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, 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


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


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


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 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.