Saturday, November 22, 2014

Division

Dividing can sometimes be positive. Once I divided my blogs into purposes, it made writing in this one a once a week thing. Yes, that cut the visitors as many want a more frequent entry, but I like how it's creatively been working for me.

One thing about blogging is I never wanted to live my life for a blog. It can almost become reality TV in how it feels in trying to do things that might be interesting to write about. I have, in the past, read a few blogs where they share all their life there. I never wanted to do that. Basically I have this blog for ideas that are of a general nature and to share photographs I especially like.

From this original blog, there have been offshoots. There is one blog for my writing, the philosophy behind what I write, and the creative life. For awhile it was three times a week but I took it down to twice a week to give myself a break.

Then there are three more blogs specifically about the books. Those blogs only change if I add a book. Because I find many creative processes interesting, I have three blogs that are just for book trailers, photo or discussion videos. They also don't change very often.

Finally, there is one blog that deals with politics. Because I had already taken the name Rainy Day Things for a blog that didn't end up being much of anything, it became Rainy Day Rant. I called it the rant to alert those who don't like rants-- and those who would like to rant a little themselves. It has no schedule but only gets an entry when the mood strikes. I could have written there a lot this week as I listened to mostly righties (but a few lefties) rant over the immigration order even before Obama issued it.

Last week I redid the banner for Rant, taking a current picture of me here in Tucson to make clear who is responsible for its content. I am thinking I may change that banner every now and again just because it's fun to do. Currently it has one of Tucson's more spectacular sunsets as a backdrop.


Does it help to rant? Maybe or maybe not. I find it helps me to voice my opinion most especially when I know that it's about all I can do. I read a lot of newspapers and pundits. Sometimes I comment on an article but when I do, I hold my breath (figuratively speaking) as I wait for the insults-- which sometimes but not always come. The world of social media isn't always friendly

There are times I am more involved with what is going on politically and culturally. There are times I tune it out when I just can't handle it. Rants naturally happen the most when I've been reading both sides of what I consider to be an important issue. 

I like a saying, roughly paraphrased-- are you part of the solution or the problem, if you aren't either, let it go. To write my thoughts on what should be done about something can be part of the solution-- a tiny part. Interestingly when something is bugging me and I write about it, I then tend to release it. I like to be informed but removed emotionally from being upset. When I can't do that, I pull back.

When I am writing and researching something new, I tend to pay less attention to what's going on around me. Writing a new book, where I am thinking of what happens next, what are the details along the way, can be so absorbing that the world disappears. 

When, as I decided November would be, I am reading other people's books, I am more open to thinking about the partisan mess that we have gotten ourselves into. I don't have responsibility for these books unless I opt to write a review. I write reviews only when I can give it four or five stars If it's something that really doesn't work for me, I  delete it when I am finished. I am not about to tell some other reader that what I didn't like, they won't.

Because we are a divided nation on almost every issue you can think of, some might think our time is the most divisive they have seen; but if you think back to when this nation was a colony of Great Britain, some wanted us to form our own nation and some wanted to stay part of Great Britain. That led to a hard fought war and not just with Great Britain but within Americans.

Then there was the Civil War, certainly a bitter time and of extreme violence. Not all wanted a war even then; and when it came, not all agreed, even today, as to why it was fought.

We've had times where Congress had legislators physically fighting or even having duels. So maybe our divide today is a consequence of how this country was created, through the crucible of violence, and from how many places we have come. 

Right now, it's not just us experiencing this violence and division. If you read foreign newspapers, you know that it's widespread. Perhaps it is the very nature of humans. I keep hoping it can change but maybe it won't. 

What I mostly would like is if people could discuss the issues that divide us with attention to what each believes should be done-- without insults. That rarely happens even in the media. The media, which is so widespread today, unfortunately, benefits from dissension. They encourage it as it makes for rating jumps. 

So if we are going to change things, it will have to be us doing it-- as individuals. Getting together and talking about what we think should be done and giving our reasons without assuming everyone else is an idiot when they disagree. Supposedly Town Halls were going to do that but they ended up more a place to rant without the logic. Insults and nastiness don't get us anywhere. It's possible that even talking without anger can't change anything because the division is just too deep. It's not as simple as just putting up a new blog.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

changes


When we got to Arizona, the first project had to be in the kitchen. We have a couple who look after the home when we are not here. They had told us about the leak from the hose that feeds the ice-maker. Because it had been discovered early, we didn't expect catastrophic damage as we'd had two years before. 

Once Ranch Boss pushed out the stove and refrigerator, it turned out to be worse. Mold went part way up the wall. Some of the cabinetry wood had been ruined by the water and mold. So began a week and a half of tearing apart and then rebuilding. The stove and refrigerator had to be moved, cabinets emptied of pans and food, then taken outside, wallboard cut away, a working mask to be purchased, and plastic sheeting used to wall off the working area. 

Although this mold did not look like the toxic black mold, it was black, and the only way to discern the difference is with microscope; so better to be extra careful than to take the risk when scraping away mold with spores in the air. 

Next step was a paint that destroys and blocks mold returning. Every step took time between for drying. With the stove and refrigerator out of there, it was discovered the previous owners hadn't tiled the floor all the way to the wall. So that was done. 


Finally wallboard was replaced, plastered, painted and destruction could turn into construction. Between tearing down and then replacing, this was a week and a half of unexpected work. 

It won't happen again as we removed the ice maker. First leak we could say just one of those things. Second leak-- not worth having a third. The humorous part is when I thought-- how will we get ice for our vacation renters... before I remembered ice trays. Duh! I bought some of those and began making ice the way we always did before the modern advantages that aren't always advantages.

This amounted to a week and a half of work for Ranch Boss, but when finished, it looks as good as ever and is actually better because when he tore out the walls, he discovered there had been old mold there from the previous owners before we bought the house in 1999. Ice makers might be convenient, but they do have a risk attached especially for people like us who aren't always there


Regarding Toyota and our Highlander (read previous blog if you are not sure what I am referring to-- and be sure to read comments where two engineers discuss what might have led to the malfunction), it's a long drawn out process to find out if they will accept any responsibility for the near disaster. We are going through their formal process of filing a complaint, but doubt it will end up with much satisfaction-- beyond ours in never buying another Toyota of any model. 

What I want to emphasize here is if you have a vehicle with the modern computerized systems, and that turns on the cruise control-- on its own-- quickly push it into neutral. Do not turn off the key unless you are stopped as that turns off power brakes, steering and if you can believe it, even airbags. Just push it into neutral. It will slow it, and you can then get safely off the road. When in neutral, rev the engine and that can get the computerized system to reset. Then get it to a repairman as this is not a safe thing to happen even if you know what to do-- and how many of us would! 



Because Casa Espiritu is both a second home for us and a vacation rental for snow-birds, we routinely do some improvements-- ones we plan. This year it is a fence that will enable cats and small dogs to safely be outdoors. Our piece of desert is home to predators like coyotes, javelina, and bobcats. We love that it is natural desert and that so many animals live here, but it doesn't make it safe for small pets.

For now, our two cats are inside and not pleased as in Oregon they have two fenced yards to be outside a lot. Here the fenced yard is with the pool, not connected directly to the house, and that isn't the safest thing for small animals who might fall (or jump) in and not be able to get out. 

The new enclosed patio, with an attractive metal fence, will allow us to be outside with them but not require it. We didn't want a wooden one because we like being able to see the desert beyond. No fence is ideal in my mind, but sometimes they are the best option.



We've been increasing the amount of walking we are doing to try to get back in shape. It's amazing how long that can take when you are old. But by adding a few minutes each day, I believe it will happen :)
Below are photos from one of our favorite spots to do this hiking because it's nearby and easy walking-- Catalina State Park with a variety of trails.







Sunday, November 09, 2014

it all can change in a moment

Almost never do I write a blog here that isn't on Saturdays, but something happened, which I feel compelled to write about as a warning to others.

Because our son and daughter-in-law had one of their vehicles break down, we said hey, borrow our Highlander while we are gone. Saturday they drove out to get it as well as ramps he would use for fixing their vehicle.

Our daughter-in-law, with our grandsons, left the farm with the Highlander. Less than a mile from the house, going down some S curves which drop maybe 50 feet, she felt the brakes suddenly were sluggish. She stepped on them harder and at the bottom of that hill, the vehicle took off and began to gain speed-- on its own. 

We assume the cruise control kicked in. She didn't turn it on. She stepped on the brake, which should have turned off any cruise control or at least stopped the vehicle. It did not. Then she shoved her other foot as hard as she could onto the emergency brake. It barely slowed the forward momentum. 

This is a two lane, country road. About 1/4 mile from where she was, missing a bridge abutment, she came to our small, community store with a wide gravel lot. Still pushing as hard as she could on both pedals, it barely slowed the vehicle to 40 mph when she went off the highway into the lot. She circled the vehicle, trying to get it to slow or hopefully stop. Finally she had turned it toward a neighboring woodpile. She ran into it. The Highlander was still revving its engine, and she turned off the key to finally have it stop. If she had missed that woodpile, she'd have gone into the nearby river with our two grandsons in the backseat...

You can imagine how we felt after we got the phone call to tell us what happened. Still today I feel teary as I imagine the other way this could have ended.

Although I had read, and do read about any possible recalls or problems with vehicles, I had read nothing about the Highlander doing this. After some research online, it turns out that it's known to happen to the year we have at between 80-100,000 miles. Our Highlander had 85,000 miles on it with never a clue previously that this could happen by anything it had done.

Today I feel shaky as I think how lucky we were and how other families have not been. We have all read about vehicles that did this, and it ended up with deaths. This could have been the same story had it happened elsewhere. 

Our daughter-in-law has always been beloved by us. I think the world of her, but now she is also my hero for keeping her head and managing to stop that vehicle that was doing all it could to kill her and our grandsons. 

When we researched it, we learned how it is happening to the years between 2004 and 2009, and how Toyota is doing all they can to avoid paying lawsuits where death was the result. Besides being furious, I keep thinking, how could manufacturers value money above lives? I know it happens all the time with water quality, air safety, and other manufacturing malfunctions but again I keep thinking-- how can it seem cheaper to settle some lawsuits than it is to fix something that has the potential to kill people. Wouldn't you think they would at least warn owners? Where is our news media in this? Since we bought this one new, we are the only owner it has had. We should have been told even if the incidents are rare. Frankly when it's your family, it's not rare!

Even though there were no injuries from this accident, it was no thanks to the vehicle. It was a combination of happening at the right place but mostly thanks to our daughter-in-law keeping her head. This has impacted us all with stress that doesn't go away. We were lucky. Not everyone is. We haven't yet talked to Toyota about the Highlander. We will do that tomorrow. For now we will have a friend tow it back to the farm. 

Here's the thing. They say that if you turn off the key while it's driving down the road, it disables the airbags, power brakes, and the power steering. You then have no control. The only thing you can do is put it in neutral-- if you can get it there.

So, we'll let our SUV set there while we consider what to do with it. Obviously my choice would be to shove it off a cliff, but we'll see what kind of excuses we get from Toyota tomorrow. I can imagine it will be denials of responsibility. Just a fluke. Not their fault. grrrrrr Anyway, I didn't wait to write this because my reason for it doesn't relate to what our family experienced.

If you are driving a Toyota, any model, do some online research to see what other drivers have experienced. In fact, if you are driving any of these new vehicles where computers make it soooooo much better, do some research on known problems for your model. It could save yours or your loved one's lives. 

Right now I need to take some deep breaths and try to not think about how different today could have been :(.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

a window in time


Lately I have been thinking about windows of all sorts. Books can be windows to other ways of thinking. Non-fiction can take us back in history or yield ideas for living in our own time. Fiction takes us to other worlds.

Windows are more than the kind we look through. They are the kind we find appearing in our lives. There are windows where suddenly we see something more clearly. Windows give us a chance to change things-- windows of opportunity. Some windows are more pleasurable and useful than others and it takes discernment to separate them out.

In my life, windows have come along regularly and some have changed my life when I have gone through them-- not always as I expected. Sometimes a window is a change of direction or a turning down of something. Other times it's a deepening of understanding. A window in time might be the only chance or maybe the window lies ahead, and we have to wait for our opportunity. Our awareness lets us see the window. Then we can decide what to do with it.

My most recent example of a window was when we knew we would be driving to Arizona pulling our trailer. We had to wait for a window to leave the farm and that involved fencing, livestock problems, getting it all set to be gone with new stewards to watch over the animals and land. It involved a weather window. I wrote quite a lot about that in my Rain Trueax blog; so if you want more info, go there when you finish here. But do finish here.

photos are of our Tucson house, still a little torn apart due what we found when we got here-- more about that in the other blog.
I can't really go further here without discussing the mid-term election. We saw a window again where one group wanted to change the country in a new direction. Those who wanted change voted in greater numbers than those who liked it as it was. 

And so we shall see what that means on a host of issues from increased war to social and environmental issues with Republicans decisively taking control of all of Congress. We could argue here about whether voters were duped by slick ads or whether they got what they wanted. We could debate whether all the money spent on this election, over $2 billion, was the why or whether people feel riled, don't know why, and attacked what they could. Lashing out at what is nearby can lead to a feeling of empowerment-- unless your fist hurts from breaking it on the door.


For those of us who don't want to lash out, what is our own window in such a time? The election is over. We can't change the results. So what do we do?

Relax about it is my main advice. The Republicans have experienced loss, and now it's our turn. We could demand our representatives, the few who believe in progressive values, try to block anything the repubs want to do as McConnell said he would do when Obama won both times. We could try to put the partisan issues ahead of the national ones. This is destructive thinking but if we let hate control us, it's what we might want even when it hurts us.

This kind of back and forth shift happens a lot in the US where the people are so divided. This country can't make up its mind, and we saw that when states voted to do things that progressives encourage, like up the minimum wage while they elected a senator who didn't even want a minimum wage. Division leads to confusion. 

One has to think some of the vote against dems came out of hatred of Obama and that hate is very real. I listened to Limbaugh for a bit the day after the election and heard a caller talking about how evil Obama was and dangerous. Is it any wonder there have been so many threats on his life when such talk is encouraged by these right wing radio pundits?

But can we feel proud of some of the dem candidates who frankly nearly tried to deny their party affiliation and one refused to say for whom she voted in the last presidential election. Some blue dog dems aren't any more leftie than the repub who replaced them. So for something like the XL pipeline, to deliver oil shale from Canada to Texas for refining and shipping oil to South America, it is pretty much a done deal now that it will be approved. In the mind of righties, it's all about oil for the US-- except it's not. It's about big bucks for a few, jobs for awhile in building it and then shipping the oil elsewhere. It's not about our gasoline at the pump, as currently the US has a glut of it thanks to fracking, which Obama has not tried to regulate and who knows the consequences of that.

I could discuss a dozen issues, but it doesn't help. Whatever is going on with voters, whether we are a right wing country or whether this election was about emotions that had nothing to do with facts, well who knows. If we, on the left, don't let go of the anger and disappointment, we personally lose. We win when we take a deep breath and let it all go for awhile-- until we get closer to the next election.

Personally, Farm Boss and I donated quite a bit of money again this year to certain Senate races not just in our own state but around the country. Some of it might have helped, and our candidates won. Some of it went down a hole because it didn't end up being enough.

Some of these contests are hard to understand like Joni Ernst winning so big in Iowa. What did people expect they were getting when they cast their vote for her? Iowa is not one of the races where we donated, but I did follow it because of what she stood for if you looked at her issues and how she presented herself. She, as well as Cory Gardner in Colorado, sold a vision of herself and tried to avoid running on her positions-- other than dislike of Obama. How responsible was the media in Iowa with revealing her positions or did Iowa voters know exactly what they were getting? I don't know anybody from Iowa to ask but that is my real question regarding this election-- and not just about Iowa but about the country.
Ernst has said: that Obama has “become a dictator” and suggested he should be impeached; told an NRA convention that she would be willing to take up her Smith & Wesson against the government “should they decide that my rights are no longer important”; spoken and voted in favor of state nullification of federal laws; said she still believes there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when we invaded in 2003; and given credence to the notion that there is a United Nations-driven conspiracy called Agenda 21 that is, as she put it last year, set on “moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers, and then telling them that you don't have property rights anymore.”  
She is critical of the existing social safety netshe has spoken in favor of privatizing Social Security and waxed nostalgic about the time, before food stamps, when “wonderful food pantries” took care of the poor. She is opposed to a federal minimum wage and has said that $7.25 an hour suffices for Iowans. She has sponsored “personhood” legislation that would have amended the state constitution to legally define someone as a “person” at conception, and said at a GOP primary debate this spring that if such a bill passes, abortion providers “should be punished.”    article by Alec MacGillis-- broken media.
This is who Iowans just elected by a decisive majority. Did they know all of it? Was she selling herself as a veteran, a pretty woman, a farm woman; and the media went along with the spin ignoring her stand on issues? Keep in mind for all the talk of the media being far left, it's mostly owned by the oligarchs who are right wingers. What gets out there is what they want.

Media bias is, of course, how righties thought Obama got elected. If that's so, it means we again got who they wanted us to have. What exactly the country will get when leaders like Ernst enter the Senate, who knows. Mitch McConnell will have his hands full with the extremists just elected, but then again, what did he promise to get the big money behind him to the extent they were?

Personally, I don't worry so much about people like her nor even Mitch McConnell. I worry about who we are as a nation. Can we be manipulated by the slickest ads? Do we read actual position papers or just love to go with the drama? Are we so selfish that we only think about ourselves without looking at whether the ads are true? How scared are we of the 'other'? I hear how bad the country is doing under Obama-- only it's not. But despite the fact that most people know they are doing well, can see all the growth around them, they buy the spin.

The irony is they are angry because wages haven't gone up and yet the reason wages have not is due to people with political philosophies like Ernst in positions of power. They don't want a higher minimum wage, and in her case don't even want a safety net. So Democrats, who at least used to help the unions (not sure today given their cowardly response to the big money), are blamed for lower wages? Those in power have done all they can to create hate for unions and reduce their power. Ever wonder why wages ever were high for the middle class? Don't think too hard, it might hurt your head.

But that's the sum of my rant on this because of my belief we need to live our life right and well or we will suffer for things beyond our control. This time it's our window to let go what can't be changed. 


Make our own life as good as we can right where we are.

Yes, I have concern that sensible gun control won't happen with a right wing Congress. I also see them going farther in ignoring science regarding climate change and their willingness to see the environment sacrificed for $$$. I have concern that they will try for a marriage amendment to block states from allowing gay marriage, and that they will try to make personhood the law of the land. Yes, I worry about the poor, but did they vote and do what they could to get a party in power that had concern for them? Despite how the right thinks, the poor are often least likely to vote.

This election was decided by way under 50% of Americans. In some states, like Arizona, only 37%. Anyone who did not vote this time should do some serious soul searching. Who was it who stayed home and let this happen? It wasn't me. 

Oregon elected the ones I wanted and we got one piece of good news. Although Oregonians turned down GMO labeling (again thanks to huge $$$ ads and fear), we will have recreational marijuana-- unless that right wing Congress, who believes in personal freedom, tries to block all the states that have voted to legalize it.

Normally in Rain Trueax, I post on Wednesday and Sunday but because I wanted to discuss the election here, I am posting about our drive south and what we found here at the same time as this one.


Saturday, November 01, 2014

Name Three Books

Listening to talk radio, they were discussing a debate question: what three books have most impacted your life. The question had been posed to a politician, who was stymied for an immediate answer (politicians have to have the correct answer to suit their base). The talk program discussed it as they explored how difficult that question really was. Who could answer it in a few seconds. On the other hand, the books that have influenced our lives do mean something.

One of the hosts said he felt that the book titles for him would be different at different points of time. Another said he felt saying the Bible was a cop out even for a Christian. Sure it might have influenced your life, but it's the easy answer.  A person might say it's the Bible but has it impacted your political views or is it those who tell you what it says who did that? How about if you believe the Gospels and yet ignore Christ's words about caring for the poor or not judging others. Does it really impact your life philosophy or is it just a get out of jail free card?

This led me to thinking about what three books could I say had impacted my life the most. Of course there are the ones I read as a child but I figured to start with young adulthood. I took more than a few seconds to really think about it.

I came up easily with The Virginian by Owen Wister. I consider that book definitive for the western and something to describe the western ethic. I loved the honeymoon scene more than any romantic scene I've ever read-- and it had no sex. It had plenty of tenderness and meaning. I liked how it showed the need of the community to bring law and order to a land. I liked how it showed there is cost to what we do. I loved the humor and scenes of the people gathering together in ways I remember hearing my father describe as he recalled being a child growing up in South Dakota. It was written during the time it depicted and to me it had truths that still apply today.

There are lots of authors who have influenced my life by writing books about nature, farming and their lives. Pilgrim on Tinker Creek is certainly one by Annie Dillard. But in the same vein were books like Wapiti Wilderness by Margaret Murie and her life married to the naturalist Olaus Murie. She took her children into the wilds of the Tetons and spent summers there. She wrote about it beautifully. Gladys Taber wrote the Stillmeadow books and they, like many others set in the rural lifestyle, certainly impacted my life and still do today.

Then there are the books by John Steinbeck, pick any of them but especially Grapes of Wrath. I think today it impacts my political view that sometimes the government is needed and people can be pushed beyond their limits by circumstances. Being poor doesn't mean you did anything wrong. Once again, there was a cost to trying to help others. The book is about society shunting some people aside and others taking responsibility to make a difference.
"Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there." --- Grapes of Wrath
There are a many other authors who have probably impacted my life philosophy along with the life I lead-- writers of fiction and non-fiction. Today though, the life I lead, those three are still in my life philosophy-- they have lasted.

So just for the fun of it, think about what three books might you say impacted your life and still do today? If you are so inclined, how about sharing them. They don't have to be famous authors or books that are noted for being classics. That's not what it's about. It's what touched you and maybe even changed the direction of your life?



 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Easy Chair Bookshop


When the world of reading books on a device opened up to the general public, the controversies began at once. Fear was expressed that the electronically available books were trying to destroy paper books. I've heard all the arguments from 'I prefer the feel and smell of paper,' to 'the system will fail and then where are you?' Some are determined one has to succeed and the other fail. One must be better than the other. It seems to be the way of humans to put everything into competition. Why not one for one thing and the other for another? Why does it have to be either or?

One complication regarding the reading devices has been finding the right book. The way we used to do it was head for a bookstore, read a review, hear a recommendation from a friend, or get hold of a list of what should be read from newest to classics. You could still do all that, but there are other options.

The problem with going to Amazon for the right book is how they rank their books-- i.ie. easy to find big authors and hard to find something different or new to you. Their algorithm is made up of many elements, kept secret, and most of which the reader has no idea from where they came. If you ever counted on their rankings to tell you what is selling, you might be warned the list does not mean what you think. It is weighted all right but to what? Besides with so many books, how to separate out what you wanted?

One of the huge pluses to the eReader is your ability to be in the mood for a certain type of book, or maybe the latest by your favorite author, and instead of having to run to a store, it is available at the click a button. But you still have to find it!

There are sites that have developed around the need of indie writer and reader to hook up. These enable the reader to find books by new authors, the undiscovered authors.


is fairly new and already offers a wide variety of genres by many authors. It simplifies finding a book you will find perfect for an evening read. Check it out and scan down the list of genres. The developer of this site, Australian author Susan Horsnell, keeps it free for writers and readers. Sue, who is a retired nurse, also keeps fresh work coming in; so if you checked your favorite genre last week, something new might be there this week with a blurb, cover and a link to find out more about it. 

For both the owner of an eReader and the indie writer, sites like Easy Chair Bookshop are a big asset. Incidentally, click on the link for Easy Chair, as I am author of this week :). Sue features an author and a book each week; so always something fresh to read as well as all the potential books to browse through.