Monday, November 30, 2009

Klaatu barada nikto

No, I had never heard (nor remembered if I had heard) that phrase before we watched the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I didn't find out what it meant either but did learn it has since been used in other sci fi movies. Whatever its meaning, it stops deadly action in its tracks.

Science fiction is not my usual first choice for a movie. I have seen quite a few of them though, read less of the books, but even I see that often there are gems inside the action that make them worth more than simple entertainment.

In 2008's The Day the Earth Stood Still, the alien is played by Keanu Reeves, and he has come down to save the earth (important distinction on how that word is being used). It's a pretty simple sci fi but then again, it's not.

One of the elements of the film went right over my head when it happened but Farm Boss is a chemist, so it didn't bypass his. He explained it later.

A scientist (John Cleese in a small part), who the heroine (Helen) had brought Klaatu (the alien) to meet, had previously written a formula on a blackboard. While waiting to be joined by the scientist, Klaatu looked at it, erased some of the characters, and wrote something different.

Helen was in shock at such a desecration and said he won't like that.

Klaatu replied, he won't mind.

When the scientist looked at the changed formula, he at first was taken aback and said but that's wrong. Klaatu said it is not. The scientist then studied the new formula more carefully with a growing awareness of what it could mean (Cleese is great in this kind of part).

As happens so often with me, its meaning ties into something else I have been reading [There are no signs of god so why believe]. That blog has been exploring the idea that if science cannot find it, measure it, and define it, it does not exist although the blog writer knows science can change what is known. Which is where the formula comes in.

The first formula, Farm Boss said, was the one that says (paraphrasing) life is in a closed box. It is all within a circle that impacts each other thing.

Klaatu's formula said that was wrong. The formula he drew changed how it worked. Life is not limited to that box nor to concentric circles. It is bigger than we know.

We all like boxes or most of us do even if we say we do not. They are what allow us to operate without having to think all the time. Boxes make religion convenient or relationships to others or even the world. We operate in them because it's convenient and faster than a constant reevaluation.

Where our problem comes is when we refuse to get out of our box when the data changes. We are in say a circle of behavioral patterns and act as though it cannot be different. Maybe it could but we find it easier to stay with what is. When we live life the most fully, we are open to changing boxes. Our thinking might seem to be in a box but it does not have to remain there.

As for the key phrase from the movie, Klaatu barada nikto, wouldn't it be wonderful if such words really worked? If we could change how we are as humans and become less destructive to earth; so that no alien had to remove us nor would we end up removing ourselves due to our short-sightedness, our greed and selfishness. If enough of us said it, might it work to stop our own deadly actions?

Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Photo is sky from the trip south. Often with a picture like this, I would have photo shopped out the tiny poles but thought this time it was rather apropos because it's how tiny we are in comparison to it all. It is how little we really understand of the cosmos-- ego not withstanding.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Complexities of Modern Life

Modern culture offers some complexities that weren't faced in the past. These questions of right and wrong aren't always answered by religion-- even if we follow a religion. They can form ethical conundrums if we stop to puzzle through them. Following are some examples of what I am thinking about.

Today we have people with enough money to travel wherever they wish, finding fascinating places to view, and then leaving supposedly without a trace of themselves left behind-- except some money. We also have people who live in those places, often very primitively. Those people are often part of the appeal for what today is referred to as adventure travelers.

So instead of taking a place over and changing it, the goal is keeping it as it was to make it interesting to see even if some live in poverty or worse to offer those views.

This is one such example: [Elephants or villagers]. To have something adventuring tourists will pay to see, the elephant population is allowed to grow and sometimes rampage. Although the country receives financial benefits from the tourists, the villagers receive only death and destruction. Complexities of modern life.

We do still have the problem of the old-fashioned taking over of a country and what does the rest of the world do about it? Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion is about Tibet with China doing the old-fashioned occupying and conquering after Mao became the ruler of China. They justified their actions as liberating the Tibetan people who had asked for no such liberation and often had to be killed to be forced to accept it along with accepting the occupying army and Chinese settlers.

I knew the story but always thought Tibet still existed even though the world had been ignoring what happened there. Then we got our newest National Geographic map where there is no Tibet. There is instead China and the Tibetan Plateau-- in short a recognition that Tibet has been officially swallowed.

Who would fight to protect the Tibetans? Certainly not the United States who is in debt up to its neck and above. Although the Dalai Lama said he understood and thinks Obama has other ways to move forward on things, our president didn't meet with the exiled leader of the Tibetan people when he came to Washington D.C recently which was a first. That happened likely because Obama planned a trip to China to whom we owe so much money that we cannot afford to offend their leadership. Taiwan, watch out!

Is the taking over of another country okay when it's one big enough doing it? The argument goes that it's okay because China originally had Tibet as part of its domain. Really? What else did China have besides that? We have seen the same argument with North and South Korea as well as Vietnam. The countries were once one-- pretty much everything was; so now it's okay to conquer it? Complexities of modern life.

On a smaller scale, we were recently at Finley Wildlife Refuge. It is a wonderful place set aside for birds and wildlife. It is a mostly safe place for them to live and breed... But all around it are grass seed fields where the geese love to graze. These are fields planted for families to make a living but so many geese can decimate the grasses. As a compromise there is hunting allowed sometimes to reduce the numbers of certain of the geese and ducks.

So it's beautiful to watch these swans, to listen to their calls to each other which were so melodic as to be almost like songs, and a very contradictory emotion to once in awhile hear the boom of nearby shotguns.

We had the experience recently at the farm when we walked up our road, saw a lot of geese in our pasture, grazing alongside the cattle; then watched them fly off thinking how beautiful-- only to within moments hear the boom of shotguns in the next valley about the time the birds would have flown over.

Farm Boss reassured me that it was skeet shooting. Maybe or maybe some of those beautiful birds were shot right after leaving the safety of our pasture. And how long and how many of them could we provide refuge in our pasture. The cattle and sheep also depend on that grass. Provide refuge. Don't provide refuge? Complexities of modern life.

Finally (well not really but one more of these examples of complexity) we watched on HBO the recent remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Keanu Reeves as part of an alien population who have decided humans are so abusing earth that they must be eliminated if the planet it to survive with habitability.

There wasn't a lot of story, but lots of special effects and one dominant question: Are humans worthy of having such a wonderful planet upon which to live? We say we own it but then argue over what that means, abuse it and each other, and can't agree on what quality of living means for ourselves or the earth. It was easy to make the alien's case for eliminating us as a species.

Of course, the thing is there are those among us who are worthy (most of us would start by naming our families, friends, and selves). In the film that was the case the humans made. We can change. We can do what is right. Give us another chance. But it was only at a point of disaster that humans were willing to do that. Would it change anything even if that happened?

How do we resolve these questions that it seems money decides everything. Want to visit a people at the price of elephants rampaging over them? No problem if you can afford it. With the complex lives some humans have, the appeal of viewing the simple life is very appealing-- so long as it's just as a voyeur.

Is there another way to figure out what is right to do? How about starting with the recognition that being able to afford something does not make it the right choice. Another good one is just because someone else says it's okay does not mean it is.

Photos from Finley Wildlife Refuge other than one from our pasture.

And don't bother telling me I think too much. I already know it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Just Thinking...

We came across the program How the Earth was Made on History Channel recently. Although it was made in 2007, it had flown under my radar. I found it fascinating showing graphically the history of our earth.

The movie takes what we know geologically and biologically about earth's history from the start (4.5 billion years ago) and lays it out visually but without emotional interpretation. It didn't attempt to answer the why or what it meant, nor guess where it's going (beyond the eventual extinction as earth's future is tied to the sun's) but just what can we know from geologic and fossil records.

In watching the show, the mystery, for me, involved why life developed at all. Those first celled beings and then the others that followed. Why did they 'just' appear especially in such a hostile environment? What made dinosaurs develop? I know they were supposedly the best adapted is science's answer to that but were they or was somebody playing around?

Each time there would be a dominant species, going along, feeling like they had it all under control and then boom, a cataclysmic (and when earth delivers cataclysm, it really means cataclysm) event whether from space or earth itself and it all changed again.

What a violent, exciting earth we live upon, and make no mistake, despite the ego of man, we do just live upon it with very little real control over what it does or what comes from space.

Because the show doesn't attempt to draw conclusions, it leaves the viewer with some interesting questions. The big one for me is the first one. What made life appear, those first single-celled living beings and in such an inhospitable environment?

Did the seeds of life come from outer space which is certainly possible given they believe the water on this planet came that way. Meteors bring in many things-- maybe not all good. One of them might have been the seeds of life-- if so, from where did it come? Could another meteor bring our human history to an end as it did the dinosaurs? The end could as well come through a new bacteria as a climate driven result.

Some, who don't like mystery and want definitive answers, would say diversity came because of competition. Whatever the reason behind it, in each of these past stages, something changed so dramatically that it would kill off most of what lived in that time-- leaving a new form of life to evolve. Eventually that led to the age of man-- short in time though it might be given our destructive nature. We don't need a meteor to wipe ourselves out.

To me, the facts laid out in the film, with all the thinking about its meaning, added to the mystery. I personally don't see evolution as proving atheism or belief. It is a fact and then we interpret it or we don't. Drawing conclusions that it means there is no god or it means there is, to me it doesn't work.

Life is. Isn't that enough? For now, we are here. Evolution doesn't tell us our end anyway-- just that there will be an end but then a new beginning-- somewhere for something. How fascinating.

If you get a chance to see How the Earth was Made, definitely I recommend it. It brings earth's beginnings vividly to life and leaves as many questions as answers-- as is right given the complexity of the events.

[Beginning today, we will be on the road for awhile. First Thanksgiving with our family and then heading south to Tucson with our two cats. They hate travel and have been holing up ever since the pet carriers came out. This will be an adventure for them but one they aren't choosing. One of our neighbors is looking after the farm; so we have this chance to get the Tucson house set up hopefully as a rental for others.

I had pre-written some blogs on subjects that interested me; so they will keep flowing along every other day. For now, I am leaving comment moderation off; but if I check in on the way down and find too much spam, I will have to activate it. I go for a long while with none but lately I have been deleting quite a bit. Fortunately most of it is in earlier blogs which makes the blogger system easy to just reject it; but there is no way to do that with the current ones.]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A coming thing in medicine

Since our country has been discussing health care options, the problems we face, this was something that I came across. What do you think about it?

The gist of it is that those, with sufficient money to pay a 'physician membership' fee each year (this is on top of any insurance they might opt to buy), then receive premium access to their doctor, guaranteeing not having to see a changing array of doctors or a physician's assistant.

For those with the money, paying a yearly fee offers security, quicker access to an appointment, more time with their doctors once there. The doctor limits how many patients he/she will accept under this concierge arrangement.

Are we more and on so many levels becoming a nation of have and have not? Is this where our medical system is heading with or without health care reform?

With a shortage of doctors, which doesn't seem to be letting up, more treatment is being provided by Physician Assistants. If you are not familiar with their requirements, it generally is a Bachelor's degree, possibly with prior medical experience, say as a nurse, then two years of graduate level training to get the equivalent of a master's degree. Wikipedia on Physician Assistants. Each state can have different requirements as can each clinic or doctor as the PA works under the supervision indirectly, of a physician. For those who would like to see what we have considered to be a traditional doctor, it sounds like it might be getting more costly.

We have two new calves. One night, with all the storms we have had, the cold air that is bringing snow to the highest hills around us, just as we were getting ready for bed, one of the new mothers decided she had lost her new baby. Misplaced it? Someone stole it. It wandered off. What a mournful sound she made as she ran around the pasture.

Finally it became impossible for Farm Boss to ignore her wailing-- just in case. So out he went with the spotlight to find a pile of calves in the corner of the barn on the straw he had put out for this exact purpose. The mama could not be convinced that her calf was one of those inside and safe. Although he moved her down to the barn, she ran back out determined to find her calf where it had been born. He left the calf where it was as an upset mother is better (if not quieter) than a calf out in the heavy rain and wind.

Next morning all was well and no apologies to the neighborhood from the cow.

Photos are of a two day old calf and one born several days earlier as they get acquainted with their world. By now they are already leaping in the air and running.

Monday, November 23, 2009

To be or not to be-- or something like that

If you are writing a blog such as mine, which sometimes delves into politics, you faced a question when Sarah Palin burst onto the scene again. Do you write about her? It's not possible to ignore her presence and what it could mean politically when she is all over the right and left media. But how does anyone write about her critically (as in analytically) without being accused of being a hater? The poor lady is constantly being picked on by the mean lefties which only endears her more to the righties.

To begin, I don't hate Sarah Palin. How could I? She's done nothing to me to cause me to hate her. I do have an opinion about her though-- one which has been only enhanced by her recent media appearances. Most people appear to have made up their minds about her-- either pro or con. So why take the heat for writing about her? I read a couple of different takes on that question (both from liberal writers) .

Which didn't help at all as they had differing views. Of course, Andrew Sullivan had his opinion on her book: Deconstructing Sarah. Because he is fascinated by her complex personality and has pointed out her lies, he's listed by her under those haters. Then there was Frank Rich -- The Pit Bull in the China Shop with his take on what she means for 2012.

I also read opinions which added up to hoping she runs for president. They want to see the right wing totally destroy the Republican party, and think Palin is the fool tool to do it. Those writers are sure she's not very smart and will self-destruct hopefully not before she gets the nomination in 2012.

Personally, I don't like that idea because I have the opinion that we gain as a nation when we have two highly qualified candidates running for our highest office with different political viewpoints. That way no matter who wins, we are going to be okay even if the political direction in which they take us may be very different. (It would have appeared we would have that in 2008 until McCain chose Palin instead of Lieberman.)

But my reasoning in her case also has a practical level: we don't know she can't win if she gets the nomination-- [Nate Silver-- 10 Reasons that Sarah Palin could win]. And we don't know that she's dumb as some lefties hope. When you set a bar really low, it doesn't take much to top it. She could be dumb; but then again she might be intelligent but have been intellectually lazy because she has been taught that it's not Christian to be an intellectual and not necessary anyway when she is so gorgeous (which she is).

Her answers in any interview make her sound like someone who has very little interest in the details of policies. Cut taxes, you betcha. Do whatever the generals order, yep. Exactly how her lack of interest in details or consequences (she's had plenty of time to bone up if she had wanted to do so) will help her make policy decisions pretty well comes back to how well you felt G.W. Bush did in that office.

Palin's simplistic answers don't tell us if she knows much but do appeal to the right wing of her party-- especially the Christian right. They don't like lengthy answers, love pithy comments they can repeat, and they most definitely resent anybody who would talk like an intellectual which she most definitely does not. *big wink*

Here's the thing. If we, on the left, don't address why we don't see her as fit for the highest office, we are treating it a lot like John Kerry did when he couldn't believe anybody would think he was a coward since he had been to war, when he could have dodged it, and had been shot at. His logic went how could they think Bush was the brave one when he evaded going and didn't even fulfill his full service. Until Kerry was swift-boated, by men who weren't anywhere near him when he was in combat, he assumed people would know without him making his case. They didn't.

My reasons for not wanting to see Palin as anything more than a Fox TV show host like Glenn Beck (who she has said wouldn't be a bad running mate if she did run) are more about her character than her possible policy positions. It's interesting that the right wing talks about how important character is but often they seem to equate it only with sexual behavior rather than things like lying.

From looking at her untruths, Sarah Palin doesn't seem to be the kind who lies to protect herself (not honorable but understandable) but basically what appears to be of the pathological sort: [How to recognize a pathological liar]

Have you ever known anyone like that? They lie when it doesn't matter. They lie to enhance their ego. They don't bother to keep track of their lies. In her case it's even more bizarre than the usual pathological liar because what she says can easily be checked through transcripts and video tape. Does she not worry about keeping her stories straight because she knows her fans won't bother to check or is there a more disturbing reason?

Does having someone with that character flaw in our highest office worry you? There is yet another character quality that should be of equal concern. She gets back at people who have wronged her-- even if they didn't but she thinks they did. She basically is a grudge holder and it's easy to see it through her record (for those who care to look), her book (no, I won't be buying it, just going by the excerpts online), her interviews, and her speeches.

We have had a few grudge holders as president (some say it's what Obama does but that has yet to be proven) and it's never good-- in either party. That kind of person will take personal umbrage and damage others to get their revenge. Politicians should rise above that kind of thing for the good of the country. They don't all manage it.

Why do you suppose liberals didn't like her when she ran for Vice-president? Because she has great cheekbones and liked to hunt in full make-up? That's funny but only an extreme rightie would believe it was the reason. She was running in a party that has positions we naturally would not like, but it was something more.

Not only did she (and does she) lie about the position of liberals on pretty much any issue you can name (death panels for a starter), but she ridicules and puts us down in the nastiest way from which she takes clear delight and gains power in doing.

Palin's rhetoric feeds the far right who think all taxes are bad, don't like any government, but have no clue what government does. She says what they want to hear which is that it's all (whatever it is) somebody else's fault, and they shouldn't have to pay anything for it. They were and are drawn to her like moths to a flame, loved it that the left didn't like her, and will avidly vote for her in 2012. The only question about whether she could win an election will be how the moderates see her by then.

Whether she could get educated into policy positions, that I don't know. Whether she's intelligent, that I don't know; but I do know she has some character qualities that could make her a scary president-- maybe the scariest ever. G.W. Bush didn't appear to do the grudge thing, and I don't know if he lied as much as was intellectually lazy and misinformed. I have a feeling when he lied though, if he felt he had to, he knew it. I am not convinced Palin does. If that doesn't worry you, it should!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Putting today in perspective

Because I don't tend to notice significant dates as others do, I didn't realize today was significant until I read this article. The article is not so much about what happened November 22, 1963, but rather what is still happening in our country evidenced by billboards, signs in tea-bagger rallies, talk radio, and bloggers. It's well worth taking time to read. Ignorance won't protect us.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

To Mammogram or not

When I saw that United States Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) had decreed women no longer should have a mammogram at age 40 and after 50 only have one every other year, skipping breast self exams completely, and doctors should stop examining women's breasts during their physicals, I shook my head. The constant stream of contradictory medical information seems to be part of our culture. Today what is good will be what is bad tomorrow.

This particular Health and Human Services Commission is made up of: Task Force members. They apparently were only using other studies to come up with a conclusion, but their conclusions seemed a little odd. They decided what studies mattered most but had no oncologists, just professors, general doctors, or health care managers? What is their motive?

Although they said some lives are saved by early mammograms and manual examination, they decreed it's not enough to warrant the cost. Excuse me... to which families?

The concern does not appear to be the radiation from the machines because those have been improved a lot since I began having mammograms sometimes in my late 40s or early 50s. Back then it was a lot more iffy when a woman should have her first one.

Until this study it had been agreed that women should have a baseline mammogram at around 40, but I had not understood it needed to be done yearly. The commission's argument for changing this, besides not enough lives will be saved, was it upsets women to have them... Excuse me again. *taking some deep breaths*

So they want to spare women the upset because... because... wait for it. It costs money to do biopsies. You knew it would get down to this because if it's not about saving lives, not about the radiation, then what drawback could there be other than money?

I read some arguments that for women to fight against this means they don't want health care reform, that they are ignoring medical science. Get it straight. This was a recommendation based on many studies, but they must never have read the ones that claim mammograms do save lives. Well they knew they do but just not enough to be cost effective.............................. To add to it, they make their excuse based on it's scaring women. Women get scared of lots of things. Going to spare us them all?

This 'recommendation' does not appear to be aimed at possible new health care reform, which might not even happen; but instead that insurance companies would no longer have to cover yearly mammograms before the age of 70. And why we don't want our doctor examining our breasts in a physical? Well it's uncomfortable for sure but otherwise, why? Because he might find something? *more deep breaths*

Coincidentally, I had a physical this week. My doctor brought up the mammogram task force's recommendation and said to ignore it. He ignored it when he did a thorough breast exam. I had already decided that I wouldn't consider it in my own choice, but what if insurance companies stop paying for them?

We are bombarded by studies and results. To me having a yearly mammogram doesn't seem to be that costly. They said it doesn't catch the really fast growing cancers. Fine, that's why monthly breast exams and having your doctor do one. If we are going to save money on medical costs, it seems to me we could start with something else... how about prostate tests and exams? *s*

Where I haven't been regular with having yearly physicals (my doctor teasingly said he hadn't seen me in 3 1/2 years), with a grandmother, aunt, and younger cousin who have had breast cancer, I have been faithful to those yearly mammograms. I know they don't catch everything, but what they do catch is earlier than we could feel it. And yes, they are not fun; so that's a reason to not do them?

No illustrative photos for obvious reasons.........

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Possible Addiction?

Are you the type of person who gets into things and just can't let them go? In short-- are you an addictive personality? Every so often I come to terms with the fact that I apparently am. It happens with many things like when I start removing fallen leaves from the yard and driveway. I can't just let them be as soon as I see more come down.

Fortunately, with the farm, I have learned to not look at Farm Boss's territory because if I did, I'd constantly be trying to get things organized (not a happy idea for him or me) as he is not an addictive personality. He can just let things be. I would like to be more that way, but since I am this way still at 66, I doubt it's going to change anytime soon.

My latest example for addictive responses has been the Barbie doll dresses. It seemed so simple when I began. Scraps of material. Make some simple clothing. My granddaughter will be happy-- and she would have been.

After I had used my own fabric remnants, I began to think they weren't really the best ones for historic clothing. Oh I made them into dresses, skirts, blouse, accessories like a full length cape, apron (of course, pioneer woman), some shawls, and even a pair of pants which weren't likely pioneer woman attire unless they were men's. Well heck, an independent minded pioneer woman probably wore such when need be.

The thing was that I knew there had to still be better fabrics out there; and on one week-end, I found them. Quilting squares are the perfect size for a Barbie dress with wonderful colors, small patterns. Even more perfect they happened to be on sale at a dollar a square (about 18" x 22"). So I picked out 8. It's a wonder I stopped then.

Walking out of the store, I felt the emotions of a Midas who had found his her stash but wondered what she had been thinking to want it. That would have been bad enough, but I soon realized these dresses were going to require lace to really look right. How can you create fancy Barbie pioneer dresses (notice how this project is growing more complex) without lace.

I was still sure I had bits of lace here... except wherever I had packed them away, I have no clue. In stores, small laces turned out to be harder to find than I had anticipated. The ones I did find though were so pretty. I knew they would add so much to the next set of dresses. It's not like I'd have to sew up all eight dresses right away...

The first day, I made three...

It has definitely become a bit of an addiction, learning how to make hats (women of that era had to have hats), creating different styles, making them what I would have loved to have when I was a girl-- and it's a back killer for a woman 66. I think maybe if I got the sewing table down from the attic that it would be better.

Can you see this project growing by leaps and bounds? Somebody has to put a stop to it. After I used up the first quilting fabric, I bought more. Farm Boss is no help as he thinks the results are cute. He even made Barbie a western style vest and has helped me with some hand stitching (he's good at it). This project has forced me to do a bit of needle and thread work also (I'm not good at it).

Practically speaking, my home here is not well set up for craft projects. It's not even well set up for painting. I have my easel and paints in one end of the living room which means it's always in the way. Now I am going to add sewing?

Definitely I have to beat this habit before my granddaughter becomes swamped in Barbie outfits and my back demands I take it to the chiropractor.... Except it has been fun and better than listening to the news. I guess that's how all addictions start and grow-- justifying and ignoring the physical cost.

Because I wanted to have a record of the ones I made, I photographed them when I was finished and loaded them into a Picasa album. These are not all 20 0utfits as one I held back because it was a learning version. Although I could have waited for Christmas to give her these, she's growing up so fast, can I afford to wait?

I am not sure whether to file this under the category of proud or what was I thinking!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fall Skies

Changing skies. Changing weather.

At least the cattle were enjoying a spot of sunshine before another storm could move through.

Last Wednesday Parapluie and I took advantage of that break to take a short walk up our gravel road. Weather looks pretty fair in the photo, doesn't it? It hailed shortly after we got back to the house.

Monday, November 16, 2009

When their master returns

If you want to have a good cry, try a few of these showing soldiers as they return home and the excitement of their dogs. So beautiful. The emotion in those dogs just isn't possible to describe. That's the thing with our pets. We can't tell them what we are doing, why we are gone, why they are going to the veterinarian, what the reasons are for so many things, but the love, well that just can't be denied. There are a series of the videos that you can go through.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

blog roll updates

The blog list that updates itself is a terrific tool, but also really frustrates me because it does not update everybody on it. There is no logical reason for this. There are some very good reads that do not seem able to catch the ring that lets readers know they wrote something new: [Darlene's Hodgepdge; Here in the Hills; and Blaugustine]. They always show up at the bottom and although they regularly update, blogger cannot recognize it.

Irritating though it was, I had resigned myself to this problem before I added Bumps Stump. At first it looked like it had worked but then I realized his listing had one topic, it kept going down the list, but he had written more. Is this a setting that some have on their blogs, and if so, what?

Anyway, check out Dixon's regular blog, Bumps Stump and don't assume he hasn't been updating because he probably has.

Dixon and I often do not agree on politics, but he has a strong, articulate viewpoint on many things. When he does write about politics, I do not see it as hate-filled or angry as it can so easily be. This is also the case of another conservative blog which I have on my blog list, Ingineer's Ramblings.

To be honest, I don't read a lot of right wing blogs. It's hard to write about these things and stick to the issues without them becoming filled with venom (on either side). I am always grateful for those who stick with me despite that disagreement-- especially if they comment here with some logic on why they differ. It's a hard time to be open minded, but I think it's important that we listen to each other.

AND if anybody has a clue as to why some blogs can't update, I'd love to hear it.

(Farm from the gravel road between storms.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Health care or what is that again?

Mostly I schedule my blogs ahead of time, write down the ideas as they come to me and put a date on them, so that they stay two days apart. Once in awhile that system falls apart like it did when I had one scheduled for today... but with the wrong date. So the blog for today will appear tomorrow morning and that leaves today open for something else.

This link expresses the concern some of us have about the House health care bill. Does it really bring down costs? Will it give better care? Or is it doing something just to do it and get credit-- which might end up blame.

Basically, having just gotten the word of changes in our supplemental policy [to cover what Medicare will not like routine physicals, the doughnut holes in prescription costs (which we never have gotten there but might with the way meds cost so much), and that 20% of major problems that can end up very high for anyone who finds themselves with a major problem], I am frustrated that I once again have to study these policies to figure out what each one offers. That's enough in itself to lead to stress diseases especially since I thought, after we went through all of this when we went on Medicare last year that we wouldn't have to wrestle with it again right away.

Everyone we know, including younger, has gotten the word that their insurance premiums will double and for less coverage. From what I read about this, the insurance companies say it will be worst next year. There are no controls on them and from what I can tell will not be in this new bill.

The answer from the Republicans is don't let people sue for malpractice and allow buying insurance across state lines, which does good for people like Humana or the big ones but probably not so much for small companies. I suspect that original law was put in place to try and stop monopolies; so we have cartels instead. Explain the difference.

The answer from Democrats to high costs and confusing policies appears to be duh.

It's not too late to demand that our Congress people put together a bill that really will hold costs down, maybe even turn health insurance into a non-profit business leaving them to make their money off all the other insurances they sell which are more optional.

Incidentally, my personal choice to health care would be single payer and let the stock market chips fall where they may!

This was an ad. The regularly scheduled program will resume tomorrow :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Health Care or Afghanistan?

As always, Nicholas Kristof put it well with his column comparing the costs of health care reform with increasing our troop levels in Afghanistan. Some seem to talk war as though it's this easy option-- just add this many troops and all will be well. Being as old as I am, I heard all of that with Vietnam. They argue, we have to do it because we are in a war. A war against Afghanistan or exactly who? From the last I heard they estimate there are 100 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. So what is this war actually about? Are we ever told what any war is about? Some think they are still fighting the Vietnam war and cannot put it behind them. For how long will we be fighting this one?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A new sewing machine

In previous years, I did a lot of sewing. One of our first purchases after getting married was a simple Singer that had been converted from a treadle. With it, I made my maternity clothes as well as a lot of our family's clothing for the next ten years. To do an overcast stitch, I bought an attachment that moved the fabric back and forth. It was eventually replaced by a machine that could actually move the needle and do some embroidery stitches as well as overcast.

Those were the years of father and son wearing the same shirts for Easter or daughter and me in matching dresses. I got good enough to make sports jackets-- pity that Farm Boss didn't end up liking the fabric he had chosen for his.

Years passed and the kids were less enthused with having clothing matching their parents. Fabric became so expensive that I could buy clothes cheaper than sewing them. I put on weight which made figuring out what would look good got more complicated. My sewing machine quit stitching evenly and repair shops seemed unable to get it fixed. I wasn't sure I'd ever take up sewing again.

That lasted until my granddaughter began asking if I could make her some Barbie, pioneer clothing. The first time she asked, I put it off. But then she asked again. I realized if I didn't do it soon, she would no longer care; so I bought a new sewing machine (boy have they changed) and for the last week, I've been both learning how to use it (everything is digital) and making Barbie doll pioneer outfits.

From the years of sewing so much, I had fabric in sacks in the attic, but most of it wasn't appropriate for small figures. I still cannot figure where my stash of ribbons, lace and elastic had been stored.

In learning how to use the machine (my hands constantly want to go to where the levers were originally), I am designing clothing for the Barbie. When I went into the fabric store to look for appropriate fabrics, the prices were expensive. Nothing new there. It is amazing anyone still sews. I guess not as many do as I see less fabric stores. The one closest to me has coverted a lot of their space into craft project materials. I will look online to see what can be bought but fabric is one of those things I just have to feel with my fingers to know if I want it.

The thing is though that where it comes to pioneer Barbie clothes, there isn't anything like it that I found for sale-- cheaper or not. Today's Barbie clothes are short skirts and look like wantabe teen rock stars. To have my granddaughter want the old-fashioned dresses is to me a blessing.

More or less, I am trying to keep the dresses simple and still create things that make me feel proud and she will enjoy. I cannot believe the work that is involved in doing these tiny outfits. I definitely would only do it as a labor of love.

I have to admit-- between it and the leaf blower (I think most of the oak leaves have finally fallen), my back is complaining. This was a lot easier when I was in my twenties.

[Incidentally our trip to Tucson has been postponed yet again and now we are hoping to leave right after Thanksgiving... Best laid plans and all of that!]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

House Health Care Bill

For anyone concerned about what the recently passed H.R.3962, Health care reform, will actually do, it's online. It's long but when we let someone else interpret things for us, we get their slant. This likely won't be what ends up in any actual bill after the Senate gets through ranting over how much they love the American people *tears* but that so many not having health care is not their problem *stern expression*.

What has irked me is all those legislators and right wingers ranting over how this will kill people. Do they possibly pay attention to what is happening right now? Never mind, I know they don't. They talk taxes and half their fans quit thinking. The fact is that these costs are being born now-- one way or another.

Anyway for those who are told the bill isn't there and nobody knows what is in it. Here it is:

Summary: Affordable Health Care

and the full bill: H.R. 3962

Monday, November 09, 2009


Perhaps you have been reading the political arguments regarding whether to continue to allow internet users to have pseudonyms. The idea is that when someone comments with a nickname, they might be more irresponsible, more apt to say dishonest or mean things. There has been some discussion about forcing all people with blogs or any space on the internet to use their legal names.

I have followed the discussion because here in the blog I do use a name other than my legal name. When I first went online, which was 1996, most everyone used nicknames. I thought about it and quickly the name Rain seemed the right choice given where I live and my own interest in nature. Sometimes, because someone else had Rain first, I have to add some nnnnnnnn's but I always kept it as close as I could; so that whenever I do anything online, others would know it was me. That is helped by places that give a place to put my blog URL.

Back then I didn't know my actual first name was regarded as a sexy name (since it happens to also be the name of a porn star). When I chose my nickname, I took one that didn't advertise something I wasn't delivering as well as a name both men and women use.

It didn't seem sneaky to me to use the name I adopted. I grew up with writers and movie stars who often didn't use their real names. When I get to knowing someone, then I tell them my 'other' name and even am open to meeting them; but here, not sure how I would feel about being forced to use it.

Because I liked the name Rain so much, I took it for my art and writing. In that world, nobody cares; but I might find eventually that I cannot use it here.

This comes up now because the other day, when I wanted to comment on a blog, I was blocked and the reason given was I was using a nickname. Now that writer has every right to do that; but if I had chosen to use my real name to comment there, it'd not match this blog and although I have no reason to not trust that person, I think it would have become confusing. I opted to not comment.

Although I frequently use photos of myself, the farm, my home, and Farm Boss, I would be hesitant to use my full name wherever strangers could be reading enabling them to find my address and phone number. If the laws do change, I will have to think long and hard whether to continue blogging. It's too late for me to quit using my photos but it might be why many, who might even use their own name, never did.

I don't know how many of you came online during the time of the chat rooms but you learn fast then that there are some weird people out there whether they use their real names or not. Nicknames have a protective aspect, but I understand that they also have that other side which enables people to hide behind them.

Although I allow anonymous comments here, as in I don't require a nickname or real name, most do use nicknames, names that return again and again so that anybody who reads them knows their philosophy. For the ones who use what appear to be real names, I would generally have no way to know if they were real or not.

So what do you think? Should nicknames be blocked online; and do you consider it risky, for those of you who you use photos and information about your life, to put up your full name for whoever might come along?

(The photos are a few of the seven big oak trees that are around the farmhouse. I love them in every season but find them particularly beautiful when they are bare of leaves with their wonderful, gnarly shapes. They are huge, very old trees with a history that has seen much. I hope they last many more years-- even though they give me a lot of exercise every fall when those leaves start to fall.)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Costs of War

This is going to be a reply to something ingineer said in my previous blog and so to be fair to him, I am putting his comment here first:
"The only common ground that you can find with radical Muslims is for you to be dead. They believe that all infidels should die. So if you do not want to fight them, your only other choice is to be slaughtered by them. If they were a nation that had some logical reason for fighting, then maybe we could negotiate a peace, but these people are crazy and will never negotiate. This is not like the Arab-Israeli conflict where they are fighting over land and economic resources. Our only choice is to destroy them. Or continue to be picked off a few at a time until they are capable of a massive attack and kill of millions of us at a time.

"And this attack shows just how much damage one terrorist can do. Just think how many people the guys that wanted to attack Fort Dix could have done. But at the time they were downplayed as just a few guys with rifles, they couldn't really do much damage to an army base right? Well tell that to the families of the 43 people shot by this whack job at Ft. Hood."

What he said is typical of what is said by the right wing and it's totally wrong on about every level I can imagine. First of all most us thought that the Bush administration had been actively working on protecting us all from terrorist attacks in this country. Is not that what Dick Cheney has told us how much they did to keep us safe? Who guessed that that didn't include our military bases?

Who, not in the military, had any idea that our bases would be so unprotected. How many of us knew that on a US base, the soldiers are never armed and have insufficient guards to protect them from entrances by just about anybody. Now this guy could have gotten in anyway because he was in the military. Could they not have had simple metal detectors though to check if someone was coming in with a weapon? They apparently do not.

How would you manage to kill all radical Muslims, ingineer? How would you know who they are when you have a bunch of teabaggers who believe that even Obama is one of them? Your answer to kill all radicals is unrealistic and impossible unless you want to kill all Muslims period which I am sure you don't mean.

So let's get to the guy who actually did this, who clearly was a radical Muslim and was making zero secret of it. He had been given poor reviews on his performance, was transferred to Fort Hood as a second chance, had argued with many people that he was a Muslim first and American second. He is probably the one who posted sympathy with suicide bombers and saw them as heroes. None of that was considered or explored by the military before his cowardly attack on a bunch of unarmed people-- which although most of us didn't know would be the case, he clearly did.

So what was the military doing about this man who sent out the warning signs? Sending him to Iraq or Afghanistan because why? Likely because they are stretched so thin that they could not pay attention to the warnings. They are understaffed and that won't get better if the war in Afghanistan is expanded as people like ingineer apparently (based on his comments regarding how Obama should do what the general demanded) believe should be done.

This killer was a man who proudly declared himself to be a Muslim and who was put in a position of counseling men and women coming back from a Muslim war zone and not every returning soldier but those who suffered post-traumatic stress, so traumatized by what they had seen and done that they needed help. He was put in a position of listening to their stories of what war is really like, about the awful things that happen in war even when people are good at heart. He heard all the things the rest of us would prefer to not imagine and likely his grievances against the United States grew.

This man was not a nutcase. He was a radical Muslim who decided the villains were the military. He said while doing it that he wasn't shooting anyone not in uniform. He saw himself as fighting a war. The fact that these soldiers were unarmed just made it easier. He probably knew plenty of stories where the same thing had happened to Iraqi civilians.

So whose fault is this? I would say it was his superiors but can we blame them if they simply didn't have the staff? I think the blame goes to the people in this country who wanted to fight a war on the cheap and even now resent taxes to cover the true costs. I say his being ignored as a risk is the fault of all the people who favor war as long as it's not their own lives on the line.

After Vietnam, I saw what happened and felt that whenever you fight a war overseas because you think you can spare your own country the spilling of blood, that blood gets spilled back at home in other ways. Call it karma. Call it what you will but war ends up with more violence and you see it time after time. If it is a solution, it's a lousy one and too often innocent people pay the price.

Parapluie put a positive comment into that last blog also which is a good ending here. I don't know that I believe that she is right. She is an idealist and I am not. I am not sure all things can be resolved by negotiations, but I do know we went into Iraq for no reason. What we think we can do in Afghanistan won't happen and in 10 years, we will be more broken, have more dead people on our conscience, have created more terrorists, and likely Afghanistan will go on with the same political and cultural system it has today.

Parapluie's comment:
I think your photos are spectacular. And very comforting during this time of national tragedy. I feel guilty, however, of a part of me saying that my fears were justified. When we first went to war in Afghanistan shortly after 911, I took to heart an article in the University of California Monthly by a professor of Middle Eastern Studies. He said that war was counterproductive and would only create more terrorists abroad and at home. My prayer, in addition to the ones for the families of the victims, is that we will come to our senses and see that war is not the answer.

There are studies on how to conduct conflict resolution. And one area that is most compelling is finding common grounds. One way to find common grounds is through the arts. Photography is one of the arts. The "Small Things" are something we should look at and encourage in times like ours.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Small Things

[I had written this blog before the tragic shootings in Fort Hood, Texas but wanted to say that my sympathies are with those wounded, murdered and their families. It was a horrible tragedy, really beyond imagining, that as so often seems to make no sense to most of us. I think though that small things in life are what have to mean the most. Life, which can end so abruptly, is about the little moments and appreciating them all. This post does fit that feeling.]

When I am at the beach, the big thing are, of course, the ocean waves and sometimes what appear to be monolithic rocks. Even the gulls, when they are gathered together seem big; but small things impress me also. These are a few from Sunday.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Oregon coast

Sunday, the chowder at Mo's, down on Newport's old docks, was delicious as always. We lucked out with a window table where we ate our chowder and drank a small glass of red wine while watching the boats go past, seeing the fish being filleted below, and a gull who kept teasing the filleter into throwing her something tasty. She got bread from the customers but nothing worth flying off for until a woman tossed her a cracker. Hopefully it floats as when she settled back on the water, I didn't see her with it.

In the restaurant, the interesting part was listening to bits of the conversation from a man and woman. Nobody's voice but his seemed to carry in there but we soon knew a lot more about his bank account and travels than either Farm Boss or I wanted to know. I wondered if his voice carried because he was nervous. It looked like this was a first date.

Maybe they were a couple who met through an internet site. This might have been their opportunity to meet in a safe place. Now that could be totally wrong. Maybe she was his daughter who he had not been in contact with for many years; but I am guessing not.

People in restaurants allow a person to make up whatever story they wish. And if strangers don't want others to do that, they should keep their voices down. :)

On the dock the sea lions were sunbathing on their usual lower dock. Their barks (also seeking something good to be tossed down) are one of the main appeals of going over to watch for awhile. One had a nasty slice across his neck which might have come from a boat propeller. The angle of the sun and that sad injury didn't inspire any photos.

Our walks on Uno Beach and at Seal Rock were lovely although whenever the wind blew, my ears reminded me this wasn't summer.

Although the sun shone most of the time, the surf was rough, lots of foam, making for some good wave action.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Profile photos

Maybe because I am a very visual person who loves to take photographs, paint and admire other's painting, the photo I use for a profile is both important to me and always a challenge. It's not that I don't like photos of myself, but more that none ever seem to say the right thing-- for long.

Where others might only see my profile photo once in awhile (if they notice it at all), I see it every time I come which is more often than it used to be since blogger went to an updating blog roll making it easy for me to visit my favorite blogs when they have a new topic.

My profile photo that I liked the longest, which lasted clear through the summer, was black and white, a little fuzzy, with shadows across my face which might be why it lasted so long.

Since seasonally I update them, no sleeveless tops when it's freezing outside, I change them regularly but am rarely satisfied with the results. If the photo is smiling, what about when I don't feel like smiling? If it looks contemplative, someone always thinks that means I am sad. Well sometimes I am but it's more that I don't go around smiling all the time. I want a photo to look like I look-- well not necessarily in harsh unflattering light.

To take a new one for here, one that I like but probably is a bit on the somber side for some people, I lightened up my own mood by having some fun doing it as I took a few other possibilities. To be honest, if you and I were having a conversation, you'd probably see some of them now and then. I know you'd see some if you watched the news with me.

The last one suits well how I feel whenever I read or see anything about Joe Lieberman!
You in Connecticut, who want a public option, you have a big responsibility here to lay weight on this guy! And next time he comes up for re-election, can't you send him to the lobbyists where he clearly belongs?

So what do ya think? A, B, C, D, or E?