Monday, September 29, 2014

May the World Be Sealed for a Year of Peace.

I wanted to write about the beheading in Oklahoma, but the truth is the guy was a lone nut. Apparently, even the members of his mosque thought he was "a little weird." Yeah, like the Boston Bombers or the would-be beheaders in Australia, there are always gonna be nutty people who do this kind of stuff because they believe they're fulfilling some kind of prophecy. Biblically speaking, Jeremiah might have been considered one of those, or even Samuel who anointed David even though Saul was King of Israel. Religion does produce more than its fair share of lunatics and we can do little more than trust that most of them are not mass murderers. Can we not just give them what they want by putting them on the front page of every tabloid in the land? All they're doing is encouraging the next one. 

And I considered writing about the vitriolic campaigns ads already running in Minnesota. The hate is almost palpable. There is no debate. No civil discourse. It's just pointlessly evil. And I am so sick of the whole damn thing and it's not even October yet. The hate spewing out of the television is disheartening as much as it is disgusting. It's not like I believe any campaign has been anything but grotesque...

As a last resort, I thought about writing how I have finally ordered a new fridge (GE counter-depth French door made in the US) and a new double oven. My most beloved SubZero is dying and all the valiant attempts by Wolfe Appliance Repair to stave off the inevitable have failed. Sub is so old (25 + years) that the fixes for the problem I am experiencing don't exist for my model..only for the model two years newer. I cannot imagine my kitchen without the beloved behemoth, but alas, I will have to learn NOT to yank the door open because it has hermetically sealed itself. Again. And I confess, I won't miss the ice explosion every time I open the freezer. As for the ovens, they have served well, and now, there is a short somewhere back there that keeps blowing up the oven light bulbs and my appliance parts guy who's been walking me through oven maintenance these last few years said, "One day, yer gonna turn it on and it's gonna smell real bad. Turn it off. It's over." Well, they haven't smelled bad yet but as long as I'm shelling out on kitchen updating, I may as well replace the ovens while I'm at it. And no, they are not convection ovens. What strikes me as odd in this scenario is that I actually did it. I've been talking about this long enough, but tomorrow evening, I will sign off on the new floor. 25 years of Armstrong's defective floor is about to end. Whatever will it be like to have a kitchen floor that actually looks clean? 

The truth is I don't feel much like writing about any of it. My father-in-law is fading faster than he anticipated. Tonight was not a great night. I am prepared as can be for a variety of events, but the truth is that you can never really be prepared.Just let him make it long enough to hold his great grandchild. 

And on a semi-related note, this is the week between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, that time of year when we take a rather critical self-inventory to see where we stand against our own yardsticks. 

This year, I worked really hard at not doing egregiously stupid stuff. And except for a couple of notable exceptions, I pretty much succeeded. I also worked hard on vetting before commenting. The overall effect is to decrease the size of my own moronic footprint. I don't ever want to be the kind of commentator I detest. I want to voice my own opinions in my own voice, but not at the expense of truth.

So, if you have disagreed with me, that's okay, but I have pissed you off this past year, I am sorry. I can only promise that, in this new year, 5775, will vet more, research more, and, write better jokes. It's the best I can do.

The Wifely Person's tip o'the year
Wishing everyone G'mar chatima tova ...
May you be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year. 
And may the world be sealed for a year of peace. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Shana Tova u'Metuka - A Sweet and Happy 5775

Every day of the month preceding Rosh HaShanah, the shofar is blown. This is supposed to be a wake-up to put your mental house in order in preparing for the Yamim Nora'im: the Days of Repentance between Rosh HaShana and, ten days later, Yom Kippur...the Day of Atonement. Shofar blasts are serious ear-splitting sound to remind you that self-examination ain't easy.

I am in no way ready for the mental housecleaning and preparation proper for the holiday. I don't have time to sleep, much less examine anything. There are too many bits and pieces at the moment, and I'm having a helluva time trying to juggle them all. 

We started home hospice for my father-in-law and it has not gone well. Having experienced the best that could be offered during Ziggy's last weeks, this was a crushing blow. Everything was a battle. It got so bad that I was ready to fire them first thing come Monday morning. I won't go into the details, but Doc was put at risk by the case manager nurse. 

I spoke with the director of the program this morning. She was horrified...and determined to make it right.

The new case manager came this afternoon, and from what Doc said, he just about burst into tears when he realized it was the nurse who masterminded all of Ziggy's hospice care. It was a grand reunion. Patti immediately set out to make things right. When I got home and Doc told me who the new nurse was, I just about burst into tears....of relief. I called Patti and in a matter of minutes, I was pretty sure things will be just fine.

Now, on to to Rosh HaShanah. 

First, there is the matter of the brisket. Doc doesn't want the usual Aunt Cynthia Brisket, he wants no tomato sauce brisket like Cousin Peshe makes...only that has tomato sauce in it. And he doesn't want my chicken soup. He wants like Cousin Laurie or our friend Leslie makes. If my husband was here, he would assure me this is a clear case of Irene's Cookies....they're only good if Irene makes them....even when his mom brought them and Irene only put them on a plate. Then he would still ask how come she couldn't make cookies like Irene. Now I know where he got that from. 

Cooking is not an acceptable substitute for brain-cleaning. I cannot cook my way out of this one. I don't know if it's the enormity of knowing I'm losing Doc, or the soon-to-arrive grandchild, or the idea that I will truly be on my own for the first time in my life. These are some pretty scary things. Okay, the baby isn't scary...just me being a grandmother is. 

Still, these are big issues for me. Almost as big as climate change or mid-term elections. Okay, maybe not that big, but these impact as directly as affordable care and clean water. To be sure, this is personal baggage, but it's kinda heavy and I've yet to find a Red Cap to check them through.

If the purpose of Rosh HaShanah is to take stock of the past year, put it in perspective, and get ready for the new year, then I'm stuck somewhere between one and two. I have so not met my own goals that I'm not so certain I can have much perspective. I guess, then, the goals don't change much, and as I figure out who I am and what I am, I'll try lining up the the yardstick I picked up a while ago. Not that it makes much difference, but it's something to glance at every so often. 

And I will keep telling myself this is an adventure. 

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy and sweet New Year. May you meet the challenges that meet you, and may you glide through them all with grace and equanimity. 

 Shana tova u’metuka….a happy and sweet new year.

!שנה טובה ומתוקה

Monday, September 15, 2014

Caution! Morons at Work!

About two weeks ago, someone from Oberbobermober's congressional campaign called. I assured the fellow the candidate had my vote no matter what his name was because I thought CongressClown Kline wasn't fit to be elected eraser monitor, much less to misrepresent us in Washington. I went on to explain that in the last go 'round, I'd tried to volunteer my services to the cause but had a dickens of a time contacting anyone....and then no one ever contacted me back. I also said I'd asked for a lawn sign, but never got one of those either. He got all excited. I told him what I could do. I gave him my email address. He said, "There will be  sign on your lawn by Monday the latest!"

He just didn't say which Monday.

I'd just about given up when lo! and behold! The lawn sign has appeared on my lawn! The first on my block!

It's a miracle!  

Now, to make mine happiness complete, Congressclown Kline just won Bill Maher's Flip-A-District contest. His flunky-in-charge, Troy Young, responded to the news:
“Minnesotans are tired of sleazy and slimy politics, but DFL candidate Mike Obermueller certainly isn’t. Maher saluted 9/11 terrorists and called our troops ‘cowardly,’ he repeatedly has degraded Christians and calls them ‘schizophrenic,’ and he repugnantly compared special-needs children to ‘dogs,’ yet Mike Obermueller promotes this behavior essentially naming Maher as his campaign manager.”
Well, I'm okay with that. I hope Bill comes to visit our little district because Lord knows, we could use the excitement. It sure isn't coming from Kline. The guy is silent. Completely, utterly silent. When he talks, sure, words come out of his mouth, but they are pasty, wan, and devoid of position or meaning. If you want to distill his message into three simple principles, this might help:
  1. Don 't require equal pay for equal work. 
  2. Don't let women control their own bodies. 
  3. Charge women more for health insurance.
And never, ever let them speak aloud in the public forum. 

I can attest to the third one personally. I once tried to ask a question at one of his phone-in forums, and he kept interrupting me...and then didn't answer the question. I asked about health care, he responded with his theories on gun control.  I thought I was having some kind of episode, but I had written out my question and it had nothing to do with guns.....

...which, according to the congressclown, don't need any more legislation since it's a state issue and the Feds have enough laws on the books for "this sort of thing." Maybe he should ask his colleague and former fellow House member Gabby Giffords how she feels about this sort of thing.  

Now, I will give him credit where credit is due: he did say something sane about ISIL and ISIS: 
It’s not the place of Congress … to sit and develop policy strategy and tactics to implement that. I can’t imagine a strategy that doesn’t include more American air power. … He needs to lay out the strategy so that we can implement something in a meaningful way

September 8th, 2014
Of course, the sane part was short-lived; he changed his mind the next day. Seems he thinks the President has overstepped his "bounds" and should not even think about doing anything at all until he's discussed it with Congress. But he should telegraph to ISIS or ISIL what he is not going to do even if he has to discuss it openly with The Hill.  I guess as long as POTUS wasn't outlining a strategy, he was wrong, and now that he is, he is still wrong. What's a President to do?

Oh, well. Let the wild rumpus start!

Meanwhile, from the TSTL* department: Urban Outfitters offered a one-of-a-kind vintage sweatshirt for sale on their website.

Now, I was a sentient human being on May 4th, 1970; a very sentient senior in high school. I remember vividly what happened that day. I vaguely knew Jeffrey Miller, the one lying on the pavement in the famous picture. He was the neighbor of a friend from camp. I thought he was cute. And then he was dead on the front page of all the newspapers. 

Kent State, for a lot of us, was the day we lost our political cherry. We didn't believe something like that could happen here. Jeff Miller's death didn't make us afraid; it radicalized us. It made us march more, harder, with greater determination so our voices would be heard. 

Urban Outfitters was betting we wouldn't notice or, if we did, we'd just cluck our collective tongues and let it go at that. 

Uh.....guess again, little retailer. 

In multi-parts, Urban Outfitters tweeted the following statement today:
Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.
Come on, folks, no one is that stupid. You don't even have to have an imagination to get the subtext here. By the way, did you happen to notice that the sweatshirt was similar in color to Jackie Kennedy's Dallas suit?

Which really makes me wonder about the following:

  1. The person who designed it.
  2. The person who decided to offer it as part of a collection.
  3. The person who designed the marketing of this one-of-a-kind sweatshirt.
  4. The photographer who shot it (no pun intended....or not.)
  5. The person who did the print layout.
  6. The person who did the line editing.
  7. The person who sits in the big office who shoulda been looking at this stuff.
Those are at least 7 people who did not notice the resemblance to blood and gore. At least 7 people who have knowledge of iconic historical images in this nation's history. And you mean to tell me not one of those 7 people looked at that sweatshirt and shuddered? If that was true, there are at least 7 people over at Urban Outfitters who are just too stupid to have their jobs. 

Folks, if we forget the past, we are doomed to repeat it. We need to be teaching this stuff. Our kids need to see the images. If they can play DOOM, the can see this stuff. And we cannot afford to be silent about companies like Urban Outfitters who would turn the scant sacred we have into a profane marketing opportunity. 


*TSTL: Too Stupid To Live

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
The key to doing hospice at home is dignity. 
At the end of the road, it's the only thing that matters

Monday, September 8, 2014

Death, Destruction, and the Summer of '14

There must be one heck of a production company in the olam ha'ba these days. Looks like there's open casting call, and this company is rapidly being filled up with some pretty heavy hitters. It started with Sid Caesar during the winter, then Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ruby Dee, Bob Hoskins, Eli Wallach, James Garner, and Lauren Bacall. The writers aren't too shabby either: Harold Ramis and Maya Angelou. But it's the trio of comedians that really gets me: Elaine Stritch, Robin Williams, and Joan Rivers. I am afraid to ask who the director is....It's reminds me of #76... that old punchline:  "and you're pitching on Tuesday."

Hoffman and Williams aside, the others on the list did not leave this earth of their own volition. They pretty much died in bed, some with family and friends nearby. They probably would've opted for a longer contract if they could've, but they didn't; they shuffled off their mortal coils and hopefully have gone on to the next level. (See DEFENDING YOUR LIFE for my take on what happens next.) But while they're hangin' out in Judgement City, there's a terrific show in rehearsal. 

James Foley and Steven Sotloff
Two writers, however, not of the theatrical traditional, shuffled off their mortal coils along with their heads. James Wright Foley and two weeks later, Steven Sotloff were behead by an ISIS executioner and the acts were filmed for the world to see. Snuff films...real ones...the kind that make you want to throw up your guts.

These were not just executions: these were statements being made about who ISIS and ISIL really are. This is a rejection of modernity and about plunging the world back to the 7th century C.E. They wage war in a way commensurate with pre-technology thinking, certain that the world at large believes we have progressed past ruthless bloodletting. ISIS and ISIL know "modern" warfare is not waged on so personal a plane; they rely on this to stop a western response out of sheer disgust. After all, how do you combat those who behead journalists and kidnap school girls for sex slaves? They betting
 it's beyond modern comprehension.

But it shouldn't be. 

We've already seen what they are capable of in Somalia and Sudan. We've seen them test the waters in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. This past weekend, a branch of al-Qaeda announced they were bringing jihad to India....a densely populated and fairly under-developed other words: easy prey with no defenses whatsoever. Never mind that India has a nuclear bomb. All the better to demonstrate how toothless that tiger is because that weapon will never be least by a civilized nation. 

Al-Qaeda, ISIS, ISIL, Boko Haram, and Hamas all work under the same pretense: civil war is the way to divide, destroy, and ultimately conquer. The whole function of terror is to force a population to over-react in fear. If you want to know how to deal with them take a page from the IDF playbook: defend the population first, then take out the bastards. Israel has been dealing with terrorists for some 66 years...they know what to do. 

Clearly, Congress does not.

In his September 2nd column, Ready, Aim, Fire. Not Fire, Ready, Aim in the NY TIMES, Thomas Friedman wrote: 
When you have a region beset by that many civil wars at once, it means there is no center, only sides. And when you intervene in the middle of a region with no center, you very quickly become a side.

No, actually, you become a giant sitting duck smack dab in the middle of the fight. You no longer have allies, you have all sides firing at you. You become a grand distraction, giving lots of little sides reasons to band together against the BIG BAD WEST. 

The US cannot and should not enter this arena. If we have not learned the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, we should try to at least remember how Vietnam ended. 

President Obama is spot on when he says, "Don't do stupid stuff," and when he states the obvious, "We don't have a strategy yet." If he already had a strategy here, I would be much more worried.

Amazing how the same congressclowns jumping up and down about spending money we don't have seem to think it grows on trees when it comes to war. As for a strategy, the US cannot possibly have one until we find out exactly what the Arab nations are going to do first. 

Talk softly... and carry that big stick right behind your back. Let the M.E. heads of state come to a conclusion about what they are going to do before we decide what, if anything We, the People, are going to do to support their decision. 

Those governments all have nifty war toys we sold 'em. Maybe it's time for their militaries to finally try out all that cool stuff. 

Meanwhile, US and the western allies have a choice to make...either force the Islamic governments who wish to be part of the global economy to step up to the line and deal with this....or cut them all off completely. No trade. No euros, no dollars. No aid. No arms. No technology. No meds. No flights in or out. Treat them the same way they are allowing these roving bands of miscreants to treat their own populations and rest of the world....à la the 7th century. The time has come to stop fighting their battles. Either they are of this century and take responsibility for their compatriots, or they will be given the accords of whatever century in which they choose to live. 

Let's see what happens when the air conditioning is turned off. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you have aging parents, don't put off having 'the conversation.' 
Knowing what they want preserves their dignity and 
eases the inevitable moments of transition. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hop On Board The Loonyville Trolley

I love the smell of crayons. And freshly sharpened pencils. I like the crackle a composition notebook makes the first time you open it. As much as I hated the end of summer (I am such a summer person to begin with,) fall was the opening of curiosity season. There was always new stuff to learn when the weather turned the corner and the air took on that distinctive smell of leaves beginning to decay. Today is Labor Day and even though it's still pretty warm, the season stands poised on that corner. Here and there you see yellow leaves, and some are even on the grass beneath the silver birch in the back yard. It's always an early "turner," so while this is no surprise, I do sigh just a little as I mow over them.

Well, it's that time of year. The Loonyville Trolley is all kitted out and ready to go. All aboard! You're just in time for all the fun. 

We are heading down the tracks into a new election cycle, and some of the races are going to be pretty darn interesting, even here in Minnesota. Governor Dayton's done a respectable job of salvaging the state after the reign of Tim 'TSTL' Pawlenty who, despite his slash-and-burn tax policies, managed to depress our local economy into a coma while raiding the state education fund for cash. At least the Governor paid back the schools...which is a big plus in my book. He may not be a total shoo-in, but I think he's gonna be just fine. St. Amy of Klobuchar doesn't have a race this year, so she can continue her good works for the state unimpeded by electoral moronics. Which leaves three races I'm following and which you, gentle readers, are going to follow by default. 
  1. Democrat Senator Al Franken v. Mike "Lemme Take Them Stitches Out Myself" McFadden
  2. Republiclown Representative John "Do You Like Me Yet, Koch Boys?" Kline v. some sacrificial cow whose name I can't remember....Obermober-something....redoux.
  3. Mendota Heights Mayor Sandy 'I just love roundabouts' Krebsbach v. Neil Garlock
Two of the three races are going to get lots of national scrutiny.....I won't spoil your fun guessing and tell you which, but let's just say CongressClown Kline is one of the Flippable Final Four in Bill Maher's Flip-A-District

To bring everyone up to speed on Exciting Minnesota, let's start with Al Franken.

Now, Al's been pretty good over in that thar Senate place. He's a smart guy, Harvard grad, can think on his feet, all that good stuff. He's turned out to be a quiet but good senator, not the buffoon everyone predicted considering his books and SNL run. His emails are a PITA, but hey, at least he's not flooding my snailmail box with paper. Electrons are easily dispatched back into the bit bucket in the sky with no ill effects. Where I am getting into trouble with Al is his position on gun control....or rather his lack of a position.

This is no small matter. Gun control is, in my view, the top of the domestic policy list. Senator Franken, on his website, has this to say about gun control:
Minnesota has a long tradition of gun ownership, and I support Minnesotans' right to own a gun for collection, protection, and sport. I also believe that the Second Amendment protects that right against both the federal government and the states.
But the right to own a firearm is not one to be taken lightly. I believe Minnesota has struck the proper balance, for example, by requiring background checks and live firearms training for carry permits.
This is about as big a non-statement as I've ever read. I looked at his voting record, and he's got a 100% from the Jim Brady gang, but his lack of a proactive statement on his website is least to me. I guess I want to hear...and read...more from him on his support/lack of support for sensible gun laws.  In August alone, we have had more than a dozen shooting deaths in the Twin Cities area. It's time to decide what exactly a "well regulated militia" means in this century, and figure out a way to get guns treated the same way as cars: License with photo ID and insurance. If you want to own a gun, be prepared to take full responsibility for it. 

Meanwhile, the guy running against Al must be an escapee from Bedlam. McFadden has an ad running where his kid tells us how his dad is so cheap that when he heard the doc was gonna charge $100 for stitch removal, Dad grabbed a scissors and took the stitches out himself. This is the same guy that wants to waste more taxpayer dollars to repeal Obamacare. This would be the last person I'd want in Washington. He's not only cheap with his family, he doesn't think people in general should have access to health care. This is loony talk, and his family seems to think that's just fine.  Ummm. I'm not sure this is something to be proud of. 

Well, if this is the caliber of what we are to expect this fall, bring it on. At least we can get a few laughs outta the deal. 

And if all this off-year kamikazi kampaigning is just too weird for you, take heart; it's September 1st and it can only go on for 8 weeks...until Tuesday, November 4th

And if it's not weird enough for you, not to worry. The race for the White House begins in earnest on November 5th. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
 Treat yourself to new crayons, some pencils, and a lunchbox.
Take them to work.
You'll feel refreshed, young, and prepared. 
It doesn't get any better 'en that.