Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Michele and Sarah Rock On

I just want to advise readers this post is NOT about a lesbian couple thrilled to be able to get married in the Empire State.
Today I am expressing political opinions. Any views or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of any other live human being in the entire world.
The news networks, internet and social media are all abuzz about Michele Bachmann’s race for the Presidential nomination. Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin are the queens of ultra-conservative Republicans. The Republican right seems to be enamored of women candidates right now. I guess the public prefers pictures of Sarah’s road trip and Michele’s campaigning than film of gray-haired men making boring speeches.
I am not sure why both women have a problem with public speaking; they sometimes do not make sense and are flippant about inaccuracies and mis-speaks. Bachmann has a college education and law degree. Palin eventually completed college after attending a string of schools in Hawaii, Alaska and Idaho.
Both women, along with their Tea Party cohorts, have collective right-wing views that are chiseled in stone, inflexible and unchangeable. Bachmann seems to consistently rely on half-truths and simplified statements to make her point., a fact-checking service, looked at 24 of her statements and found only one completely true and 17 false; seven were “pants on fire” false. Benjamin Franklin said, “Half a truth is often a great lie”.  I don’t know about you, but I do not like to be misled.
Bachmann’s and Palin’s ideas and views of the world are very different from mine, but that does not necessarily mean one of us is entirely right and the other completely wrong. I like James Madison’s quote,”As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed.” Let’s agree to disagree.
Bachmann's positions do not exactly champion the little guy; she wants to make sure BP doesn’t get “fleeced” in their oil spill settlement, expressed her wish to eliminate Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, voted NO on energy tax credits and incentives, NO to expanding children’s health care programs, and NO on extending AMT exemptions to avoid hitting middle-class families – and I thought she was FOR tax cuts.
My take on the Tea Party/Republican game-playing is that Palin wants to play king or queen-maker.  She loves being the center of attention, as long as it is on her terms.
Meanwhile mainstream Republicans look askance at this whole situation. They realize a Bachman or similar individual as their Presidential candidate would have a slim to none chance of actually winning the White House. Yet they are powerless at this point. I believe they secretly hope these folks will play themselves out and leave a gap for a candidate with a chance of being elected.
In my opinion a lot of Tea Party followers are intolerant of those who do not hold their beliefs. Their philosophy can be stated as follows: my way or the highway. They did not like a black man being elected President – which was in part their fault for not raising their voices against the poor management of eight Bush years. I believe a lot of them do not want a Mormon President. They won’t say it out loud – it is definitely not the politically correct thing to do – but fundamentalist Christians are not Mormon fans. Many believe the Mormon faith is un-Christian and heretical. It was just over 50 years ago that John Kennedy ran for President and said: I hope no American will waste his franchise and throw away his vote by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant.
Let the campaign noise continue…

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Welcome Summer!

No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.
-James Russell Lowell, 1848
Summer is officially here, although it has felt that way since Memorial Day. The weather has been beautiful – sunny and warm almost every day. There was even a hot spell of 90+ temperatures. I am not sure if this means anything; hopefully the early summer does not portend an early fall and winter. I hope the warmth lasts through September…
Our neighborhood experienced some bad news yesterday. One of our local neighborhood ducks was run over and killed by a car driving much too fast down our narrow street. Maybe the driver thought the duck would fly away, maybe he did not see the animal, and maybe he did not care. But our friend did not have time to respond. Ducks mate for life, or at least this couple did--they have been around the neighborhood together for years--and I am sure his companion is very sad, lonely and distraught.
 Mr. and Mrs. LeCanard
(that's supposedly duck in French, but I never took French)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Happy Father's Day, Dad

Dad’s birthday was June 14th, and Father’s Day is Sunday. He is not around anymore to celebrate with us, but his spirit is. He died a few years ago, in his 80s, and I believe he enjoyed his life – at least most of it.
Dad’s father died when he was a toddler, and his Mom raised him and his sister. His Mom (my grandmother) never remarried. He formed a close-knit group of buddies in elementary school that remained friends throughout their lives. He grew up poor. Although so many suffered during the Depression, Dad knew he was worse off than his friends, but he never complained. He had a great disposition, looking at the positive side of things and shrugging off the problems.
He started college but left to serve in World War II. He was a radioman in Europe and wounded. After the war he returned to New York City, went to work, married Mom, had two daughters, and completed college during the 1950s by attending City College night classes. Advertising his profession, he worked for several agencies, including for a short time his own.
Mom and Dad experienced money problems during the 1960s as inflation rampaged, but after my sister and I left the nest and graduated from college, they traveled, participated in Elderhostel programs, and took the grandchildren on trips. Between trips, volunteer activities and social events they fit us in and saw us once in a while.
Eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the last few years were difficult, especially for Mom. But it was COPD that got Dad in the end. His heart and lungs wore out, but it was a blessing compared to suffering the ravages of what Alzheimer’s does to its victims at the end.
Almost up to the very end Dad played blackjack; the few seconds it took to play was enough time for him to complete a hand, often successfully. But he frequently did not remember where he was. One time he went to the casino hotel desk and said he could not remember his room number. He was not staying at the hotel. 

Another time he wandered off and got lost in the parking garage (which a lot of us do occasionally, including me). He called us on the cell phone. We told him to hand the phone to anyone near him wearing a uniform. He found a security guard and we told the guard not to let Dad get away. 

Then there was the time – pre-9-11 – he drove a rental car through a metal fence and onto the runway at West Palm Beach Airport. He kept driving until he found the way out.
Dad was in and out of the hospital with COPD and related ailments for years. He and Mom were  celebrating their 50th anniversary and taking the whole family to Hawaii - except Dad needed gall bladder surgery and the doctor said there was no way he could go. He insisted the rest of us (except Mom) go. The kids and grandkids had a great time, and anytime on the island cruise passengers were asked, “Who is celebrating an anniversary?” we all yelled: "We are! We are!"

One year Mom threw him Dad a birthday bash, but he was in the hospital and the hospital would not release him. I think it was his 83rd birthday. Hub and Mom went to the hospital, checked him out and brought him home. (We figured, what was the worst that could happen?) He loved the celebration with all his friends and family. 

Happy Father's Day, Dad. We love you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Men and Women--Venus and Mars Revisited

No one knows the answer to the question: Why are men and women wired so differently? My hub and I have been married over 39 years, yet there are still times when we believe we are having a chat about the same topic, only to discover we are actually into different discussions. I have learned not to change the topic mid-sentence, or he is totally lost. I have to be specific about people I am talking about – he gets thoroughly confused with the ‘he’s and ‘she’s. I will be discussing one she and he believes I am talking about the she mentioned several sentences back. I try to be specific, pausing before changing subjects and using names whenever I remember, but casual conversation does not work that way. It is more a stream of consciousness than premeditated speech.
Hub is also not adept at filling in the blanks. I might mention an individual and make a comment. He is once again at a loss unless I tell him specifically the context in which the comment refers. Other individuals in on the conversation – other women – understand perfectly and follow my conversation without missing a beat. Hub throws up his hands, shakes his head and says he has no idea what I am talking about. The rest of us (women) just roll our eyes and attempt to carefully fill in the blanks so he can once again understand what is going on.
MarketWatch essay by David Weidner brought this issue to my attention. I was drawn to the piece because, as an ex-financial adviser, I am interested in men and women’s differing investment perspectives. The bottom line, according to the article, is that men make bad decisions. The article mentions a few of the many sex scandals in recent years in which politicians found themselves embroiled, the Anthony Weiner fiasco just the latest in a long line of sordid revelations.
Getting back to the heart of the story, the report suggests that women are better investors than men. Women are more disciplined, have more self-control and handle pain better (the world does not come to an end when a man gets the sniffles). I doubt the pain part has anything to do with being a better investor but is a truism I cannot resist mentioning.
I am not sure what the point of all this is. Everyone knows men and women are different. Perhaps an awareness of at least some of the differences can help close the gap between misunderstanding and misinterpretation and lead to understanding each other a bit better. Or at least being able to follow each other’s conversation.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

One Summer Daze in the Big Apple

It is not officially summer, but the weather gods don’t know that, or just don’t care. Record-breaking heat on the East coast has my flowers wilting and early veggies sagging in the hot sun. Some of us procrastinators tear through closets and bins in search of summer gear.
On a day New York City is supposed to break 100, I leave my beach town bungalow for the steamy streets of Manhattan. The date was arranged weeks ago and could not be changed.
Arriving in Port Authority bus terminal, I slowly made my way to the street and a slow trek downtown to Greenwich Village. Before leaving the terminal I detoured to the ladies room. Do you have any idea how difficult it can be to find an accessible rest room on the streets of Manhattan!? One tip I have learned is that rest rooms are on the upper floors of department stores.  
I walked over to Broadway, staying on the shady side of the street, then Fifth Avenue. I wandered into some interesting-looking stores, including two vintage clothing shops. I just had to keep reminding myself – I am in the big city. Don’t look too shocked at the prices. I passed the Museum of Sex. There was no way I was going in alone; this was a place to be experienced with a couple of girlfriends. (For anyone interested, it is at the corner of 27th and Fifth Avenue.)
I arrived in the Village, hot and tired, a couple of hours after leaving the bus terminal. I found an air-conditioned café, cooled off, then meandered through streets populated with unusual boutiques, cafes, wine bars, ethnic eateries, tattoo parlors and a variety of other funky shops. I love being a tourist in the big city!
I was meeting a friend; a children’s author and playwright. A new play of hers was being previewed following a one week workshop at NYU. I came to New York to see a rehearsal; I was unable to get to the city for the official opening production.
My friend and I had an early dinner and headed over to the theater. As a newbie writer I am interested in all of the behind-the-scenes goings-on of a stage production….the original play-on-paper never before subjected to the spoken word; actors attempting to interpret the words for the first time; the playwright rewriting all night; the Director overseeing the production and the stage crew figuring out what to do. Then it miraculously all comes together (although sometimes it doesn’t) as the lights dim and the curtain rises.
The play, Walking Toward America, by Sandy Asher, is a poignant tale based on the true story of a girl’s journey with her family from Latvia across Eastern Europe during World War II. The story begins as a happy four year old chatters about a family holiday get-together and moves on to the threat of the Russian army moving into Latvia and the family moving out. The girl’s father, a soldier in the Latvian army, refuses to join the Russian or the German army. The family survives years of war and refugee camps; the little girl of four at the beginning of the play is 17 when her family finally arrives in America. The woman, members of her family and friends are all descending on New York this weekend to see the play. I believe they will enjoy it immensely. Good luck on the premier of your play, Sandy (or should I say break a leg…).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

There are Shortcuts to Happiness and Dancing is One of Them

A quote by Austrian writer Vicki Baum (1888-1960).

I have achieved an epic time in life. It is the time when I am going to do some things I want to do because I want to do them, ridiculous as they may be.

And so I dance.

Apparently I am not alone to come to dance late in life. Socrates learned to dance at the age of seventy because he felt that an 'essential part of himself had been neglected'.

There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.  - Edwin Denby

I am the one on the floor. Somehow seems appropriate for the old lady of the group.

We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. - Japanese proverb

There are no pictures of me in my Zumba sweats. Thank goodness. For those non-exercisers out there Zumba is a dance-exercise class, choreographed to music, based on Latin dances. Nowadays all kinds of music is used (at least where I take classes). A recent addition to our music is Lady Gaga's Born This Way. I am not a Lady Gaga fan, but dancing to this song is a lot of fun. I read today that the song has been banned in Lebanon. More accurately, authorities impounded the albums upon arrival in Lebanon--Lebanon does not officially censor music, books, etc. Apparently the song is "offensive to Christianity". I think the government should spend more time on the real problems of the country.

Meanwhile I will think about other ridiculous things I want to do (besides dance).

Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today. James Dean 

Friday, June 3, 2011

R.I.P. Lenovo Thinkpad - Almost

My laptop spent the past two days in the computer hospital. I was working yesterday morning when my screen suddenly froze and a box appeared:
Critical error.
Restart computer immediately.
I quickly closed programs, shut down, waited a minute and restarted. A larger box appeared on a black screen:
Critical errors. Perform diagnostics.
I clicked the continue rectangle and the machine immediately began doing something. A list of problems appeared. Next to each item on the list eventually appeared one of two messages – problem resolved, or correction failed.
Most problems were not corrected. I tried shutting down and rebooting again. Same diagnostics occurred. That was it. I was stumped. I called my computer geek, Scott, owner of a small company less than half a mile from my house called PC Medic. I immediately packed up and dashed out the door.
I am not a new PC Medic customer. This is my fourth visit in a few months. The first time I called Scott in desperation was following a lengthy phone call - well over two hours - with what I thought was Lenovo tech support. It turned out to be some outsource company in India. Anyway, they could not figure out on the phone how to fix whatever ailed my computer.  One solution suggested was to send them the machine. I hung up and decided to find help closer to home.
This time Scott immediately diagnosed the problem as a virus of unknown origin that had infiltrated the computer. My up-to-date virus ware was not fool-proof, Scott informed me, and this one was especially sneaky and virulent. He would work on the problem.
This afternoon the long-awaited call came. I recognize the fact that I can be very impatient and anxious when it comes to my computer—I feel lost without it. Returning from the computer hospital yesterday morning I realized I had an entire day to reschedule. I completed some much-needed and valuable tasks, such as gardening and dinner. I also managed to do some of the things I always put off, like paperwork and cleaning…
 My computer was once again up and running. Scott was ready to leave the office for the day. He offered to deliver my machine and appeared on my doorstep about 15 minutes later. We turned on the computer, went through a few steps to ensure it was working, and he left.
 IBM/Lenovos are supposed to be top-notch computers. I think I got a lemon. I have only had the machine 1 ½ years. It was a discontinued model; that’s why it was a bargain.
My next computer will be a Mac. My first computer was an Apple, or whatever they called it years ago, and I loved it. Then Microsoft became the software of choice for business, and I moved on. Reluctantly. Things are different now. Macs are everywhere. I am becoming old and cranky and want a Mac.
But right now my computer is fixed and seems to be working fine. We will see what happens. All I have to do is be sure to save my work on an external stick or other device often – just in case. And salt away funds for that Mac.