Monday, April 30, 2007

This face has haunted me since I first saw it in an odd place -- the front page of the Style section in the Washington Post.

His name is Dilawar and this mugshot was taken in 2002. He was a 22 year young Afghan taxi driver whom U.S. military interrogators mistook to be a member of the Taliban. Was it his beard that fed this false impression? After all, bearded men here in the U.S. have been assumed to be militants or worse.

Look into his eyes. His torturers later learned that he'd never spent a night away from his small village. He probably lived with his extended family and worked hard to help support them. He'd never committed any sort of crime yet he was beaten to death for "being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Have we Americans totally abandoned our moral compass? Have we lost our grip on humanitarianism or has paranoia put blindfolds on the eyes of those who otherwise would not/could not carry out such atrocities. What sort of message are we sending to our own children, much less the rest of the world?

The story was on the front of the Style section because it was about a documentary made by Alex Gibney, called Taxi to the Dark Side. I can only hope that leadership in the Pentagon and White House will see this film and admit that they, too have much innocent blood on their hands. They may not have personally wielded pipes and chains against human flesh, but they condoned and, indeed, ordered it of others who had to obey them.

It is no wonder that the American people feel ashamed of our leadership and the fact that our reputation as a people has been dragged through bloody mud. As long as we continue to allow such atrocities, we will continue to be abhorred by the rest of humankind.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

More Memories of Greece

After reading about another impromptu roadside memorial for a little girl recently killed by a hit and run driver, I remembered others I'd seen years ago.

Rather than teddy bears, flowers, signs, pictures and candles tied to lamp posts or arranged on the ground, the Greeks construct a variety of formal memorials. Inside were bottles of Uzo, olive oil, candles and often a photo of the departed.

Wonder how many drivers have been distracted enough to cause accidents. In some particularly treacherous spots, there were several of these memorials.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rachmaninoff and Russian Housewives

Listening to a CD of Rachmaninoff's piano concertos, I picked up today's issue of the Washington Post. Among the usual sections was one titled "Inside Russia". Usually these propagandist inserts get tossed into recycling right away. Not sure if it was the unusual sight of a sympathetic looking Vladimir Putin on the front page or Rach's melancholic Russian strains that compelled me to look further. Quickly scanning the usual flattering pieces about Russia and it's people, I came across one article I knew I'd read start to finish. It's title was Housewives Agitating for Wages, The Russian Budget Could See a New Expense. According to the leader of the proposed union, Marina Raksha, a housewife raising five children, it's purpose is "to achieve official inclusion of domestic-sector workers in the list of professions and acknowledgement of housewives' labor as valuable to society." In hopes of increasing Russia's slumping birthrate, a new law was passed in January 2007, granting Russian women who give birth to or adopt a child after that date -- that child being a minimum of the second child in the family -- 250,000 rubles (about $9,600). The Deputy Chairman of the Duma's (Russian version of Congress) Committee on Constitutional Law and State Construction was quoted saying "The state should pay for the labor of the nation's reproduction." Some have proposed that standards for housewives pay, seniority and pensions should be written into law. A member of the Duma's Security Committee says "husbands should be the ones standing up for their housewives' rights, protecting and financing them; the state is irrelevant here." I'll admit to a chuckle over all this talk about women's labors, but then it struck me; there are still no guarantees in the US for homemakers (a term I prefer) and women still don't earn the same amount as men for the same work. I'll be watching to see how Russia handles this conundrum.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pharoah's Eye

In a previous post, I mentioned our trip to Egypt. It was so mind-boggling and filled with new sites, sounds and smells, I have to break it into episodes.

Mid-visit, we returned to the pyramids in Giza in the evening for a marvelous sound and light show. We got there early and, it being Ramadan, folks were gathered in groups, waiting for the sun to set so that they could eat and drink again. It was a festive atmosphere with camel drivers offering/insisting that we purchase rides. Having enjoyed that experience earlier in the week, we politely declined.

One of my Dad's colleagues and I set out to walk around the pyramid of Cheops. There was a full moon and the sky was turning that gorgeous deep blue of late evening. Bright lights lit the pyramids and just as we simultaneously voiced our wish to view them by moonlight, the lights went out! A nervous chuckle gave way to a sort of reverent silence.

Some distance away, a small stone caught my eye. On close inspection, I found what looked like an eye in the natural rock formation. Under those circumstances it wasn't hard to believe that the spirits of the pharaohs linger around their desert tombs. I just hope none of them minded me keeping the stone. . .

Monday, April 23, 2007

It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature's gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever. -- Jimmy Carter

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. -- Frank Lloyd Wright

The poetry of the earth is never dead. -- John Keats

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Our Tax Dollars at work

Most people don't know that the U.S. Congress runs its own power plant. Yes, it is four blocks south of the Capitol building and was first fired up in 1910. It still burns coal, thanks to powerful senators from West Virginia and Kentucky. This ancient plant heats and chills water that travels through pipes to federal buildings in a network of tunnels were temperatures often reach 160F. Tunnel workers were only recently ordered out of the tunnels because of the presence of asbestos. This was not a secret to the workers and was ignored for years by those who should have been mitigating the condition. The plant is fitted to burn oil as well as natural gas, but senators from coal producing states won't allow this cash cow to slip through their fingers. Our region has trouble meeting the standards set out by Congress in the Clean Air Act and, not surprisingly, the prevalence of respiratory problems is much higher here. Yet Congress continues to sacrifice the well being of a region in favor of their states. Could it be they might lose votes if they did the right thing? DC has no vote. We are at the mercy of seemingly uncaring, self-indulgent legislative and executive branches. We are half a million hard-working Americans who want to be treated like every other American. The only way that will happen is with grassroots support in all states.

Isn't She Lovely

My mother's mother was also an April baby, born on this date in 1893. She was a spirited young woman and maintained her strong embrace on life until four months short of her 100th birthday.

She and my grandfather were born and raised in Pennsylvania of mostly Scots-Irish descent. They raised 4 talented, loving children who provided them with 16 grandchildren. Their first-born died in infancy, a fact I didn't learn until we buried my grandfather.

The day we buried my grandmother, a big flock of birds took flight in a swoosh from another part of the cemetery. I took it as a sign that she was once again holding her beloved husband and infant son.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Hurray for the House!!

Thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives, District of Columbia residents are once again on our way to getting a vote in Congress. By a vote of 241 to 177 House members supported a bill that would give us one voting Representative. This only happened when another vote for predominantly Republican Utah was included in the bill. DC voters are largely Democratic. Nevertheless, we'll take what we can get. Two huge stumbling blocks still remain. The Senate must approve it and Bush has already vowed to veto the bill, viewing it as unconstitutional. How can it be unconstitutional for legal U.S. citizens to have a voice in how their taxes are spent and how they are governed?! I can't imagine another jurisdiction accepting the intrusion on its governance that Congress inflicts on our City Council. Members from as far away as Idaho even get involved in how we run and fund our public schools. The United States Congress does not have the expertise nor sensitivity to micro-manage a city. Taxable property and income here are greatly reduced by the number of nonprofit, federal government and diplomatic entities here. Some would argue that the federal payment to the District makes up for that. Those of us who live and work here know differently. Was it justifiable for Bush to force the District to spend tens of thousands of its Homeland Security funds to pay for security during his inaugural parties when every other president has covered those costs with campaign funds? Do you see a pattern here? If we should actually get a vote in the House, I'll dance naked in the streets. . .

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Sun Will Come Out

This evening, just as ABC Evening News started showing the faces and names of the Virginia Tech victims,with Amazing Grace playing in the background, the sun came out for the first time in days.

May they rest in peace and bask in the glory of Heaven.


In 1981 my Dad took my youngest sister and me with him on a business trip to Egypt and Greece. We stayed in Cairo for 8 days, touring whenever Dad was not in meetings. I'll go into that more in another post but for now I want to remember our three days in Greece.

Arriving in Athens after days in arid though stunningingly beautiful Egypt was like landing on another planet. Surrounded by sapphire blue water, spotted with blindingly white houses and ancient olive orchards the Greek Isles took my breath away.

We spent solid days driving around in a tiny, cramped, little car trying to cram in as many sites as we could. It was mid-summer, so it was HOT!

When we finally reached the island of Korinthos my sister and I simply had to get out of the car to walk on the beach. I think Dad was ready for a breather, too. I cannot remember a time when I more enjoyed stepping into cold water.

The beach was very stoney making barefooting painful. Then I noticed the interesting stryations in the beach pebbles. Maybe I shouldn't have, but I picked up a few as mementos. The theater at Epidorus was impressive as were the Parthenon and all the other sites we visited, but Korinthos . . . aaaah!

Oh -- and our cab driver from the airport looked just like actor Michael Sarrazin -- oh yeah!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I remember. . . .

The lovely bride is my father's mother on her wedding day. She and my grandfather grew up in Iowa in solid Norwegian families.

Today was her birthday. She left us way to soon and I still miss her.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Peaceful Bliss

This is one of my all time favorite photos, clipped it from a newspaper years ago.

It was a comfort to find it after the horror and tragedy of yesterday.

Hot Flash Violet


I started figuratively holding my breath when the news about the tragedy in Blacksburg, Virginia started trickling in yesterday. It was just too dreadful to comprehend so, maybe if I held my breath long enough the news would improve. It didn't. The saturation of media coverage has been overwhelming. Stunned students were surrounded by cameras and had microphones shoved at their faces. News junkies feed off of this frenzy -- not a healthy occupation. Immediately following such a massive tragedy is not the time for such intrusive, insensitive behaviour. Constant speculation about who, what and why only sustains the turmoil and delays recovery. We all need to catch our breath, take time to mourn the dead, let law enforcement do its work and, offer support and comfort to the victims, their families and friends.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Coyotes in Congress. . .

. . .well, not literally, but they're closing in.

Coyotes have been spotted in Rock Creek Park, a lovely, green swath that runs through the middle of the District of Columbia. Pets have gone missing and people are haunted by late night howling.

Some of us view this as progress because the coyotes may help trim the over population of deer in the park. Perhaps they'll curb the proliferation of rats and mice, too. On the other hand, the coyotes have been driven out of natural habitat by development.

I was thrilled several years ago when I spotted my first Great Blue Heron, flying parallel to our car along the C&O canal. Now, they have made themselves at home in a man made pond near the Vietnam Memorial and on the Potomac River, not far from the airport.

One night while driving some visitors around the city, we spotted a red fox crossing Independence Avenue heading for the Tidal Basin.

Before the coyotes appeared, birds of prey found their way back into the city. Tourists were shocked to witness a peregrine falcon devour a duck on the south lawn of the White House. I'd be happy if they'd take out some of the pigeons!

The first Earth Day observance was on April 22,1970 and I was there on the grounds of the Washington Monument, all hopeful and inspired to change the world. Speakers then didn't talk about global warming or disappearing wildlife habitat. Were we so misguided, or did we just not get it?

Not much has changed in 30 years and we Americans are more gluttonous than ever for natural resources. Over sized vehicles, houses and bellies don't bode well for the future.

Perhaps if we learn from how wild animals are adapting to changes in their natural worlds we can preserve and protect more of our own -- and theirs -- for future generations.

Earth cannot wait another 30 years!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hello, Spring -- are you there?

We're getting clobbered by a nor'easter today and into tomorrow. It's cold, rainy and windy and I needed something uplifting. Usually we would have planted our balcony window boxes by now, but this year we'll have to wait.

I took these pictures last May. Our south-facing balcony allows us to plant a little earlier than some others. (Yes, that spikey-looking feature is the Washington Monument.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Blot 21

Mourning Maureen

For nearly 30 years, Maureen made children laugh and adults cheer. She was a fixture and, indeed a star in the National Zoo.

Recently her keepers became concerned about her lack of appetite and lethargy. A vet was summoned last Wednesday but it was too late.

Most California Sea Lions live maybe 20-25 years, so Maureen was an exception in more ways than her personality and the fact that she lived her life without teeth. She was rescued as a pup from a fishing net that, during her struggles to escape, tore out all of her teeth. Thankfully, she had no problem swallowing fish that were hand-fed to her.

Rest in Peace, Maureen. We will miss you.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

April 13th -- Friday!

Fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia a specialized form of triskaidekaphobia, a fear of the number thirteen. The history of it is way too involved to mention here, but it goes back hundreds of years. Just for fun, I looked up events that happened on April 13th. Following are a few: 1633 Galileo was convicted of heresy. 1861 Fort Sumter, SC surrendered to rebel forces starting the American Civil War. 1945 President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. 1961 First man flew into space. 1981 First launching of the space shuttle. 1970 Oxygen tank on Apollo 13 exploded putting the crew in peril and inspired an award-winning movie years later. 1983 Harold Washington was elected first African-American mayor in Chicago's history. 1997 Tiger Woods became the youngest golfer to win the Masters. Some famous births: 1506 Catherine de Medici 1743 Thomas Jefferson - 3rd US president and inventor extraordinaire 1852 F.W. Woolworth 1866 Butch Cassidy 1906 Samuel Beckett - Irish writer and Nobel Prize laureate 1907 Harold Stassen - American President Candidate; lost nine times 1919 Madalyn Murray O'Hair -- American atheist activist 1951 Peabo Bryson - American singer 1963 Gary Kasparov - Russian chess player 1970 Rebecca Cummings - American porn actress (no, never heard of her!) Something to contemplate: 2029 Asteroid (99942) Apophis will come extremely close to Earth with an estimated 1 in 45,000 chance of a collision with our planet. Today is also my birthday and here's why I don't worry about it: I turned 13 on Friday the 13th and I had my 15 minutes of fame when my school principal announced it to the entire student body. I stayed in room #1313 in the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia the week before the Legionnaires held their convention there and unfortunately had a new disease named after them. So. . . . . happy Friday the 13th. But -- don't walk under a ladder or cross the path of a black cat and be sure to hold your breath when you drive by a cemetery. . .

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Rutgers Ladies

It made me so sad to read that some of the Rutger's women's basketball players feel that they are scarred for life following a despicable comment made by a radio talking head. If anything, these young ladies should consider themselves classy heroines! So many celebrities have made excuses for "slips of the tongue" lately -- they didn't mean to say what they said. Bull!! Spontaneity can be dangerous for people who don't have pure hearts and thoughts. After all, what's a Freudian slip? It's the unconscious mind speaking out loud. To those who have been so rudely, verbally assaulted by these nitwits, I suggest that they don't take them seriously. They are flawed and don't deserve all the attention they get. Many celebrities consider any notoriety valuable because it keeps them in the public eye. My eye has been poked one time too many to give further thought to such degenerates.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

George and Martha

The population of Bald Eagles in our region is growing. This is great news and has caused quit a stir among bridge builders working on a new Wilson Bridge to carry Beltway traffic over the Potomac. The workers who first spotted the mating pair in 1990 nicknamed them George and Martha and cheered their 16 eaglets. Last year a younger female eagle attacked Martha, nearly killing her. She was nicknamed "Camilla", "Angelina" and "Charlotte the Harlot", depending on which construction worker was asked. Martha was treated by a vet and spent weeks recovering in a bird sanctuary in Delaware. When released, she soon made her way back to George. Last September, Martha flew into a power line or tree limb and had to be euthanized. The bridge builders and many in the region were saddened by the news, but Martha's rival soon moved in with George and their courtship began. George may still be mourning his mate or "Angelina" isn't as comfortable being so close to 200,000 vehicles crossing the bridge each day. There are no new eggs -- yet.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

This is Spring?

This is what we woke up to this morning. It's still flurrying. . . .*sigh*

Friday, April 6, 2007

As Easter Used To Be

During my childhood Easter was the time of year we girls/women got new hats and often, new dresses to wear to church. It was all quite glam and oh, so feminine.

The one thing I wasn't fond of were the heavy, white, cotton gloves that were required of properly dressed young ladies in church. Of course it was impossible to turn the pages of a hymnal, much less get the quarter out of one's pocket to put in the collection plate -- but wear them, we did!

I think this photo of me at age 4 was the first Easter I had to wear those bulky gloves. I was tickled with my Easter bonnet, but those gloves. . . . . . ..

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Remember. . .

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. -- Anne Bradstreet Some of us are experiencing unusually cold weather this spring but this too shall pass. And just think how welcome those 90 degree days will feel -- yeah, right!!

More Blot Fun

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Thought for a Tuesday Morning

My niece found this one and I loved it! "Cheese—milk's leap toward immortality." —Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Thoughts on the War Between the States*

*That's what Southerners still prefer to call the American Civil War. It was fought in several states and many battlefields are located within an hour's drive from DC. Fortifications are still evident all around our region as are some from the American Revolution.

This time of year, the Bull Run Regional Park in Manassas, Virginia blossoms with acres of bluebell flowers. The sight is spectacular and helps camouflage the fact that so much blood was spilled on the soil there. The 1st Manassas Battle of Bull Run was handily won by the Confederates in July of 1861. In August of 1862, the Rebs nearly won again. The Union rearguard saved that day and considerable face for Union officers.

Visiting this park still gives me chills. It's beautiful and families picnic and play ballgames there, but I can't help thinking about all the young soldiers who suffered and died so terribly. Choking smoke from rifles and cannon probably blanketed the area and most of the trees had their branches shot off. Probably no blooming flowers then -- just mud.

Here's how part of the creek looks today. AMEN.

Time for another blot. . .

Click on this one to get the full effect.

Random Act of Kindess

This morning's rush hour was the usual mix of harried drivers intent on getting to wherever they were bound -- in a hurry! Two police cars, with lights flashing and sirens blaring, slowly snaked through the heavy traffic, much to the annoyance of the commuters. One unfortunate woman's car stalled in one of two inbound ramp lanes from a busy bridge that carries traffic over the Potomac from Virginia. Within nanoseconds a back-up ensued. The woman seemed to be scared out of her mind and simply sat in her car while incensed drivers roared around her. Then, a man in a white car [i.e. knight in shining armor on a white stallion] gallantly pulled over and parked in front of her car. He calmed her down then pushed her car onto the shoulder - across the lanes of traffic, no less! Thankfully drivers thought better of running him over and let him complete his mission. I wish I could have told him how gracious was his service to this woman and all the commuters who also benefited from it. He was nicely dressed, drove a nondescript car -- no Lexus, BMW or Acura -- so I suspect he was just another hard-working civil servant. Thank goodness there are people like him who maintain integrity and a strong work ethic regardless of who is in the White House.