To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I went to Kissimmee yesterday to visit F.

She had a cold last week. It's better now, but her supervisor is home with her kid, who has swine flu. So I brought my Dutch oven with me, and F and I went to the grocery store and bought some chicken, vegetables that she picked out, and a jar of hot salsa. We made a big pot of soup in her kitchen and I left the soup in her fridge, in single-serving tubs that she or her roommate can heat in the microwave.

She laughed when I told her what my plan was for the day - "did my distress signal reach the mothership?" Yes, it did, I told her.

De-boning the chicken after it had cooked turned out to be a little bit too gross for Miss F. I think I'm going to tell her she can try canned chicken in her next batch. It won't taste the same but the tradeoff might be worth it. I can't say that's my favorite part of the soup-making procedure, either. My favorite thing about making soup is that I can put into it whatever I feel like at that time. Every batch is different.

I've ordered a Dutch oven and a set of cooking knives for her, from Amazon (I heart Amazon!), and when her soup is eaten up I think we'll do a pot of beef stew. Probably make some cornbread to go with.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I have to write approvingly of President Obama again.

I've been really irritated by all of the people - Maureen Dowd, Bob Herbert, Former President Carter for example - who have stated that the reason health care reform is being attacked is that the attackers are racists who don't want a black president to get what he wants. I was indifferent to President Obama's race during the campaign but I wouldn't have been if I'd realized that it was going to be made into a club to beat dissenters with.

But here's this article in the NY Times: Obama Rejects Race as Lead Cause of Criticism

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Friday that he did not believe his race was the cause of fierce criticism aimed at his administration in the contentious national debate over health care, but rather that the cause was a sense of suspicion and distrust many Americans have in their government.

Well, yeah.

“Now there are some who are, setting aside the issue of race, actually I think are more passionate about the idea of whether government can do anything right,” he told ABC News. “And I think that that’s probably the biggest driver of some of the vitriol.”


“Look, I said during the campaign there’s some people who still think through a prism of race when it comes to evaluating me and my candidacy. Absolutely,” Mr. Obama told NBC News. “Sometimes they vote for me for that reason; sometimes they vote against me for that reason.”

But he said that the matter was really “an argument that’s gone on for the history of this republic. And that is, what’s the right role of government?”

The president said the contentious health care debate, which came on the heels of extraordinary government involvement in bailing out banks and automobile companies, had led to a broader discussion about the role of government in society.

“I think that what’s driving passions right now is that health care has become a proxy for a broader set of issues about how much government should be involved in our economy,” Mr. Obama told CBS News. “Even though we’re having a passionate disagreement here, we can be civil to each other, and we can try to express ourselves acknowledging that we’re all patriots, we’re all Americans and not assume the absolute worst in people’s motives.”

I agree with all of this. As I said earlier, it's crucial that we have disagreements about the way things are done, because there's no in-depth conversation, no investigation, no oversight, if there is no skepticism or dissent.

Monday, September 14, 2009

ABC's Terry Moran set the Twitter-sphere all aflutter when he wrote:

[I'm typing this]
Terry Moran: Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a "jackass" for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now THAT'S Presidential.

We've reached out to Moran and will update this post when we learn more.

Now, an ABC spokesperson explains to POLITICO what happened:

"In the process of reporting on remarks by President Obama that were made during a CNBC interview, ABC News employees prematurely tweeted a portion of those remarks that turned out to be from an off-the-record portion of the interview. This was done before our editorial process had been completed. That was wrong. We apologize to the White House and CNBC and are taking steps to ensure that it will not happen again."

The White House had no immediate comment.

If true, I have new respect for President Obama.

Obama Calls Kanye 'Jackass'

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Quinctilius Varus, WHERE ARE MY EAGLES?

The 2000th anniversary of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest is upon us.

(The backstory in this dramatization starts at about 7 minutes here.)

(And thanks to Jeff at Quid plura? for the heads-up, back in April or thereabouts.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Roger, who is with the Memphis/Shelby County Health Department, and I have been talking a bit about infant mortality in Shelby County.

IM correlates to poor education and to low socioeconomic status, and also to pregnancy in young girls. It does not necessarily imply lack of health insurance, although many people make that assumption.

Anyway, Roger wants to continue the conversation here b/c we were off-topic where we were.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I read the text of Pres. Obama's speech to the schoolkids yesterday, and since I haven't read that he changed anything up, I suppose this is what he said.

In pursuit of political moderation of the type I strive for, and knowing my biases, when I read this I allowed the voice of President Bush to read it to me in my head, to see if anything stuck out as being really out-of-place. I meant for it to be W's voice but as I go back over it I believe it's George H. W. Bush I hear.

The part about the father abandoning the family was a little jarring, of course, and Obama's voice slipped in there but we got past that. For the rest, the only things I really noticed were a kind of lecturing tone I don't remember from either Bush, and the fact that the speech went on a little. People, especially kids, listen more if you talk less, I've found. Other than that, it seemed like a fine speech to me. If he makes a yearly tradition of this, I suppose it will not continue to draw the kind of negative attention it got this year.


Thinking about squirmy kids being expected to listen to a 15-minute speech made me think of this article: Don't Alienate Your Professor.

During class, do not: a) beat out a cadence on your desk while the teacher is lecturing; b) sigh audibly more than three or four times during a class period; c) check your watch more than twice during the hour.

Fewer families attend church every Sunday nowadays than in years past, and of those that do, children through their elementary school years get hustled off to children's church. So there isn't really a venue for them to sit by their mother and be trained to be still and not fidget when the adults are talking. Last spring at my MIL's funeral F sat between me and her six-year-old cousin Sarah. About midway of the service Sarah began to twist around in her seat. F reached over and put her hand on Sarah's leg and she straightened up and got still. (I told her later what a big girl she had been and that I was proud of her.) The thing is that Sarah's mother, my SIL, had explained to her how people act during such events, so she knew what was expected of her. I have to wonder how many college students who don't know not to beat out cadences or sigh loudly never had the opportunity, as little kids, to be made to sit still and behave.
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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

More thoughts about that political balance.

1 - The term "moderate" means different things to different people. For some, it means middle-of-the-road. For some, it means only moderate caring about the issues. For some, it means that they can't call themselves Republican or Democrat, or conservative or liberal, because they choose some opinions out of column A and some out of column B. That's not to say that they don't feel and argue strongly about those opinions. So IMO "moderate" is just about useless as a description unless there is some explanation as to how it is being used.

2 - There's not much point to having balance just to say you have it. I am pro-life, and adamantly so. I've described the thought processes that led me to this conclusion here and here. This is not a conclusion that I reached b/c I thought I was supposed to, or to toe somebody else's political line, but was the result of my careful thought about the subject. So I'm not moderate about it and I don't feel the need to balance it.

Other issues I am on the fence about, b/c I can't reach a decision I'm comfortable with. I'm OK to leave them on there; I'd rather do that than take a stand if I can't defend it. Still others I go back and forth about. Other people demonstrate strong opinions about them, and that's fine for them. Eventually I may reach some hard-and-fast conclusions on my own.

And I call myself a conservative, and vote Republican (usually, not always) because after I thought about the issues and reached conclusions as to what I thought, it seemed to me that they lined up more with these schools of thought than the alternatives. It doesn't mean that prominent conservatives and Republicans don't say things sometimes that irritate the stew out of me, or that I don't disagree pretty profoundly with some things that come out of my side of the aisle. It's been amusing to see the fancy footwork needed to support Sarah Palin's political ambitions, given that she has small children. I've never had a problem with working moms - I was one, myself - but that's been a sore issue for many on my side and I'm glad to see some people forced to think different thoughts there.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I went to Curves after work today. (And let me interject that I appreciate the stress-relieving property of exercise very much right now.) There are two circuits of exercise machines. When I started there, the trainer showed me how to do the stuff on the circuit on the left, so that is the one that I always go to. Today there were four women on that one, and only one on the other, so I went to the circuit on the right. The trainer pointed out to me that I was on the different one, and I told her, deadpan, that I didn't want the building to tilt. That tickled her, and she repeated it to the other women. One of them asked me if I am a Libra.

Well, yes, I am. Ha ha. She is too. We Libras like balance, she said.

I like a balance in political thought, too, and it has to be a dynamic balance: it moves back and forth from the tension of people pulling it one way and the other. I'm not bothered too much by differences of opinion. I am bothered by people who pick up opinions from other folks without thinking them through, or who think "because I agree with the Republican/Democrat position on this issue, I have to agree with the Republican/Democrat position on this other unrelated issue". Or who have to criticize politicians of the party they don't favor, on principle. (Case in point - Michelle Obama's shorts. What the heck? Now that she's First Lady, she's supposed to morph into Dolley Madison? Ain't going to happen, and there's no reason why she should. If Dolley were a First Lady of today, she might wear shorts on vacation too.)

So partisanship isn't a dirty word to me, unless people put party ahead of country. I don't like to hear national politicians talk about defeating the other party, or about Americans who disagree with them being bad people. But people who think through issues and end up with different conclusions - that is absolutely necessary for the country to survive. America has changed a lot over the 200-plus years since its birth. It has had to, because the world has changed. Adapt or die. Having tension and even a certain amount of fighting and power-struggling in the various branches of government is kind of like recombinant DNA, in that it's a mechanism for change, and the government needs to change in response to the changing world.

I'm not comfortable with looking only at news sources and conversations that are biased the same way I am. Always afraid I'm going to miss some crucial argument and either look like an idiot or at least not draw the conclusion I would if I had all the facts.

Sometimes there's quite a difference between the lessons other people draw from current events. When Sodini killed those women at the gym, one opinion I saw was that their being at the gym was symbolic of people spending money frivolously to do things in such a way that they don't interact with other people, as they would if they got their exercise by walking or biking; and that this tendency of people in general to insulate themselves led to Sodini's loneliness, so that in a way those women brought about their fate. Even though they didn't even know him, nor he them. My thought here is that people need to be able to go to the dang gym without thinking they are making a sweeping social statement or taking on responsibility for the loneliness, or lack thereof, of total strangers. Sodini had some problems, all right, but they would not have been solved by these women not going to the gym.

On a different site, which I visit to get the left-wing viewpoint, I saw the argument that society caused Sodini's murderous spree, because it is a logical outgrowth of the misogyny that we see all around us every day. No explanation of why all the misogyny caused Sodini alone to do this thing, if we're all immersed in it. In this conversation, it was desired that the term "mental illness" not be applied to Sodini, because it smears people who have various degrees of mental illnesses of one type or another. If you can't place the blame on Sodini, I guess you have to blame society. My thought there is that "mental illness" must be too broad a term if you can't apply it to Sodini without smearing other people, and we need to find some way to express the deviation of a person who is fixed on the idea of killing other folks, lest that come to be thought of as normal. R suggests "homicidal maniac" and that works for me.

But I told R about these two views of society causing that incident, and he sighed, and then he said that as much as it pains him to agree with the left about anything, he thinks those folks are right about the misogyny. I don't watch TV anymore and haven't for a few years, but he does, and he says that what you see on the shows and on the ads is that women are things to be acted on. If you see this and you don't have the thinking skills or whatever it takes to compartmentalize this from your actual attitude and actions, then killing a bunch of women to express your dissatisfaction with life in general is the logical thing to do.

Sometimes I think that all of the bickering that we do about the hot topics of the day actually distract us from the real problems that need to be addressed. How the crap on TV affects society is one big issue, IMO. I've walked past the TV when one of the CSI shows is on, and am APPALLED by the images of dead and mangled people, and the coolness of the protagonists when they are confronted by this. If you set about desensitizing human beings to the torture and agony and death of other humans, I can't think of a better way to go about it than those shows. We have some godawful crime in this country and we just live with it. Murder rates that rival Baghdad at the height of the Iraq struggle. We aren't going to do anything about it because we can't focus enough to figure out what the problem might be and we lack the will to do anything about it. Teen pregnancy and the sexualization of little girls - that's another one that's killing us and we won't do anything about. I guess culture changes are the hardest changes of all to bring about, but cultures do change - no one would have dreamed of having the garbage we now have on TV and the radio a few years ago, and little girls used to be protected from sexual messages; somebody or something evidently is changing the culture, and not always for the better. But try to talk about these things, and you're pushed into a box with a label - "puritan" or "feminist" or whatever - and there's no engagement. It's discouraging.