Thursday, July 31, 2008

Down in the dumps. . .

. . . that's how Mom would describe how I've been feeling lately. The intense heat, humidity and dirty air make me feel trapped indoors. Since nearly having heatstroke during a trip to the Middle East years ago, I can no longer tolerate the heat. Thank God for air conditioning! D.C. has experienced an abrupt increase in violent crime this month. I theorize that our dreadful summer weather is a factor. Too many folks don't have air conditioning. Is it possible that frustration over being unable to find comfort causes over-reactions and modifies behavior of people who usually would not think of harming another? To make my point, I offer the following. For several years, spouse and I lived on the top floor of a very old D.C. apartment building. The air conditioning was cooled air sent throughout the building through ancient duct work. Baffles to direct it to all parts of the building had long ago broken or stopped functioning. Some tenants had to wear sweaters all summer and others, like us, had to cover our windows with those Mylar thermal blankets and sit in front of electric fans. On top of that, some fool had stated that insects don't fly above 60 feet, so screens were unnecessary. Yeah, right! Across the alley and across the street were flat rooves. [I know that spelling looks funny, but that's what I was taught in 4th grade.] These rooves held standing water. You know where I'm going with this. . . . Imagine going to bed each night, windows open in hopes of a nighttime cool-down, covered in insect repellent, a sheet and a fan blowing across your prostrate body. The mosquitoes seemed to love buzzing around our ears looking for that one spot free of repellent. We put up with those conditions for seven years because the rent was low and the location was within walking distance to both of our jobs. The first summer in our current digs was like heaven! No open windows or streetlight glare, noise, or bugs. We both marvelled at what a difference a cool, quiet, dark room made in our sleep habits. We no longer woke up ornery and still tired! So . . . is there any wonder that crime increases in the summer? I wish I could buy air conditioners for everyone who doesn't have one. Maybe then we could all be more civil and sane.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gratuitous Cuteness X

I'm feeling sentimental these days. This pic is of my Dad and his older brother.
Just LOVE those baby cheeks!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Private Acts in Public Places

Checking out DCBlogs.com recently, I read a rant from someone who witnessed an intoxicated man bathing in a trash can of water in an alley. She found it disgusting and thought the bather should have found a more private spot. Well yeah, but. . . Have the decency to look away when you spot someone who doesn't have the luxury of a bathroom, much less a home. Then make a donation to a human services charity. Think how fortunate you are to be able to take a hot or cold shower whenever you wish and in private. Others are not so lucky. Allow me to illustrate. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) headquarters is at the corner of 18th and N Streets, NW. In the front courtyard is a funky fountain that I believe is part of the building's cooling system. During the 70s I walked by there daily on my way to work on N Street. Frequently a man would be bathing and washing his clothing on the rough surface of the fountain. People stopped and stared but he seemed oblivious to his audience. As I kept walking, I realized that he was psychologically impaired as well as homeless. He DID, however care about his appearance and used what was available. I also suspected that he might have been one of hundreds of patients released from St. Elizabeth's Hospital during that period of heightened awareness of civil liberties. The ACLU had a huge role in psychiatric hospitals freeing their occupants to live as they wished. Many former patients failed horribly. Without their meds and a supportive, controlled environment, they could not function well enough to be responsible for themselves. Many ended up on the streets, psychotic and miserable. Shelters were opened, but avoided because they didn't feel safe there. Vietnam vets soon started pouring into D.C. to seek recourse from the government. Unfortunately, it's not simply a matter of showing up. Complicated paperwork and delays may have contributed further damages to their already fragile psyches. Many of them also ended up on the streets. To that young blogger: try to make allowances for those less fortunate than yourself. Bathing and urinating in public are unpleasant to witness but, apparently, essential for those who do it. Perhaps if we had more public toilets they, cabbies and bus drivers and many others would not have to relieve themselves against walls or behind bushes. Everyone could be spared the public display of bodily functions.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Whippoorwill

Summer, 1969 -- Potomac, Maryland -- well after midnight. A lone whippoorwill sings in the distance. It is haunting and annoying at the same time. Can't he change his tune a little? Why doesn't he stop, at least for a few minutes? Why is his the only bird song I hear? During the day there is a chorus of mocking birds, cat birds, robins, finches and others that have their own seasons to visit this part of the world. It's amusing to watch the mocking birds in their routine. Males find a high spot, often on the top of a chimney, strut around a bit then fly straight up several feet, fluttering and singing before landing again. They also like to gang-up and harass the occasional visiting crow or buzzard. When the silence of the night gives way to this lone singer, I can't help but feel sad that he's not getting a response. Where have all the whippoorwills gone? Was he a fledgling who fell from his nest, got left behind and had to grow up on his own? I don't know anything about birds, but the thought bothers me. That summer was the first our family and four others occupied newly built houses in a comfy-sounding development called Country Place. As construction finished on other houses, more families moved in. We had mud lawns and no trees. But, there were also woods to explore and a creek in which to catch slimy blobs of tadpoles. In another direction was a farm with pet peacocks and llamas where we learned the hard way that llamas spit. And close, to the south, was the old farm house of the family that had owned and worked the land our houses now occupied. They kept a large garden of vegetables and flowers and were generous with their new neighbors. That summer, the air conditioning in our new house crashed for several weeks. It was hard on our 15 year old dog who died within days, on July 18th -- the night before the first Moon mission. It was also hard on his human family. We had come from the shores of Lake Michigan with it's cooling breezes to the tropics of a D.C. summer. Stifling air pollution was also something new. Weather inversions that held pollutants close to the ground often turned the sky a sickening brown. Lying in bed, windows wide open, no cooling breezes, I listened to that Whippoorwill sing night after night. I identified with that bird. I missed my hometown and our dog. Decades have passed and nearly every square inch of Potomac is now covered with conspicuous, ostentatious houses. The village's serenity and natural beauty were pillaged by those with more dollars than sense. One positive note is that the numerous trees Dad planted in our formerly barren yard have flourished and provide comforting shade for the family that now occupies the house on Hayfield Court.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Enough Already!

Ann Marie Lipinski, who has been editor of the Chicago Tribune since 2001, is leaving the venerated rag in two days. Reading about her departure following several staff and production cuts and before another 14% cut, I couldn't help but think of my own "downsizing" experiences in the 1990s. When I first went to work for a local chapter of a world-renowned humanitarian organization in 1982, there was a staff of more than 300 with four satellite offices in under-served neighborhoods. Volunteer leadership wielded considerable authority over paid staff and it actually worked. We were all in it "for the cause." As older staff retired and younger, more highly paid staff came on board, the ethos of service to humanity became secondary. The bottom line took priority as the C.E.O. now was being paid a six-figure salary, several times more than department managers. Programs and services that spent money to aid the community were cut because they didn't make money for the chapter. Being a survivor of downsizing is often worse than being a victim. We missed our former colleagues and worried about how they would make ends meet. The psychological battering lasts well beyond the financial sting.
With each rumored downsizing, there seemed to be a synchronous twisting of stomachs among the staff. We never knew who would be next. I survived four downsizings before my time came. Eight of us were called into a meeting with the C.E.O. who announced what was happening. Oddly, everyone else remained clench-jawed and shed no tears. I found out later that their manager had told them in advance what was coming. Mine didn't have the courage to do that, so I embarrassed myself and nearly stroked-out in front of everyone. Personally, it hurt knowing that I'd given my all for 14 years to guide hundreds of volunteers in helping thousands. Suddenly, all of that meant nothing. On my way out that evening, the C.E.O. had the temerity to slap me on the arm and, grinning, say "it wasn't personal."
Ms. Lipinski has my condolences and best wishes. She says she is not quitting in protest. I believe that and think she is leaving to preserve her physical and mental health. Wise choice. Godspeed to everyone at the Trib! It would be tragic to see another newspaper bite the dust.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Grow up already and get a life!

What's with folks in Northern Ireland?! Every July 12th members of the conservative, anti-Catholic Protestant Orange Order march to stoke memories of a nearly 500 year old Protestant victory over Catholics in the Battle of the Boyne. This, naturally, stirs up anger and resentment resulting in injuries on both sides. It only serves to keep the animosity between these two groups alive. Now as far as I know, Protestants and Catholics are Christians, right? I am, too and I was always taught that a key Christian tenet is that revenge is in God's hands -- "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord." I don't recall anything about it not applying to the Irish!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Just For Fun

Not long after I was born, my Dad clipped this from a newspaper. It rings so true in my family! The first born got Mom's gorgeous dark, curly hair which he has battled all his life. I, on the other hand, got Dad's stick-straight, dirty blond hair. Now that we're older, we're starting to look more and more alike -- SCARY!! Girth and gray hair tend to do that. . . .*sigh*

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Big News: Men and Women are Different

Seems like the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has just figure this out. It took only about half a century but I applaud this development and hope that it might enlighten other researchers. Specifically, the NHTSA has decided to use female mannequins in their crash tests. All these years, they seem to have concluded that injuries would be about the same in men and women in vehicle crashes. Uh huh. . . . I wonder what lead to their breakthrough. Perhaps someone showed them the chair lifting test. Put a chair such as a bentwood or other, not too heavy chair sideways against a wall. Bending from the waist, put your forehead on the wall above the chair. In that position, grasp the seat and back of the chair, lift it then stand up straight. Most women can do it while most men cannot because they tend to have longer torsos. Of course, another consideration in safety tests must address the different plumbing in each gender. A woman's reproductive organs are far more vulnerable to damage from a seatbelt or unanticipated, abrupt contact with a dashboard or airbag. I'm intrigued by how the dummy will be wired to test for those damages. While I'm on the subject of male/female differences -- how come women's hats don't come in sizes like men's do? We're lucky if we can find socks in different sizes, too. I do hope we will, sooner rather than later, overcome the one-size-fits-all mentality of manufacturers and researchers. The latter are still taking baby steps in recognizing that women's health issues are quite different from men's, but at least they're learning to walk!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It's the Law!

Kelley's Law -- Nothing is ever as simple as it first seems. Wilson's Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy -- As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it. Law of Biomechanics -- The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach. Blake's Law -- If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will go wrong is the one that will do the most damage. Treeman's Law -- Every activity takes more time than you have. Watson's Law -- Nature always sides with the hidden flaw. Law of Random Numbers -- If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal and someone always answers. Brown's Law of Physical Appearance -- If the shoe fits, it's ugly. Doctor's Law -- If you don't feel well and make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there you'll feel better. Don't make an appointment and you'll stay sick. Oliver's Law of Public Speaking -- A closed mouth gathers no feet. Law of Probability -- The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day 2008

The concert on the Capitol grounds was better this year than it has been in a long time. The music was upbeat and sounded marvelous and Jerry Lee Lewis -- well, what can one say? Brian Stokes Mitchell was elegant and in fine voice. Jimmy Smits was the most comfortable, natural M.C. yet! All the others have been so awkward, obviously reading from a monitor and worrying if everything would come off as planned. All in all, the music was well done and the crowd was really having fun! Fireworks are what I most look forward to and this year's were superb. There were new copper-colored, mustard-colored and pink bursts that I wish I could have captured on film. I hope, if you weren't there yourself, you'll get the idea through the following. I took over 100 shots and even these aren't so good, but here goes:
In popular culture, July 4th seems to have taken the place the true name for this holiday. Hope you had a sparkling Independence Day!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Cereal Box Lifestyle

I want that! You know what I'm talking about -- all those youngish, athletic, smiling types who seem not to have a care in the world as long as they eat "Puffed Ruffage." They can ride a bicycle to the top of a mountain, kayak the wildest rapids and make instant friends. What a life!!
Now I've been eating old fashioned oatmeal for a good long time, and NOT the quick cooking type. Oh, no. I want the roughage that comes with the occasional oat that didn't get rolled flat. They sometimes gag me, but I just remind myself of how they're working their magic farther down my digestive tract.
Spouse falls for all the gimicky cereals with nuggets of this and bits of freeze-dried fruit. OK, some of them taste pretty good and claim to provide 100% of the RDA of these minerals and those vitamins. They should, costing as much as they do.
No, give me the cereal touted by that benign, plump, sorta colonial-era-looking, older gentleman. He has a nice smile and I trust him.
Hmm -- could this have anything to do with why I look more like the benign, plump guy and spouse looks more like the youngish, athletic types? Nah. . . ...?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Finally got it. . .

. . . this petunia really looks like purple velvet.