Laying Down on the Job

Laying Down on the Job
The Santa Monica Easy

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Congress Should Abort H.R. 3962

Abortion is an extremely difficult, private and highly sensitive issue. To some it's an issue used as a political and religious rallying call for fundraising and a flash point for both the sincerest of believers and those who make a living spewing inflammatory rhetoric. This is not a simple black-or-white issue. Even those who've gone through an abortion do not all have the same opinion about whether a woman's right to choose should be governed by powerful lawmaking strangers or if a woman has the inalienable right to govern her own body.

First, despite what any man, religious leader, teacher, media mogul, doctor, social group, family member may say, this is, intrinsically, a woman's issue that must be faced at one of the most vulnerable moments in a woman's life. One might argue that regardless of the woman's situation, the choice is made under medical and/or emotional duress. Other's may be involved but until the day a male can get pregnant, pregnancy and all it's accompanying physical manifestations, conditions and complications are unique to women.  The only sacrifice a man makes to a pregnancy is a teaspoon of wriggly sperm bits. The woman's entire body is sacrificed to the effort of growing a baby. I love men, but for this topic: all men need to shut up and stay out of this issue.

According to a study of mortality rates in pregnant women, every minute across the planet a woman dies during labor or delivery. One abortion detail I've never heard thoroughly discussed is the medical necessity for abortion. All abortions are part of the medical discipline (except the egregious and illegal back alley abortions). Birth control pills and abortion pills (RU 486) -- both pharmaceuticals -- required extensive medical tests and trials as part of the Federal Drug Administration's approval protocols. Abortion is often necessary due to a condition unique to pregnant women called eclampsia where, among other causes, the fetus produces a protein that seriously endangers the mother's life. As of 2008, records show that worldwide, eclampsia is responsible for 12% of deaths in women during labor, delivery or post-delivery. Research also demonstrates that pre-eclampsia, the more dangerous variation of this condition, occurs in as many as 10% if all pregnancies. There's no sure way to predict who will be afflicted although there are some common factors. Eclampsia can occur as early as 20 weeks into pregnancy although it's more common to show up in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.   Even though this condition is as old as Eve, doctors still can only diagnose the condition and treat the symptoms (high blood pressure, blood clots, muscle aches, brain damage, pain, seizures and much more).  Despite that, virtually no significant funding campaign has been dedicated to eclampsia research so this hellacious condition can be prevention or cured. The only cure is for the mother to miscarry or give birth -- which often also kills the mother and/or the child. Other than that, the only other option a doctor has in order to save the mother's life is to remove the fetus via a surgical procedure -- which is an abortion.

With late term abortions outlawed, more women will die. I should say, more women have died because late term abortions have been outlawed. The incendiary prejudice against the procedure shamelessly spouted by religious leaders, "no-choice" groups, lawmakers and political pundits have done so at the cost of women's lives. What about those women? Don't they have any right to life when afflicted with a potentially life-threatening condition? The House health "care-less" bill, H.R. 3962 wants to exclude coverage for abortions. The bill would actually remove rights women have today. If that clause in the bill is not removed, women who are unlucky enough to be afflicted with eclampsia or pre-eclampsia will have to pay for the long term treatment and surgery out of pocket. So on top of enduring the agony of the condition, mourning the loss of a pregnancy, possibly a miscarriage or still birth, women must also cough up the tens of thousands of dollars for a procedure that saved her life.

Another potentially fatal condition during pregnancy is ectopic pregnancy where the fertilized egg imbeds in a Fallopian tube, the cervix, the abdomen, even in an ovary -- anywhere other than where it's supposed to be -- in the uterus. This happens with 1% of pregnancies. The mortality rate for a woman with an ectopic pregnancy is not as high as for a woman with pre-eclampsia or eclampsia. However, the mortality rate for the fetus is 100% because a fetus must be removed. Otherwise it will kill the mother. The removal of a fetus from the Fallopian tube is known as a tubal abortion. Another case where a condition exclusive to women -- pregnancy and all the associated medical complications -- is subject to exclusion in the House's version of the health "care-less" bill.

These are just two of the many complications and conditions unique to pregnancy, several of which require a form of abortion in order to prevent devastating or fatal harm to the mother.

The pro-choice position is to maintain the legality of a woman's right to choose what happens to her body in relation to pregnancy. The anti-abortionists want the legal rights of a fetus to trump those of the woman from whose body the growing fetus is nourished. Where is the equivalent law that trumps the rights of the male, from whose sperm the fetus is forming? The anti-abortionists want to give special legal privilege to both the fetus and the man involved in a pregnancy and remove a fundamental right from the woman who bears the fetus.

Making abortions illegal will not satisfy anti-abortionists. Some of the extremists in their crowd demand that birth control pills (not condoms) should be outlawed because birth control pills prevent sperm access to a ready egg (98% of the time). There will always be that next invasion of privacy and removal of rights over which to campaign.

Having listened to arguments on both sides of the abortion issue, it seems clear that the solution is to make abortions medically unnecessary not to just maintain the status quo or make abortions illegal or blow up abortion clinics and murder doctors while claiming to save babies. These medical conditions have killed women and babies since the first woman gave birth and are still killing our beloved women and babies. Awareness of these pregnancy-related medical conditions should be raised by both camps. Money should be raised to fund research that would cure or prevent all complications related to pregnancy. I would actually respect the "right-to-lifers" and take their message seriously if they made that effort. I would also respect anti-abortionists if they spent their collective energy manifesting an eternal fountain of wise and loving parents who would adopt, love and protect every child born from an unwanted pregnancy. Excluding abortions in the health "care-less" bill will not solve anything. It won't prevent women from needing and obtaining abortions. It won't prevent one abortion. It's likely to cause the death of more women than already die from pregnancy complications.  

Right now the anti-abortion language in H.R. 6920 occurs to me as a transparent manipulation to return women into their earlier second-class, servile chattel status.  It's not that surprising that it took 144 years after the Declaration of Independence for women to get the right to vote in this country's national elections.

But that's just my opinion -- and everybody's got one of those.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Celebration of Civil Disobedience

In defiance of the law, Susan B. Anthony became the first American woman to cast a vote in a Presidential election on this date, November 5th, in 1872.  Thirteen days later a U.S. Deputy Marshall arrested her for voting illegally.  Her life was dedicated to assuring equal rights under the law for women. 

She didn't live long enough to see the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which declared: 

  • "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

When ever women vote in this country Susan B. Anthony lives. 

Thank you, Susan B. Anthony   

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

L.A. Dreamin'

I like to blog about all-things Santa Monica but today, I broaden my passion for where I live to include Los Angeles -- and I actually love L.A., warts and all (not as much as Santa Monica -- but I digress). I read Matthew Fleischer's article in today's Los Angeles Times, "Imagine: L.A. Bicyclists in the Driver's Seat, One Day a Week".  The opportunity to create something no one would believe L.A. could or would do has been suggested by a volunteer group of bicyclists called "cicLAvia" -- an idea born in Bogata, Colombia, 30 years ago!  Los Angeles has fewer parks, per square mile, than even New York City!  The statistics for child-asthma and obesity are escalating with ever-decreasing support for physical education in public schools starting with kindergarten.  The rest of the world, including many who live here, consider L.A. devoid of community.  Neighbors can live next door to each other for years and never know each other's names. Many come to L.A., on their way to somewhere else or as an "escape from" destination where one can disappear in a metropolitan jungle. Many, though, come here to build anew, to reinvent, to create something powerful and lasting.  One day a week won't reverse the negative trends for lifestyle, health, economy and general pride for where one lives.  Yet it cannot be denied how amazing it would it be if one day a week only pedestrians and bicyclists travel major L.A.'s streets. It's thrilling to think about it.  If that's too crazy an idea then, how about one day a week when only pedestrians, motor-less and electric vehicles can travel the streets?  Still too hard to imagine?  How about one `burb at a time takes on the challenge?  It's so easy to conjure reasons it won't work.  There'd still be accidents because lousy drivers are lousy drivers no matter what kind of locomotion they use. Many Angelenos get bent out of shape if they're inconvenienced one Sunday a year when 26.2 miles of L.A.'s streets are reserved for the L.A. Marathon.  Still, this is an exciting idea with tons of benefits to share.  Political and civic cooperation as well as the will to work through the obstacles can make it happen.  Besides some L.A. political leaders including Mayor Villaraigosa, groups like Community Arts Resources,  California Foundation and Green L.A. Institute are looking for ways to make this cicLAvist dream come true for this city.  Like everything new in life, it starts with a dream.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Born to Run"

I flew to Chicago 10/8/09 to attend a dear cousin's wedding.  I saw my "Better-than-Sister" cousin Cecilia (the one I wrote about in an earlier post) and met her daughter's three-year-old daughter, Aislinn, for the first time!  I had a wonderful time and felt very satisfied to attend cousin Christopher's wedding.  He married a delightful woman, Julie, who shares his love of community theater.  Christopher's a wonderful young man and I love and admire him deeply even though we haven't spent that much time together.  

During the flight to Chicago and before falling asleep each night  while I was there, I read a newly published book, "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall.  

I'd seen Christopher McDougall interviewed on "The Daily Show" talking about how he came to write the book and I was surprised to learn it's not about Bruce Springsteen.  As an ex-marathoner, I was not that enthused about reading the book, whose sub-title is "A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen."  Anyone who can no longer complete marathons due to health issues will understand this.  I don't want to read a book about training for marathons.  Marathons were a love-hate relationship for me but it's a heartbreak not to be able to participate in those hellish events any more.  Anyway -- it was clear Jon Stewart had read the book and he was very enthusiastic about it saying something like, "This is a book for everyone..." or something like that.  I was intrigued enough -- and I trust Jon Stewart's taste in books --  that I looked up the book on and added it to my wish list for a future trip to the library.  

A few weeks later, out of the blue, my friend, "E",  sent the book to me!  I thanked  "E" and told her I'd read it after I was done with Ted Kennedy's thoroughly riveting biography, "True Compass" but she insisted I read "Born to Run" right away.  So, a day later, begrudgingly (because I've come to recognize that "E" is always right so I just follow orders), I started zip-reading through the first two chapters. I wasn't impressed.  It wasn't until half-way through Chapter 3 that I finally began to understand why my friend insisted I read it right away.  A few days later, when I got on the plane for Chicago, I was about a quarter of the way through the book and feeling very resentful towards anything that kept me from reading the book. 

This book's title makes sense (especially at the end of the book) but does not do the story justice. "Born to Run" appeals to athletes, runners, marathoners and ultra-marathoners -- and Bruce Springsteen fans --  but this IS a book for everyone -- men, women, teens, teachers, bankers, politicians and anyone dealing with health issues -- not just runners or marathoners. It's a mystery, a quest, an adventure, history, crime, health and diet, anthropology, disease, joy, love and bliss. I plan to send this book to friends and family just because it's a GREAT read and I want everyone to be as mesmerized and amazed as I was reading this story. It's unforgettable. Towards the end of the book I began to slow my reading down because I didn't want it to end. I'm sure I'll read "Born to Run" many times.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hamsters Power the Internets?

Just before I get ready to update my blog with all kinds of serious thoughts, I make the mistake of catching up with "Cute Overload" and "LOL Cats".  Inevitably I find something so utterly charming and adorable, that I opt to share the irresistibleness of pets over the never ending outrage in my head.  Next blog will be about bad opera -- I promise.  For now, enjoy a delightful selection from (I love hamsters -- I can't help it).

If I feed you parsley, will you unclog the Innernets? Please? [Grabbing cilantro just in case.]
Thanks, Mathijs and Lucy 4.0 over at HamsterTracker, where Lucy helps power the Internets on her wheel, one meter at a time. At press time, Lucy’s at 146,119.47 meters in 48 days.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cat Sass

Who ever said YouTube is a useless waste of time clearly didn't know what's what:

Thank you, YouTube!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sonic Ka-BOOM!

Last month the Shuttle Discovery returned from its mission to re-supply the International Space station.  Due to uncooperative weather, instead of returning to its home in Florida it was diverted to the ever-sunny Edwards Air Force Base in California.   I've always wanted to watch the Shuttle -- any NASA Shuttle -- land there.  I knew NASA might re-route "Discovery" to Edwards so I planned to drive there to watch the Shuttle land.  It landed there alright, but I only found out about 3 hours before the landing and it's a 5 hr. drive from Santa Monica.  Drat!  However, I did HEAR Discovery because its flight path was somewhere over Los Angeles on the way to Edwards.  It startled me and reminded me of the first time I heard a sonic boom.  

My mom, U.S. Air Force dad and I lived in Columbus, OH, -- I was about 12 or 13 at the time.  I was at home alone, in the kitchen fixing a snack when a tremendous booming blast hit the neighborhood.  It was not only loud, it felt like the house was slightly lifted from its foundation and gently shaken like a Godzilla-sized martini.  It scared me and I was completely disoriented by the combination of unexpected and very loud sound and vibration.  I stood there, frozen, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened and I finally "decided" that the attached garage must have collapsed -- and I was sure my mother would blame me somehow so I was frantically calculating how to point the finger of blame at our young German Shepherd and three cats.  

Once I was relatively confident there wouldn't be another bang/shake event, I opened the front door tentatively, gingerly stepped out onto the front yard, looked around the neighborhood in case it was a neighbor's house that had collapsed then warily looked toward our garage. I was both surprised and relieved to see the garage completely safe and sound just as all the other structures along the street.  Anyway, I was pretty sure I could never convince my mother the family pets were somehow responsible had the garage actually collapsed!  I spent the next few hours trying to figure out what in the world that ear shattering, earth rattling could have been.  When Mom and Dad returned home later that day I was a bubbling caldron of words trying to explain the fearsome bang, and the shaking and then I heard Dad say, in his ever-so-casual-all-knowing way, "Oh, you probably heard the sonic boom..."  I knew what a sonic boom was, I simply couldn't believe breaking the sound barrier could be so violent and insisted it had to be something else.  A nuclear bomb test maybe -- something with a dark, rising cloud at the very least.  Dad assured me, yes indeed,  he knew about the flight but had forgotten to mention it and after all, we lived under one of the final approaches to what was then Lockbourne AFB, so the aircraft was actually not that far away.  Dad started to explain the event with math and my eyes glazed over.  I don't remember much after that.  Even then I tended to blackout whenever someone tried to dazzle me with numbers and formulas.  The end result was, I never forgot that sound and vibration and math still turns me comatose. 

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mr.BoJindo Thinks He's Invisible

My daughter's dog -- who I may have now photographed more than her -- is Mr. BoJindo and I've entered him in a Cutest Dog Contest.  Please vote early and often (really -- you can vote at least once a day).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


       Ponytail shadow swings

To the beat of cushioned feet

         On the way back home.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Feline...

Credit and a sincere thank you to Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese and his indispensable, informative and fascinating blog

Twisted by Twizzlers

Okay, I have to admit I was astonished when a good friend of mine with whom I'd been roommates for several years, ask me, "What's a Twizzler?". I thought she remembered my love/hate battle with "The Twizzler."   For those dear readers who have the same question, here's a photo:

(thank you < archives/2008/04/> for the photo)

This hunk of red, chewy, snake-like sweetness is vegan but so full of high-fructose-corn-syrup (HFCS) that I'm embarrassed to admit it I find them so yummy and almost impossible to resist. If you haven't heard or read or heard about the health concerns related to HFCS, it's probably a good idea to look into it.  I'm a former marathoner, horseback rider, champion bowler, golfer (including the miniature variety), sailor, swimmer, ping-pong player, power walker and I'm vegan so one would think I only eat the kind of healthy stuff that honors my body-as-temple life style.  Well, I do eat healthy (no sodas, no animal products, fresh veggies, fruit, nuts), but The Twizzler is my nemesis. For me, it's like the sun to a vampire -- like donuts to Homer Simpson -- it's my most dangerous high-fructose-corn-syrup (HFCS) guilty pleasure weakness to which "resistance is futile".  

Ok, I exaggerate.  I can resist Twizzlers if: 
  • There aren't any in my residence or 
  • I they're not on 2-for1 sale at a nearby local store or 
  • I read the ingredients on the package
I recently read an article about a general behavior modification technique that utilizes a 3-tap sequence over 9 body locations. It might just help me on the battlefield, face-to-face with The Twizzler.  

The idea is that you repeatedly verbalize what behavior you want to embrace while tapping 3 times on each of the following body parts:
  1. Outside edge of the hand (where a karate chop is centered)
  2. Inside eyebrow
  3. Outside the eyebrow edge
  4. Under eye (center)
  5. Center of the dip between the end of the nose and upper lip
  6. Center of the chin
  7. Collar bone
  8. Under arm
  9. Top of the head   
I figure it's worth a try even if I look like a loon during the confrontation.  

Wealth Insurance vs. "Promote the General Welfare"

The public would find it edifying if the media always included the amount of health insurance campaign contributions any member of Congress received, every time they talk about the health care reform -- especially when it comes time for a vote. It could be right next to their political party and state -- so the American voters can connect the dots.  

Some time ago Congress turned over the health care of its citizens to for-profit corporations with the mistaken belief that "free market" would provide low cost/high quality health care. It's been decades now and every year those with health insurance have turned over an increasingly larger percentage of their hard-earned income to profit-driven health insurance corporations only to get less coverage, more claim denial and pay more out of pocket. Congress knows this yet every year neglects to provide more than lip service to their constituents while the health insurance companies thrive, deliver higher investor returns and astronomical CEO salaries. This is not free market, it's criminal. The free-market theory hasn't worked for health insurance just as cutting taxes and the "trickle-down" theories haven't helped the economy. Medicare needs to be opened to anyone in order to create a level playing field for the American people.  

The concept of triggers is a ruse. Health insurance companies will wriggle out of legal constraints or mandates by dragging the whole concept through the courts, further delaying health care reform. The health insurance industry has had more than 15 years to fix their punitive policies and practices since the Clinton administration tried to pass universal health care. The health insurance industry knew they'd dodged a bullet then and had the opportunity to self-regulate and reform knowing this issue would not go away. Nevertheless, they chose to conduct business as usual. The insurance industry is no more willing or able to regulate itself than the banks or any profit-driven corporation. Expecting corporations to deliver affordable health care over profits is like accepting a ride across a flooding river on the back of a crocodile and expecting it not to eat you. Health insurers are corporations are and will always be driven by profits.  

Medicare must be opened to the public or a non-profit public option created that will provide affordable health insurance coverage and real competition to corporations. Nothing less can, to quote the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, "promote the general welfare" of American citizens and nothing else is worthy of the American people.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Costal Cleanup Adventure

Saturday, September 19, 2009 was annual Coastal Cleanup Day (as mentioned my 8/26/09 post "Human Scrubbee Bubbles!").  My camera ran out of battery juice right after the first unintended photo taken of my thumb and my iPhone was very low on battery too so I only used it for a single Tweet -- so no photos of the day.   

I was at Santa Monica Beach about 9 AM with gloves, trash bags, hat, sea breeze in my face, sand in my shoes and a determination to leave the beach a little cleaner than I'd found it.  The day was a combination of fun, exercise, exhilaration followed by a sinking feeling that all the effort was a mere drop in the ocean (no pun intended). I was assigned to a group of 5 others, all of whom were family members.  I was so impressed that a mother and father brought their children (ages 8, 9 and 11) all the way from East Los Angeles, to take part in this effort. I asked what inspired them to volunteer.  Marco, the father, told me once a month they pack a meal and spend most of the day at the beach just to get a break from the heat and congestion of their neighborhood.  Besides, it gave them an extra opportunity to visit the beach and a chance to say thank you to the beach and ocean. Talk about your better angels!  I mentioned that I live less than a mile from the beach, the 3 children said I was lucky.  I told them I remind myself every morning how lucky I am and I thought to myself that I never travel inland for a "break" from the ocean.  Indeed I am lucky.  

I was less astonished by the mountains of bagged trash we ended up with than what kind of trash it was.  There were pieces of clothing, especially socks, various tubes of sunscreen, pieces of jewelry (hoop earrings, toe ring, ankle bracelet), tubes of lip balm, butane lighters, cigarette butts, yogurt containers, plastic bottles, bundles of matted fishing line, bottle caps, tampons and thousands of plastic grocery bags, etc (what ever is in your garbage today is an example of what we found on the beach). What was distressing to me were the huge number of plastic six pack rings.  Long ago I learned those six pack rings are lethal to birds, fish, turtles, all marine life in general.  The ring hole is just big enough to get caught around a creature's body part and cut into flesh.  When ever I see one on the ground, I pick it up and rip it so they become a single large, less lethal trap for wildlife. There were so many, though not as many as the number of plastic bags, that I felt a sense of finger-in-the-dike-pessimism. Some of this trash was left by accident, some flew on the breeze from an open garbage bin, down an alley and onto the beach.  Most of it washed up on the beach like an undelivered gift returned to sender for disposal.  

Nevertheless, the noble and worthwhile effort to clean up the trash around beaches, rivers and waterways should not be tinged with anything but enthusiasm and should expand even further.  It's a well organized national effort and one in which I felt privileged to participate.  One that should, perhaps, be expanded to more than once a year.  There will always be those who don't care about what their trash does to their own environment and there will be those who do.  I choose to be one who cares.  Cleaning up garbage bags and six pack rings when you're by yourself declares a kind of unwillingness to abandon hope. When you're part of a larger group like yesterday, focused on the same effort, that single ray of hope opens up to tidal wave. 

I know there are regular mechanical sweeps of our streets and the beach to collect trash but I also know there are numerous trash barrels on the beach into which many people will not bother to deposit their trash.  I learned a great deal yesterday up-front-and-personal about how much trash litters our beaches and I also learned how much damage our collective trash can cause. It's one thing to read about it or imagine it -- it's a whole different matter to repeatedly pick it up, smell it, hold it in your hands, be disgusted by it and defiantly stuff it into a garbage bag and take it away like a convicted criminal.  Just because we bag, bury or burn our trash does not minimize the damage caused to people, wildlife and ecosystems.  It occurs to me that bigger solutions are needed.  Recycling is wonderful but it's at the mercy of the economy.  When the economy is bad, fewer manufacturers purchase it,  the price for recyclable paper, plastic, glass and aluminum trash goes down and becomes less attractive for those who collect and turn it in. The effort to ban plastic grocery bags seems worth while. I bring my cloth bags with me when I grocery shop now, but from what I've seen. most people still use plastic bags.  If most shoppers don't bring cloth bags with them, how many return their plastic bags to those collection bins in front of grocery stores?  I suspect they just end up in garbage bins and easily fly out when the bin is turned upside down and dumped into the trash collection truck.  

This is no news to environmentalists but my participation yesterday personalized the experience.  As a child, Rachel Carson was the first writer who opened my eyes to the philosophy of human responsibility toward our  planet. A quote of hers comes to mind:  

We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road-the one less traveled by-offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.

Bagging trash beside three delightful, thoughtful, well-mannered children (Joe Wilson could have learned from these youngsters) and their loving parents was the best thing I could have done with my time yesterday.  I may have left the beach a little cleaner yesterday, but more importantly I came home a better person. 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Will Fins Ever Return?

I love classic cars.  Actually, I love cars even before they become classic or antique.  If I could figure out how to do it, I'd drive a different car ever week. I'd love to be involved in designing cars inside out.  Of course I rarely drive now because I can walk almost everywhere I need to go because I was so lucky to live where I live in Santa Monica -- less than a mile from the Santa Monica Pier, the Santa Monica Promenade, Santa Monica College, blocks from the city library, Farmer's Market, dry cleaners, art galleries, delicious restaurants, movies, groceries, dry cleaners, wine market -- but I digress.

I saw this car in an alley off Wilshire Blvd. and 11th (thereabouts) and had to stop to look at it.
The car was in the shadows so the photos aren't very good, but as I got closer to the car and my smile got wider and wider, I just had to whip out my iPhone to take pics.  The owner was just returning to the car as I took the second of a series of photos.  I told him I write a blog about (other things) things I see in Santa Monica and asked if it was okay to include photos of his car.  He sweetly agreed even though I was delaying his departure he patiently waited for me to finish taking photos.  I should have taken a photo of him in the car.  Dang.  Next time. Then he thanked ME for admiring his car!  Isn't that sweet?  I thanked him for maintaining this beauty so meticulously for others to admire and ogle.  It's history on wheels.

Is this what's known as a land shark?  I found myself wondering we'll ever see fins on cars again.  I'm not sure what they did -- other than look sleek and scary -- and I'll bet there are tons of reasons they'll never return because most cars today are about functionality and fuel consumption (nothing wrong with that).  This car, which I think is a 1960ish Plymouth Fury just delighted me.  It came from an era of cars with fins and I remember when they were new on the road.  In my pre-teen mind there seemed like a relationship between fin size and pocket book.  Nevertheless,  I love the gender bending design elements of pointy fins and curvy bits (especially the steering wheel) all in one car.  

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the steering wheel. I know, no air bags, no padded dash, no cd or cassette player, no GPS and no iPod connector. Still, there's a wonderful quality of elegant lines, angles.

The gauge display is awesome. When this car was new it must have felt like driving in a "Star Trek" episode. Note the absence of seat belts. I wonder how the engine does on unleaded gas.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pervasiveness of TiVo

I'm not ashamed to admit, I love TiVo.  I wasn't the first in my immediate circle of friends to get TiVo because -- as usual -- I didn't "get" it.  I read about what it did and how it worked  but I didn't get excited about it and I couldn't wrap my head around why TiVo was so much more than a super-charged VCR. If TiVo had rolled out its product the way Apple rolled out the first iPod or iPhone, I'd have been much closer to the front of the TiVo line, but I digress. 

I learned that a TiVo DVR would need to be purchased and a relatively modest monthly subscription fee assessed. The first person I knew to get TiVo was a family member who, the day after getting it said, "Trust me, you need TiVo -- you'll never regret it and your life will never be the same."  I should have gotten TiVo'd up right then and there because this person had never been wrong in the past -- so you'd think I'd learn.  After all this was the same family member who's dragged me, through generosity and love, kicking, screaming, moaning, huffing, puffing and otherwise whining into a pteradactyl-free life.  I should have simply opened my wallet and made the plunge with that one enthusiastic, unqualified, endorsement.  I was, however, pig-headedly unmoved. I just couldn't justify the expense, especially since I didn't see the need.  I admit it's fun and cool to be the first person to get the next new gizmo but I was uninspired. My VCR recorded any program I didn't want to miss.  I heard Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" talk about TiVo in terms that were nearly incandescent and I have to admit his reverent endorsement pushed me a teensy bit closer to TiVo enlightenment.  Even then, I didn't act.  

It took a Mother's Day to get me to TiVo.  On Mother's Day 200-I-forget-what-year, I got a TiVo DVR and a year's pre-paid subscription as a present from my wonderful, generous, thoughtful child.  As promised -- ever since then my life has not been the same.  Skipping past advertisements is the least of TiVo thrills.  I can watch an already recorded program while yet another one is recording.  I love that I can create a wish list of titles/actors/directors/topics that interest me and have them record automatically.  I can pause what's on TV for up to 30 minutes, go do something else, come back and pick up where I left off.  I can run a slide show of the photo collection from my hard drive to my TV.  I can play iTunes music on my TV.  I can transfer my podcast videos to TiVo and watch them on my TV instead of the computer.  I can schedule a show to record using my iPhone or over the internet.  I won't list everything but suffice to say, I love my TiVo and I'm always astonished when I meet someone who doesn't have it.  

Here's the thing though.  I'm so used to multi-tasking as I "watch" TV, that I often miss what was said and immediately pick up the remote to replay it.  I've become so reliant on the replay feature that today I found myself reaching for the car radio to replay something I'd just missed on the news.  Frequently I'll rewind to hear something I missed, only to get distracted by my computer or the newspaper or my homework so that  I' have to replay the same segment multiple times.  Kind of defeats the whole multi-tasking thing.  I've even found myself looking for the replay button in the immediate aftermath of a face-to-face-conversation. I think TiVo has eroded my ability to stay focused and "present".  It's the creeping pervasiveness of TiVo replay.  

Nevertheless, my life has never been the same now that I have TiVo and its remote will be the last thing pried from my cold, dead hands.  

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Craig Ferguson Said it So Much Better...

I wrote a gagillion verbose and yet pithy words about the rudeness of Joe Wilson and Eric Cantor during the President's speech to a joint session of Congress on September 9, 2009.  Yesterday the comedy division of Huffington Post (bet you didn't know they have a whole department devoted to comedy) posted Craig Ferguson's monologue from 9/10/09 in which he mused about the rudeness of Joe Wilson during the President's speech.  While he mentioned a few of the same things I raged about in my blog, his monologue about the shout out said in a few minutes what I tried to say only he conveyed it more succinctly and brilliantly.  It's an example of the power of well crafted comedy.  YouTube only has half of the monologue and CBS has commercials.  Click on the photos below and watch the whole 6:49 minutes.  It's well worth it.
Craig Ferguson on Joe Wilson

The Security of Illusion

As I drove home today from Trader Joe's, I happened to listen to Krista Tippett, the host of NPR's "Speaking of Faith", interview Mary Doria Russell about how she discerns God. I always enjoy this show when I happen to hear it even though I no longer attend church, having long ago made the conscious choice to carry my church "on my back" -- so to speak -- to live a life that follows the Golden Rule 24/7 instead of just on Sunday. Regardless, I often carry on existential explorations in my head about God. I found today's broadcast provocative and thought I would expand on it for today's post. However, before I got started with my own, I read my friend's blog (as I do most every day), "The Gurly Life", and discovered she already blogged about the same broadcast and topic! The author of "The Gurly Life" and I are dear friends but we live on the opposite sides of an incomprehensibly humongous, traffic-challenged metropolis and we both lead very different life styles so it's a succulent serendipity that we were both driving our Priuses (I in my dark green 2001 model and she in her red 2009), at the same hour, listening to the same radio channel. What is not surprising is that our respective reactions to the broadcast would be the same ("must blog about this..."). Is this evidence that great minds do indeed think alike or have thousands of bloggers across the planet blogged about this topic in the aftermath of today's broadcast? Of course, I'm not really blogging about it because after reading her blog, I have nothing more to add. I do recommend listening to the broadcast and then, for dessert, reading "The Gurly Life"'s equally provocative and witty observations, "Some god thoughts".

Instead, I'll yap about the illusion of security. I am of two minds regarding gated communities, barred windows and electronic security in general. My first reaction is, "what a good way to protect one's self and belongings from the dangers of the world." My second reaction is that these precautions and safety measures create a false sense of safety, a false sense of the world and reinforce fear. I'm not critical of those who choose to live in gated enclosures, use Lo Jack or ADT, I'm just torn.

In late 1990 the rear passenger window of my lovely 1975 Honda Civic was smashed by some creep who wanted my stuff, and he stole about $200 worth of newly dry cleaned clothes along with some love letters from a boy friend, my prescription sunglasses and a pair of jumper cables. I'd locked the car but it had no alarm. If I'd left the car unlocked, it's quite likely the window would not have been obliterated. As it turned out, the damage was less than my insurance deductible (isn't that always the case?) but costly enough to put a huge crimp in my budget. For six months I drove around with a duct-taped garbage bag for a passenger window -- and I'm sure it's illegal to drive a car with a garbage bag window -- before I could afford to have it replaced. I think the specific saint who protects driver's from being ticketed must have been my guardian angel for those months. Every car I've owned since that sweet little Honda -- a `94 Saturn station wagon, my 2001 Prius and a 2004 Mercedes Benz -- all had alarm systems. Nevertheless, some creep broke into my Prius and stole the TomTom GPS on the same rare night I left the car unlocked and unarmed.

In April of 1992, while at work, my bungalow apartment was burgled by a duo of creeps who wanted my stuff. As is usual for B and E, the windows were the entry-point of choice. One member of the duo hoisted himself (assuming it was a he-type) through the unscreened kitchen window, easily pushed open from the outside, and into my apartment where upon he passed the microwave, sewing machine, 19 inch TV, answering machine, VHS player and two gold bracelets from my grandmother, to the other thief waiting outside the other kitchen window easily opened by the first thief. I had no renter's insurance in those days so it was a total financial loss for me. The hardest part though was everything stolen had been given to me by someone I loved and who loved me. I slept at a friend's for a week before I felt safe enough to sleep in the apartment again. The landlord replaced the window screens, I got renter's insurance and I installed a battery-operated motion detector. The motion detector didn't do more than make an obnoxiously loud noise when activated, but it was all I could afford at the time and gave me a sense of security.

The motion detector became more of a nuisance to the neighbors than a deterrent. In the summer, when the bungalow gets beastly hot, I leave the side windows open during the day. The alarm would blast if one of the drapes even slightly billowed from an occasional passing breeze. No one called the police when it tripped. I just found post-it notes on my back door informing me that the alarm blasted for 30 minutes. Sometime in the sumer of 2000 I just stopped using the motion detector.

In the aftermath of my property loss, two of the four other apartments were also burgled. In 2005 the landlord, who lives in the "Big House" on the property, bought a dog. While the terms of my lease won't permit a pet, two other newer tenants now also have dogs. There are six dogs living in three of the 5 apartments. One tenant has two chihuahuas and a Jack Russell, another tenant has a chihuahua-terrier mix and the landlord now has two dogs, a Vizsla and a German Shepherd. Personally, I couldn't be happier to be surrounded by dogs. They're balanced, well-trained dogs cared for by responsible, considerate owners. Amazingly, the dogs only bark when someone's at their respective doors.

Yet, 3 weeks ago one of the dog-owning tenants had a near home invasion. The tenant was taking a shower. Meanwhile, the intruder-creep began to pull himself through the relatively small bathroom window from the outside. As he was nearly half-way through the window, the tenant (a petite young woman) stepped out of the shower and startled the would-be invader enough for him to lose his balance and he quickly withdrew from the window into the night. Her dog only barked when she blurted out some kind of exclamation upon seeing the guy balanced on his arms in the window. The most unnerving detail of this story is that the invader chose to break into an apartment where it was obvious someone was at home and in the shower. It was 9 PM and her apartment had a light on in every room. The attached apartment was dark as was the "Big House" and the "Little House" at the front of property. However, the bathroom windows face the back of the property where there's no light at night. None of these buildings have any insulation and it's easy to hear a TV or running shower, especially when standing right outside the window. There was only one dim light lit in my apartment, although I was home, on the phone with my cousin. My apartment was probably less attractive because it's easier to see someone climb in a window from the courtyard or the alley and my bathroom window has a nice bright light hanging right above it. This guy selected the most attractive target for his purposes. That's why the police categorized this event as an attempted home invasion not attempted robbery or attempted B & E.

The next day, while on the phone with my Dad, I was humorously relating about the illusion of security we all felt with six dogs and yet, an uninvited visitor had nearly made it through my neighbor's bathroom window while she was in the shower. I joked that I'd decided to buy a few "beware of the rottweiler " signs for my windows as deterrent. As soon as I finished relating the story I was sorry I did. Dad's response was, "I'm calling ADT today and getting it installed for you." I felt bad. I shouldn't have told him. Dad's never expressed worry about my safety before -- except when I first learned to fly (but that's another blog) -- so I felt a bit embarrassed by his reaction. After all, it wasn't my apartment -- it was the young woman across the courtyard. Regardless, I couldn't put that squirt of toothpaste back in its tube no matter how I tried to backtrack and downplay the whole thing. The truth is, if a similar incident had happened to my daughter, I'd have done the same thing as my Dad. I'm not overly concerned about my safety although, I have no idea if six break-ins over 18 years on a single property is average, excessive or lucky in this city. I feel safe when I'm out and about although I am careful to take precautions. I scan my surroundings, have my keys out when I approach my car or home, I lock my car while I fuel it and I never park next to a van or SUV if it's dark or will be dark when I return to it.

Yesterday the ADT installer came and now, I'm all ADT-ed up. My doors beep every time they open and there's an extra glowing light amid the panorama of LEDs that litter my computer-laden space. I feel like a princess in her castle or a celebrity living in a gated community or a trustee in a minimum security facility. I need to get used to "signing in and out" with the security system. I left the house for a few hours today and forgot to set the alarm. If, when it's set, there's a break-in I will be called -- like on the TV ads -- then the police will be called if I don't answer or if I report a break-in. I feel kind of embarrassed that mine is the only apartment on the property with ADT signs out front and on the windows but I'm also very lucky. Thank you, Dad! I'm fortunate to have such a generous father who obviously worries about my safety more than I realized. I wish my neighbor's father had done for her what mine has done for me but she probably was considerate enough not to tell him what happened.

So am I really safe and secure? Is my stuff safe and secure from ne'er-do-wells of the world or the immediate vicinity? Am I in an illusion of safety? What do I lose in the bargain for security? In my observation, criminals build these security systems -- indirectly -- because everyone else is busy with the demands of day-to-day life. I appreciate the options for security but I resent having to live in a bubble of security because a relatively few criminals and dangerous thugs use their brains and energy to devise ways to circumvent the law. I particularly resent that airline passengers are wanded, x-rayed, patted, unzipped, unpacked, searched, de-shoed and have to arrive two hours early every time they fly because a relatively few but exceptionally deadly criminals shattered the illusion that we all want to arrive at our destinations alive. I have a metal hip joint so I always set off alarms and get pulled aside by the TSA agents for an extra dose of touchy-feely wanding when I fly. I'm reminded, as I stand, arms-out like a criminal on a cross with some TSA agent slowly concentrating her ultra-mega sensitive metal detector over my body outline, that even with each new precaution or procedure, our security systems will not guarantee safety. It's like a Mobius strip. The rules, the actions, the efforts create the illusion of being more secure and some sense of security is born of that illusion.

I Should Not Be Allowed Outside!

Last Saturday, I walked around Santa Monica -- about 4 miles worth along the streets of Santa Monica. That's impressive if you know Santa Monica is all of 8 square miles in size (4 miles by 2 miles). It was a stupendously gorgeous day. Blue sky with fluffy laugh-inducing,"Simpsons" inspired clouds in the west hovered above the Santa Monica Pier and along the sea shore. To the east, pyrocumulous clouds rose ominously, formed by murderous wildfires. I was yanked back into reality. I was dressed in black stretchy walk-don't-run capri-length tights, yellow L. A. Legger's cap and yellow L. A. Leggers running shirt. Basically, I looked like a veritable gargantuan bi-pedal bumble bee -- except for the fact that I'd pulled the shirt over my head so that it was backwards. The entire bumble bee population was shamed. I wish I could find a good excuse for the occasional dressing faux-pas but there's a big blue L. A. Leggers logo on the side of the shirt that's supposed to face in the same direction as my face. I realized I was 2 miles into my 4 mile walk so I hadn't bothered to even look down at my shirt until half way through the walk -- or I looked down and it didn't occur to me that the logo was missing.  When I realized something was wrong, I stopped -- right in the middle of the sidewalk -- to figure out who stole the logo off my shirt. A second later I realized the logo hadn't been stolen, it had moved to my left shoulder blade.

I realized I had to make a choice. Either find a restroom in which I could make the appropriate clothing adjustments or just walk home as if I was oblivious to my backwards-facing shirt. I calculated that if I'd put the shirt on inside out AND backwards (which I've done before) I would take the time and make the effort to find a bathroom -- if I could find one closer than my own bungalow. I casually looked down at the shoulder seams, which would inform me of the level of stupid-dressing I'd done. "Ahhh" I thought, "I only pulled it on backwards. I'm only half-stupid." That, then, led me to conclude I could leave the shirt as it was and comfortably walk the last 2 miles in my "Scarlet-letter" backwards-facing attire.  At an earlier time in my life I'd have been mortified by my clothing carelessness, but it's happened so many times now, it's more funny than humiliating. My mother would have been mortified.
I took a different route home and about a block into my return, I saw a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk between the post office and a bakery, wearing a pair of dingy briefs on his head, party-hat style, jauntily tilted to the left. I wondered if he was the "Ghost of Future Saturday Walk-Abouts" come to show me the evils of careless dressing? "No", I thought, "If this is a vision of my future, he'd be wearing pantyhose on his head, `cause I may not wear clothes the right way out but I don't wear dingy underwear. That I recall.
Putting things into proportion, I forgave myself for the episode of clown-dressing. I comforted myself (others may call it "justifying") even congratulated myself for only making a mistake with one piece of clothing. Counting all my clothing items, I had successfully adorned myself with 8 separate items. That's, a B+ . or 87.5%, right? Yes, I can do better, but if I were perfect, I would have so much less to laugh at in the world - `cause the stuff I do makes me laugh a lot. I could have done much worse -- and I have in the past.  

One could argue that a woman with a solid 60 years of living experience behind her should be able to guarantee herself and the world that she'll step outside dressed like someone older than a two-year old. Apparently not. Facing the last two-mile walk home, I made the conscious choice to cherish the occasional two-year old who shows up to dress me too quickly and with total abandon, as only two-year olds can, and just proudly strut my backwards-facing shirt home. I looked like a dork but who cares? Only the folks behind me would know my secret and I couldn't see them. I giggled all the way home. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Big Red "Ruh-Rho"

This is when you do NOT want to hear anyone say, "Have a nice day..."

Here's the story from LAFD News & Information email:

Water Main Causes an Engine to Sink Into Large Hole

Firefighters were in route to an unknown flood problem in the vicinity of West Hartsook St. in the Valley Village Community of North Hollywood. As the Crew arrived during the early morning hour, they encountered large amounts of water on the roadway.

With no asphalt visible, the Captain on the engine made a judgment call to begin backing out of the area. As they initiated backing procedures, two firefighters stepped out of the engine to stand as lookouts, while two additional firefighters remained aboard the rig. Suddenly, the front of engine began to sink into a large hole created by a water main that broke several yards away. The two firefighters escaped, one through a side window and one was able to ajar a door on the opposite side. The sink hole consumed most of the front of the apparatus, leaving a good portion of the back exposed.  An intense  recovery operation was initiated consisting of heavy rescue equipment, dozers, a good amount heavy duty Cables as well as personnel. It took firefighters and allied agencies all morning to devise a plan to retrieve the engine from the large sink hole. There where no other vehicles or individuals involved. Happily the firefighters escaped this incident without any Injury.

Shout Out to Wilson and Cantor: Your Mothers Didn't Teach You Manners!

In another day and antebellum time, Representatives Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) would have been horse whipped by fellow members of the South Carolina or Virginia legislatures for their blatant lack of respect and good manners displayed in front of the world last night during President Obama's address to Congress.  Granted it's 2009, not 1859, and good manners have fallen by the wayside for many in today's society, but they should not be abandoned by our elected members of Congress.  

Wilson's outburst and Cantor's disinterested texting disrespected the President, Congress, their tax-payer-paid-for seats in Congress and all the people in their districts regardless of party.  They also  brought shame to their respective mothers, who, despite the title of my rant, I'm quite sure DID teach them good manners.  Both are supposed to be gentlemen from the South, and as such, expected to set an example of educated civility, respect and refined dignity -- none of which was displayed by either by Cantor's juvenile texting or Wilson's grade-school, cowardly  shout out.  Is that the example you want to set or do you just revile THIS president because of his skin color?   And if your mothers aren't ashamed of your behavior, as an American citizen, I am ashamed of you both -- particularly Joe Wilson for being the first member of Congress to heckle the President of the United States during an address to Congress.  Congratulations pin head -- that's a legacy worthy of an ignorant petulant child.  What WAS a lie was when you claimed afterwards that your utterance was "spontaneous."  Who do you think you're kidding? The Republican strategy memo was leaked.  It was planned like an ambush and it only made YOU look unworthy to be a member of Congress. 

When addressing a formal letter to a member of the House, the correct greeting is, "The Honorable Representative...."  That's the way we non-elected officials are expected to address a member of Congress.  It's a token of respect for the office, not the man or woman.  It's a way to respectfully acknowledge the voters that office represents. It's a unique way to recognize the significant law-making powers of the office.  Wilson's outburst and Cantor's texting clearly signal to the world that both have: 
  • zero respect for the office of President of the United States, 
  • zero respect for the importance of the seat either of them fill and 
  • zero respect for those who made the effort to vote them into office let alone the rest of the citizens  in their respective districts.  
Respect is not shown for the elected official or the political party.  Respect is shown to the office and the importance of the work done for the American people.  Last night they both demonstrated themselves to be hooligans unworthy of the office and unworthy of respect. 

What they did was worse than the journalist who threw his shoes at Bush!  Yah.  Bush was the Republican's guy and the whole party got all "uppity" about that insult. The Dixie Chicks said what they thought about Bush and they got blacklisted by folks in the GOP.  Only Republicans have the right to Freedom of Speech, right? Got it.  Lord knows, if I had been an elected member of Congress during the Bush administration, I'd have had a damn hard time restraining myself from shouting, "You lie" during his speech about the reasons to invade Iraq -- and had I done that, I'd have been called a "Traitor!"  Calling Bush a liar during his speech to Congress would have been inexcusable -- just as Cantor's texting and Wilson's outburst were.   

To Joe and Eric -- I feel justified in addressing you so disrespectfully since you have dishonored your respective offices -- you both are a disgrace to your respective districts.  The rest of the world, except those people in your districts, will think all residents of South Carolina and Virginia are the same ignorant, boorish street-thugs you demonstrated yourselves to be last night.  As an American, I'm damned ashamed and angry with both of you.  You lost any credibility and entitlement to respect last night.  Wilson had to be "instructed" to apologize to the President by members of his party.  Imagine that!  He had to be told by his peers to apologize and the President accepted the insincere apology.  Well, I haven't accepted his apology.  Wilson and Cantor owe the people they represent an apology for how they shamed them, for how they shamed Congress and for how they shamed the United States.