least without high fructose corn syrup.  This book really goes into the reasons why those things are so bad for you and also talks about the benefits of certain foods including things to eat to prevent cancer.  For example, I had no idea that pineapple and mushrooms reduce inflammation.  This book is quite detailed on those benefits.

I urge you to read it, or at least review the website.  There is so much in the foods that nature has provided us, rather than ingesting so many chemicals.  Why wouldn't you try something that could extend your life longer and live healthy?  I am so convinced that we are killing ourselves as a nation by all the crap in our food system.  We can vote with our pocketbooks by not buying it and sooner or later the manufacturers of food will realize we no longer want their products. We have the capability to reduce illness in ourselves and I think we owe it to ourselves to try.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bale Gardening

I cam across an article about bale gardening the other day. It is a method where you condition a bale of straw and then plant in it.  The picture in the article showed a bale strapped to a city apartment railing with all kinds of vegetables growing out of it.  It is an ingenious way to contain plants on a balcony and grow your own food in the city.  I don't have an apartment, but it would be cool to try this method in my garden for some of the things that I want to grow.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Green Smoothie

A couple of weeks ago, my mother bought me a Vitamix blender.  It is a very high powered blender that can do much more than a regular blender.  I had seen them demonstrated at Wegman's when I went and they were doing all kinds of things with it.  The thing is pretty costly, and I was not going to buy one for myself, so when my mom called and asked me if I wanted one, I accepted.

This morning I made myself a green smoothie made from a frozen banana, two large kale leaves from the garden, some almond milk (also made in the Vitamix), a teaspoon of flax seed, and a half a mango.   It was delicious and I understand very nutritious.  My only complaint is that the bottom does not come off unless you have the special tool and that makes it a little hard to clean unless you make something that is mostly liquid.  My regular blender does that and it is very convenient for cleaning.

I have not done many of the things that the rather lengthy instruction manual suggested and I may not ever use it totally to its potential.  For example, you can even grind grains, which I may try if I ever grow wheat. But it sure grinds up a frozen banana quite efficiently.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hurt Finger PIzza

Several of you know that last week, while trying to make pizza from scratch, I cut my finger badly on the blade of my mandolin slicer. I decided that I wanted to make pizza again and this time I was unwilling to wait for it to rise.  Besides I have been trying to find fool proof recipe for flat bread pizza so I thought this would be a good opportunity to experiment.  I looked through various cookbooks to find a flat bread without yeast and found one that just had flour, salt, and water.  Since my finger is still in the bandage, not to mention sensitive to touching things, I was somewhat unable knead the dough.  What to do?  Ah, the Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook to the rescue!  The resulting dough was very sticky but it seemed to work out pretty well.

I cooked the toppings for the pizza because I didn't want too much moisture from the tomatoes on the crust.  Besides, I have read that cooking tomatoes reduced the natural acids in them and helps with digestion.  I also don't like raw-ish veggies on pizza.  I sliced up one plum tomato and one regular tomato because that's what I had, one yellow onion, diced one large clove of garlic, and segmented one slice of roasted red pepper and cooked them in a little oil until the onion was translucent and then spooned it out onto the crust. I added some fresh basil leaves and slices of fresh mozzarella to the top.  You can use anything you want for the toppings.  I usually use what I have left over in the fridge.

Anyway, here is the recipe for the crust:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees.

Put all the ingredients into the mixer and fit it with the dough hook.  Mix until the dough is coming away from the bowl.  You may need to add a little more flour.

Coat a pizza stone with olive oil and also two rubber scrapers.  Turn the dough out from the bowl onto the stone and spread it to a thin circle leaving at least 1/2 inch of a boarder on the stone.  You may need to put more oil on the scrapers as the dough is very sticky.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the flat bread is somewhat brown on the edges.  Remove the stone with the dough and add your pizza toppings and put back in until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.  Let cool after removing for about 5 minutes before cutting.



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cell Phone

I recently upgraded my phone plan and acquired a Samsung Galaxy Stratosphere cell phone.  I thought long and hard about an iPhone, but that would have been $100 more and I think my data plan would have changed.  I wanted a physical keyboard and the Samsung was free with my upgrade and was one of the few models that has a slide out keyboard. I have had the phone for a few weeks now and really like it.  Typing on it is much easier for me than it was on the Motorola Droid X that I had previously so I haven't used the slide out keyboard that much at all.  The phone is 4G and is quick and responsive for the most part.  In addition, since my tablet is a Samsung, the interface is pretty much identical so the learning curve is very slight.

There are several things I like better on this phone than the Droid.  As I mentioned before, typing on the screen is easier but typing on the slide out keyboard is not.  The layout is slightly different than the Droid and my fingers have not gotten used to that yet, but since the typing - especially with the Swpe interface - is so easy, I don't have to use it.  I have noticed that the camera on this phone is better than the Droid and I can zoom before taking the picture by pinching the screen until I get the ratio I want.  I also like the screen resolution; it is bright and very easy to see.  The phone is slightly larger than the Droid, especially with the protective case, so I am still getting used to the size difference and how it fits in my pocket.

Most of my apps downloaded "automagically" when I set up the phone, which I also noticed on the Droid after I had gotten a replacement phone; but not all of them.  I am not sure why, but that is kind of a pain as I go looking for the app and then have to download it again, and in some cases find it on Google Play and then download. In one case, when I went into Google Play it gave me the option to uninstall or update which meant it was on the phone already and then I had to go looking for it.  I think the phone has a search option for apps but I haven't found it yet.  The home screen set up is really nicely and allows for three different "pages" for your most frequently used apps but I think I noticed that when I download a new app it creates an icon for that new app on one of those pages so now the pages are somewhat disorganized.  I don't really use them as they are intended, so it is not really a big deal. It kind of annoyed me that there were some apps that Samsung included icons for that I really don't want like Amex Store and some games.  They are not the apps, they are shortcuts to download the apps, or demo versions of the app, and they take up screen real estate.  When you go to remove them, the phone gives you a scary message that deleting them will somehow cause your phone to have issues.

Today, however, the phone got jammed and rebooted itself.  I did notice that I had gotten a notification that an upgrade was due so maybe there was some small memory thing that was going on as to why it did that. When the Droid was getting older, the phone would freeze up often so I am hoping there is nothing wrong so early on.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Teach a Man to Fish

There was another cleanup this weekend.  This one was on a block that is well known for problems both because it looks so bad, has several vacant properties, and has a lot of crime.  I arrived a little late because I wasn't really sure which intersection everyone was meeting at, and I parked further away than I wanted.  There was a slightly smaller crowd this time and I only saw four people who were at the last one.

During the time I was there, I took a small break for a cup of water and to get out of the blistering heat for a bit.  I sat down next to a man who was sitting under the canopy drinking water and talking to some of the people there.  I introduced myself and he said that he lived on that block and had come over looking for work but when he found there was no pay he was uninterested.  I was floored.  This was his block, I explained.  What happened to the "pay" of doing a good job for the community?  He just looked at me probably thinking I was daft.  Later that morning, another man came over and asked if there were jobs available and when I said no and asked if he was a resident of the block he said he was not interested.

I was hoping that part of the project was to get the neighbors to help themselves after the first initial push.  I know the young man who is heading up this project and he has gotten some volunteers to sign up from the neighborhoods where he is working, but I don't understand the whole mentality of keeping you own block clean. Isn't that what a neighborhood is all about?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Appalling

I just read an article that really riled me.  State Representative Sims (D), the first openly gay legislator for Pennsylvania, was not allowed to comment after the Supreme Court made their ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  The person who silenced him, and the other legislators who rose to defend his ability to speak, was State Representative. Daryl Metcalfe (R) citing that Sims was speaking against God's law.  Honestly?Rachel Maddow, the author of the article correctly states that there is a separation of Church and State, and regardless of that, anyone should be able to speak on the floor. But, apparently there is no freedom of speech in the state house. I find hard to believe as well.  

I greatly applaud the Supreme Court's decision on DOMA. I strongly believe that this is a civil rights issue more than anything else.  Civil unions are not the same thing as marriage and therefore are lacking in the ability for each couple to inherit, attend to medical issue, or cover each other's property. This is the major crux of the situation

If you want to bring God into this discussion consider this point; we are all God's children are we not?  So why don't we reward the children of God to have the same rights?  This goes for everyone, which we have all heard are equal in our Constitution.  This business about some being more equal than others flies in the face of what I have been taught as a Quaker.  I just hope that we get over ourselves and begin to realize that we should all be given the same rights as an American citizen and move on to other issues.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

EverNote

For the last year I have been using an app called EverNote.  For those users of OneNote from Microsoft, it is very similar.  I also found out that Google has a similar product called Keeper.  All of these apps are available on every platform; PC, tablet, and phone as well as having the ability to sync between the platforms. They are all electronic notebooks where you can keep notes, pictures, and website clips all in one spot. The data is stored in the cloud so you never will be without it.

They recently came out with another function for EverNote, called EverNote Hello.  This is a way to track your human interactions by being able to scan their business card, or connect with them when you are in physical proximity by pairing your phone with them.  The idea is that if you are in a meeting with a group of people you can keep the contacts from that meeting and the minutes from the meeting all in one place.  Of course, it will also sync with LinkedIn and Facebook so that you can maintain a social network presence at the same time.  The idea is great, but the business card scanning, which is what I downloaded it for, does not work on my Android phone or my 5th generation older iPod Touch. Apparently the scanning feature doesn't work well enough for a "pleasant experience". I found a way to overcome that by using the main EverNote app to take a picture of the card because I don't want to merge these people into my personal contacts and every other app for business card scanning provides that feature.

I like EverNote a lot.  I have found the syncing can cause problems.  For example, I created a note with a few business cards on my phone and tried to sync them so I could update on the PC through their web interface.  After exiting the app on the phone I went to the PC but only two of the four were there.  It said I had a network problem.  I am sure I can clear that up when I get back home this evening and connect with my home network.  The nice feature I noticed was that one card that was scanned last night from an event that I attended, tagged the picture with the event name as I had just attended it and the end time had not been reached.  It was smart enough to know that I were I was.  A little creepy, but very helpful.

Bottom line is that these three apps will do the same thing.  If you use Windows 7 and above, you can do the same with OneNote.  However, if you do not use that platform, EverNote and Keep are independent of the platform and will perform very well.  My recommendation, along with a comparison article I recently read, give EverNote the highest grades.



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Self Reliance

There is a movement afoot, at least in the magazines that I read, to become more self reliant. I recently read an article about a young couple who significantly changed their lifestyle to live on a 40 acre track of land in Wisconsin.  They built their own home and are living life pretty much off the grid.  It seems like a hard life, and I admire their tenacity.

I often kid with my husband and son that I want to be prepared when the zombie apocalypse arrives.  I want to know how to survive and live off the land.  It is not really the zombie thing that makes me want to do this, but I feel that a more simple lifestyle is really better.  Truthfully, without my electronic "buddies" I would probably be lost, but slowly learning how to grow my own vegetables and make things from scratch is a healthier lifestyle more than anything else.

There is a wealth of information out there on this subject and it makes my head spin, and the more I read about it, the more impressed with just how far technology has brought us.  Whether it is a good or bad thing, only time will tell.  In the meantime, I will continue to learn a simpler, more stress-free way to live.