Thursday, December 25, 2008


Greetings and best wishes to everyone during this holiday season.

New Year's Day I'll be seated in the bleachers at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California accompanied by two family members and a couple who are our friends. I'll wave to you if I'm aware the television cameras are panning us.

I'm seeing an increasingly extravagant number of outdoor light and animation displays this year. Subdued light decorations have been my choice especially ever since the energy crisis was announced many years ago. We were encouraged that year to cut back on outdoor light displays. Nothing has changed as far as energy issues are concerned to the best of my knowledge, but that particular energy conservation seems to have become more minimal with the public each succeeding year.

I've enjoyed the colorful lights through the years as have my children, so I defer to the varying attitudes we each have about this matter.

I have chosen to continue a minimalist attitude toward what sort of holiday light display I prefer. I simply place artificial candles in one window that faces the house's front. This year I began by lighting just one candle beginning Sun., Dec. 21st, the night some of my family arrived. I've added a candle each night since and will continue to do so in honor of the various celebratory occasions this time of year.

I just learned last night a couple more family members will arrive for a few days after Christmas, so am looking forward to a lot more unexpected joy and laughter.

Hope everyone has a wonderfully happy holiday!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday '08/Memories/Movie "Australia"

(Computer internet connectivity problems have resurfaced the past several days after several honeymoon weeks when they did not occur for unknown reasons. Has taken me an hour of repeated efforts to publish this post. The future with ease of publishing is a mystery. Thanks for your patience.)

Holiday preparation is upon me and I'm not really doing that much. This preparatory activity is my excuse for not having posted here more frequently this December and I'm sticking to my story. I've been a bit busy with my current part time work. Always when I anticipate my work to be slow the opposite occurs as this month has again confirmed.

This year is calm by comparison when I think of how harried and frantic so many past holidays were. My children and husband were at home contributing their own support, assistance and sometimes frustrating complications. I was helping an ultimately not too well mother living nearby who was striving to remain living independently though she was legally blind, a long term problem to which she had amazingly and successfully adapted. The more recent stroke affecting her balance mechanism thus necessitating she use a walker was more challenging.

An even more unwell mother-in-law was flying across country to be with us. Inevitably she became ill, seriously a couple of times, because she revealed she had eaten a green salad on the plane (remember when they actually served food on planes?) even though she knew she shouldn't because of her gall bladder issues. One year she became immobile in bed partially as a consequence of her morbid obesity. Bless my doctor's heart, he who had long since given up house calls came to our house a few blocks from his office and successfully treated her. Then, when she could get around more she delighted in making homemade noodles, and introducing us to pizzelles – an Italian cookie - all of which we delighted in eating.

Some of those years I was taking classes. All too often classes with needed study preparation had tests scheduled around my busiest at home times with my children's activities. My final graduate school semester I developed compressed neck discs due to wee hour morning studying. I would periodically curl up in an Early American wingback chair deliberately positioned uncomfortably so if I fell asleep in the early A.M. hours I wouldn't drowse long, would arouse and get back to studying. Beginning loss of sensation on my right extremity, certain fingers, arm necessitated long hours daily flat on my back, regular episodes of 'hanging myself' to stretch my neck and some high powered meds that seemed to have some adverse affects. The most challenging aspect was my having to write and type my final thesis standing upright at a draftsman's table.

Other years I was working full time with unpredictable daily changing work sites, especially during my initial supervised work experience year (like a medical internship) to qualify for state licensure and national certification. What seems illogical to me now is that since being by myself I've been less organized personally than I was before. Fortunately, this year I've been making more significant gains in structure than at any time since my husband died. Given the state of the economy, the future uncertainty, the appliance replacements and other expenses I've incurred this year, some of which I've written about in earlier posts, I'm glad to have some work available.

I did take advantage of a regular special "senior" rate and showing of a movie I've anticipated viewing about "the land down under." "Australia," starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. They created credible believable performances of characters who could have been ancestors in their homeland. Awesome colorful film footage featured spectacular views showing the vastness of a country I've often thought I'd like to visit. Excerpts from the movie are seen on the official movie website link above.

The breadth of the film's story compressed a significant historical span integrating social, cultural and political issues indigenous to the nation. The one word that best describes this movie from my perspective is that of extravaganza. This is a film that for me tries to encompass entirely too much in the storytelling.

I was reminded during WWII scenes of how significant the work of our military, especially the U.S. Navy submarine fleet and radiomen were in combating the Japanese onslaught in the South Pacific. Recently, coincidentally, I talked with one of those radiomen who spoke with pride of his service. I've written previously about the men who served then (see Archives May 2008) in reference to Mary Lee Fowler's memoir about her father in her book, Full Fathom Five, that captures details of the WWII South Pacific theatre.

About my holiday preparations -- I am looking forward to some family crossing the country to be with me this year after my having made the trek in the opposite direction last year. At least one of our Southern California activities may be of interest, especially New Year's Day, but I'll share that in a later holiday post. Meanwhile, I do have a few things to do.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Changing Local Economic Picture

FDIC Bank Takeovers

Retroactive Medical Charges to Medicare Patients

State Legislatures "Cuckoo"

Media Convergence

The local economic picture is always changing. Daily in recent months there have been a never-ending number of national and local news stories that tweak my thoughts. FDIC Problem Bank List was one such recent story by Laurie Kulikowski at

I wonder what others observe happening in their communities influencing banking and local business compared to what I'm observing here in Southern California's northeastern Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange Counties?

Only a few months ago our local area was impacted by the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation takeover of Indy Bank that had a nearby branch. Rumors had spread prior to that event about the questionable status of a long respected banking institution, Pomona First Federal Savings and Loan, that had successfully first publicly offered stock only a few years ago.

I was told about one PFF depositor so concerned about the institution's rumored financial status that they had transferred all their funds to Indy Bank, where ironically soon after, Indy was taken over by the FDIC renewing that depositor's anxiety. The government's poorly handled takeover triggered lines of depositors frantic to withdraw their funds before officials were finally able to reassure customers most of their money was safe.

Televised L.A. area news scenes reminded me of the seasonally popular Jimmy Stewart movie, "It's A Wonderful Life" in which his character is a banker faced with a run on his bank. Locally, subsequent FDIC takeovers of financial institutions have been handled with more finesse that outwardly has alarmed the public less. Ultimately, our U.S. govt. took steps to increase insured deposit amounts that also alleviated many individuals concerns.

Since then I have observed changes that have affected every bank branch in our city. Bank of America acquired Wall Street financial company Merrill Lynch. The other shoe has dropped however, since the current news is this joining of institutions will result in thousands of jobs lost across our country. Happy Holidays, workers! J. P. Morgan Chase absorbed Washington Mutual which was one giant eating another. Meanwhile, Citibank was reported to be on shaky ground needing more financial support.

Just a few weeks ago another area financial group, Downey Savings and Loan, thought to be careful, conservative and cautious with their investments succumbed to the deterioration of their institution's value. I learned depositors would generally be protected, but those with stock in the institution, many of their own employees, would likely incur loss. For some staff the lost dollars would be a major portion of their retirement funds.

The scenario described to me was that in an FDIC take over the officials would likely walk through the door on a Friday at closing time, then reopen the office the following Monday with little or no disruption in business for customers. A week after learning this, I read in the paper that's exactly what happened at Downey. That same Friday to the surprise of many a similar FDIC takeover occurred at PFF. A Los Angeles bank that had earlier been announced as combining with PFF had their proposed transaction denied by government officials due to that bank's own financial weakness so in stepped the FDIC.

Recently I read U.S. Bank has negotiated purchase of both Downey and PPF. I just can't keep up with who owns what, which name goes with what institution any more, and exactly what financial group I'm doing business with. Perhaps it doesn't really matter since it may all change again next week or next month. I wonder if any of these institutions are borrowing money from me (the taxpayer billions, or is it trillions now, coming from our U.S. Treasury)? I just double-checked and quadrillion comes after trillion, but the information said numbers higher than that are rarely used. Oh, yeah?

I believe I read Citibank was one of the first banks to benefit by borrowing from that initial 700 billion. The Troubled Assets Relief Program, called TARP, will distribute our money. If figures I read earlier still prevail, I think it's been nothing short of criminal Citibank was given the financial deal they received at taxpayers expense – that's your money and mine they received and they're not paying much for it. You can bet if we're borrowing from them they'll have no reservations about what they charge us. They certainly didn't when I returned to college years ago and needed money.

One other change in local business transactions has occurred with my doctor. A few months ago I received a long bill from my medical doctor's billing office suddenly charging me for a litany of services beginning as far back as 2006. Ostensibly these are for amounts over and above what Medicare and my supplemental insurance would allow as payment for my doctor's billing charge. I'm now being charged retroactively for that difference. I wonder if this is happening to others across the country?

The rest of my community shows me two or three closed businesses in each of most small but once busy prosperous strip malls. Once filled storefronts similarly located in surrounding cities showcase a like number of empty shops. Several months ago a large private family restaurant, long a hallmark for many years in a heavily trafficked location, suddenly closed. They were located in a prime spot with ready access to a major freeway and a cross street on a well-traveled boulevard featuring numerous businesses but absent close competing family restaurants. My mother and our family used to enjoy eating there. I guess they could no longer survive despite so many years in business.

I'm not even including here all the newspaper items I see about local retail businesses announcing closing, going out of business sales. Linens 'N Things, Mervyns Department Store readily come to mind. Circuit City is still open locally but nationally they filed for bankruptcy. Then there are the national and local companies, also car dealerships that are shutting down. Obviously in all these instances, there's the human factor. I think of all these people affected whose numbers are continuing to increase. How many are or will be without jobs and money for needed food, clothing, housing and healthcare? Where does help for them come from?

I wonder how many others are seeing similar scenes or observe other scenarios where they live?

I have grave doubts we can expect our California State Government to be in a position to help residents. The last I heard one of their solutions to aid also long-suffering education needs was to alter the payoffs of the State Lottery so there could be more small winners with a reduced single large payout to only one winner. I'm sure every resident looks to that solution to minimize educational shortfalls and for financial security.

Probably, those of you who don't live in California aren't aware of just what dire financial straights this State is in. Some other States are in difficulty, too. There's a tragic-funny article posted by Jane Wells at CNBC that includes a short video clip of public policy expert Joe Kotkin of Chapman University wondering if this is "Cuckoo Land" that "...both parties live in and refuse to leave, no matter what." (short NYT ad at clip's beginning)

More and more I become convinced locally and nationally almost everyone in legislative office should be pitched out on their ear and replaced. Don't any of them realize that if there was ever a time when rigid ideology needed to be set aside with an eye toward compromise for the good of our State and our country, this is that time? They're all a bunch of Neros, fiddling while Rome burns. I hope we're all spared shock one day when we awaken to the realization their stubbornness and ineptitude has resulted in a foreign nation owning our country.

Our State's economy, let alone our national economy and that of the world, gives me motivation to keep working however little or much as I can. Is Wall Street willing or in a position to be able to loan money to any States in financial difficulty? Does the Federal Govt. have loans for these States? Our State Legislature fumbles along busily disagreeing on action of any consequence to rectify our existing problems. Do other States Legislatures demonstrate the same sort of lack of action?

Perhaps the day comes when loans to anyone or any group is out of the question. Perhaps the only solution is the dreaded belt tightening and cutbacks well beyond what many individuals are already doing. We can be assured that those who are least in a position to cut more will likely bear the brunt of most loss.

Traditional news gatherers and writers add to the human element faced with a potential narrowing of employment opportunities. The congruence of print with the Internet is significant on its own, but the timing coinciding with the financial crisis lends its own exacerbation of the problems such workers experience. The most recent newspaper with survival threatened is the Los Angeles Times as the Chicago owner petitions to file for a bankruptcy that also includes his Chicago Sun paper. The Detroit Free Press is reported to be ending most home delivery of their newspaper but will expand their Web Editions.

I do have confidence we will ultimately have universal financial recovery. I wonder if meaningful and accurate distribution of news to the masses will temporarily decrease until everyone readily has inexpensive access to the Internet. Meanwhile, I'm not brooding, but directing my energy elsewhere. Wondering what to expect between now and then does give me pause for thought.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oven Fiasco

Using my new electric oven on Thanksgiving for the first time was a fiasco. I've been cooking for two years using my stove top, microwave and toaster oven when my regular oven ceased working and they've worked just fine for me. Meanwhile, I've been pondering just what all I might want to do to my kitchen. Pondering some decisions an unduly long time is what I realize I've been doing in the years since my husband died. Besides I kept getting side tracked from oven action this year when so many other replacements, repairs and other personal factors kept demanding my attention.

When I couldn't find anyone locally who could repair my oven, I finally decided I needed other plans. Later, I learned my new neighbor shipped the "innards" of his oven off to a Midwest address that he has since lost. He wanted to maintain his kitchen's '50's look. I considered my change by debating with myself giving up some cabinet shelf space to accommodate some other oven type built-in appliance configurations, ultimately deciding I didn't want those. I really have missed having my husband to exchange ideas with as he usually had a perspective with uniquely different aspects from my own. We didn't always agree, but neither of us ever totally wanted a rubber stamp of our own opinion.

I finally concluded a working full size oven was needed for these holidays. Early Thanksgiving week I had a new oven installed. The young man installer said the oven worked as together we watched all the lights, clock and timer functioning just fine. Neither of us had sense enough to open the oven door to see if it was actually heating. Personally, I prefer to accept no responsibility whatsoever for not having done so. That's right! Blame the installer -- it's all his fault Actually, my oven installer was remiss for not having checked for heat, but I should have checked, too.

Thanksgiving Day, unfortunately, the oven did everything but produce heat after twenty preheating (hah!) minutes. I was befuddled for a few moments as I thought about what to do. The toaster oven was not large enough to be a cooking option, but perhaps the trusty microwave would not let me down. I rescued the stuffed turkey roll from the cold oven and placed it in my microwave. I felt quite smug that I had salvaged the turkey roll, but pride was my downfall. I misjudged how long to cook the roll, did not carefully check it since I didn't have any guidelines. Later when the little bell chimed that the cooking process was complete I was in for a surprise. The bottom of the turkey roll meat strip had actually turned black which I soon noticed when I removed the roasting dish. Fortunately, my tasting revealed the other three quarters of the roll was not tainted by that burned meat. I will confess even though the stuffing was relatively moist, the rest of the turkey was, shall we say, just a bit dry and chewy?

I do wish my husband had been living as we would have had a hilarious time laughing at the Thanksgiving oven event. To make a long story short I checked my circuit breaker the next day (even though I had seen the oven installer turn it on those days earlier, or so he and I thought.) For the first time I learned that my circuit breaker could have one side "on" and the other side of the same breaker "off." The connection took multiple attempts on my part to turn both sides "on" at the same time, possibly because this is a really old circuit breaker system. I quickly checked my oven, have since baked stuffed pork chops and heat is forthcoming. Seems like it takes a long time to preheat, but guess I just need to get used to the oven. I'll get that opportunity in the weeks ahead.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Outsourcing Writing Local News -- Incredible!

Incredibly, local Internet news writing has been outsourced in one Southern California city. I urge you to read Maureen Dowd's "A Penny For My Thoughts" in her New York Times Opinion piece November 30, 2008. She has written some interesting new facts and observations since I first reported her interest in this approach to news reporting. She provides her special unique humorous perspective on the topic as can be expected.

I wrote here earlier about attending Ms Dowd's recent local speaking engagement. (See "An Evening with Maureen Dowd" consecutive posts November 21 & 24, 2008 in Archives.)

I noted that she mentioned as a sidelight that:
"...while here in So. Cal. she met with James Macpherson, editor and publisher of the Pasadena Now website. He has outsourced coverage of the Pasadena City Council to two reporters in India."

Ms Dowd's account of that meeting and related information gathered raises concerns in my mind. Her speculation about the prospect of local city, state and national news being outsourced to inexperienced writers of another country reads like some sort of weird science fiction story. There's only one problem with dismissing this scenario as a bizarre humorous joke -- it's actually happening in Pasadena and has been for a while. I do wonder if the practice could spread?

Just what our country needs in an already shaky U. S. economy is creating even more job losses by outsourcing writing. The information Ms Dowd gathered leads me to think there is also that pesky little problem of outsourced writers having a realistic perspective for credible news interpretation. I realize that can be a problem with our own home grown news people, but somehow I'm not convinced outsourcing lends itself well to being an improvement.

I have to ask again, just how capable of effectively understanding and writing about the intricacies of our city issues are individuals on another continent? They likely have little knowledge of local particulars with no vested interest in the city, our state and country? When you read Ms Dowd's article you'll likely have a few doubts and thoughts of your own.

I wish I could just dismiss the possibility of this latest outsourcing as being limited to Pasadena, but that's one too many instances from my point of view. I hope this isn't the future of Internet news.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Controversy

Are kindergartners racist when they dress in costumes as Indians or Pilgrims celebrating Thanksgiving? That's been the question at these two Claremont, California public schools.

"It's demeaning," Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School, wrote to her daughter's teacher. "I'm sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation's history."

That is an excerpt from a recent Los Angeles Times article, "Claremont Parents Clash Over Kindergarten Thanksgiving Costumes." Staff writer Seema Mehta explains the beginnings of this controversy. The article states "Raheja is an English professor at the University of California at Riverside who specializes in Native American literature ... Her mother is a Seneca" – a Native American Indian tribe. (See photos and video on link above.)

A comment from another parent, John Garabedian, whose son is a kindergartner at Mountain View Elementary School, to the cities Claremont Courier local newspaper expressed an opposite view: "This woman compared Thanksgiving festivities to the Holocaust, I am sorry but I just do not see the comparison. However, I am offended by her remarks and her insensitivity by this comparison. I am an Armenian and my relatives were killed during the Armenian Genocide in 1915. How dare you compare the Thanksgiving festivities with the Holocaust!"

I have first hand familiarity with this Thanksgiving tradition since my children participated in the event decades ago. My recollection is that the kindergartners highly anticipated this experience. They had been preparing for many days at school while also discussing the history of our country. Students generally made simple headbands with a few multi-colored feathers from construction paper if they were to be Indians. Those who were to be Pilgrims cut out and glued together classic black hats trimmed in white. They may have created additional paper clothing type items, but that is all I recall after so many years have passed.

Alternating years each schools kindergartners would be either Indians or Pilgrims. One school or the other would provide a real turkey dinner to the visitors. The schools are located on the same street several blocks from each other so this was the trek one classroom group would walk each year for their annual Thanksgiving gathering before the actual holiday.

National Public Radio's program "Air Talk" devoted a portion of their show, Weds., Nov. 26th to discussion of these issues by phone callers, and e-mailers. One caller reporting to be a full blood Native American Indian from a tribe whose name I was unfamiliar with described her home environment when she was young. She said her Indian parents taught that Thanksgiving was the beginning of "the big lie." The lies persisted in how Pilgrims and others treated the Native American Indian from that day forward in their view. Her school had a similar Indian Pilgrim Thanksgiving celebration and as a Native American Indian she said she felt embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated over how she and her people were portrayed in this pageant. She believes the experience traumatized her for life.

A few calls later a woman identified herself as a kindergarten teacher at Condit School years ago who engaged her students in this Thanksgiving event. I recognized her name and voice, recalling my son had been in her class. I know first hand her teaching skills, compassion and humanity. She has been a highly exceptional teacher. I am confident every child in her classroom, real Indian, pilgrim or pretending, would have experienced this activity feeling great pride. I'm sure she explained the feelings of gratitude the Pilgrims had toward the Indians. Symbolically, she said she had the Indians carry kernels of corn to the Pilgrims, a generous Native American act that actually had been the foundation enabling these newcomers to this continent to survive. Historians studying actual records agree to the significance of planting corn in the Pilgrims lives.

The Thanksgiving costume controversy continued with television news coverage. Subsequent news items in another area newspaper, The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin featured an article with pictures "Thanksgiving feast draws protesters to Condit Elementary School" by Wes Woods II, Staff Writer, published 11/25/08. He noted parent emotions were strong on both sides of this issue with local police called to place the groups on opposite sides of the street. Each could see the others signs and listen to not always calmly stated opposing points of view.

Unsettling rumors had spread a few days before school district officials determined to allow the kindergartners to continue this decades old tradition. The proviso was the students could not wear Indian and Pilgrim costumes. The timing of when this decision was made and whether or not the choice was correct continues to be in question and may well resonate in the community in the future. This is likely to be especially so, come school board election time, and/or whenever consideration of renewal of the current Superintendent's contract occurs.

Maybe we should all give more thought to the real historic facts surrounding the colonization of this continent. Perhaps a little less romanticizing might be appropriate. But just how much, at what age and how do we reveal to our children some of the more brutal facts, some of which we Americans cannot be proud? I think we're long overdue for a little more realism and truth.

I wonder what others think about all this? Meanwhile, I'll celebrate Native Americans and Pilgrims coming together on what we years later designated as Thanksgiving Day. I know their eating fare was probably quite different than what many of us will have. I hope this holiday is enjoyable for all as some will likely have long four day weekends. Many will enjoy family gatherings.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Evening with Maureen Dowd Concludes

"An Evening with Maureen Dowd" continues from the preceding post with her entertaining observations and unique perspective colored by her inimitable wit.

Ms Dowd's talk included several less than flattering comments about Vice-Presidential candidate Palin's qualifications for governing nationally, Palin's husband Todd and their behavior. Sharing this thought about their home state, Ms Dowd said she understands Alaska is like no other state. She noted having been informed that many of the people there are special in a manner such as has been portrayed on the TV show "Northern Exposure." She added she has been told Alaskan's have a saying that when it comes to matchmaking "the odds are good there but the goods are odd."

Numerous students in the audience were able to ask questions as Ms Dowd's talk ended, but time ran out preventing community members from the same opportunity. A student questioner was interested in the story behind why McCain didn't allow her to travel on his campaign plane during the presidential contest. She was nonplussed explaining that in retrospect his Aides decision to exclude her was quite understandable though she was a long time personal friend of McCain, referring to him as "Johnny" at one point in her talk. (See the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article by Timothy McNulty for Dowd's specific quote on being kicked off the plane during the campaign trip.)

Because of her long term friendship with McCain she said she hadn't stopped to think about the political complications given the contrary nature of some of the articles she had written about his candidacy. My thought is that she certainly hasn't been hesitant to describe the Bushes in ways they probably don't appreciate though they have given her considerable family contact through the years. Maybe McCain's staff didn't want to place their candidate at risk for similar less than complimentary commentary of a possible pithy nature.

Ms Dowd did express some concern and disappointment writing material fodder was going to be significantly diminished for her, other writers and comedians with the departure of the current administration. She noted conduct of the President-Elect has given all indications quite a different atmosphere from both Clinton and Bush days will prevail in the White House after January 2009's inauguration day.

However, she said, she was "happy" that Rahm Emanuel was going to be President-elect Obama's Chief-of-Staff, that there would be "...someone in the high echelon who has worn tights..." as he is a former ballet dancer and could give a touch different character to the White House operations.

Ms Dowd talked of accompanying Barack Obama on a return flight from Europe during his travel to various nations before he was the official Democratic Party presidential candidate. She was pleased to have been given an interview with him, then surprised when their talk concluded with him dismissing Aides to speak to her alone. His demeanor took on a very serious tone, she reported, as he said to her, "You're really irritating." Furthermore, she added, he repeated the same statement a second time.

She spoke of the ongoing media changes, especially noting those affecting newspapers. Realistically, she observed, "I'm in competition with a multitude of writers. Everyone can write a blog and you could be more interesting than me."

An interesting sidelight she noted that while here in So. Cal. she met with James Macpherson, editor and publisher of the Pasadena Now website. He has outsourced coverage of the Pasadena City Council to two reporters in India. Here's a link to that Los Angeles Times May 11, 2007 article on the subject. I must have missed that news item and have to agree with her in wondering what we have come to in how city news is written, issues understood, and dispensed by individuals on another continent who have no vested interest in the city, our state and country since they aren't even citizens.

Responding to a student question about the challenges of writing at the New York Times, the "pressure cooker" situation and possible competitions with other high powered writers, she observed, "I like being in this pressure cooker and seeing how candidates evolve. There's nothing more fascinating than the human comedy." She noted that an irony of the business has been that with various changes one writer joining the news staff and assigned an office next to hers is an individual with whom she previously had a romantic relationship.

When asked about Michelle Obama in the White House Ms. Dowd spoke of the expectation the First Lady could well determine the success of this beginning administration. She attributes this partially due to the First Lady-elect's unifying emphasis and focus on family. She noted Mrs. Obama is a very intelligent, competent woman for whom raising her daughters in as normal a way as possible is a very high priority as it is for her husband.

Another student asked for her thoughts about John Edwards and his downfall from our U.S.A. political picture. The question was framed in context with comparing the U.S. to the much more tolerant French views toward their government officials sexual peccadilloes. Ms Dowd acknowledged the prevailing differences in attitudes toward sex between our countries. Characteristically of her writing, she offered a perspective I also share regarding topics. She was more intrigued by some of the less obvious issues.

Ms Dowd speculated about the incredible pressure Edwards must have been under trying to hide his secret relationship from the public, press and colleagues. She noted the possible guilt of moral compromise he may have felt as a consequence of his lying to and betraying his wife. His wife, nobly standing by him enabling his reaching his goal while she's dying from cancer must surely have added to his stress. Additionally, Edwards was simultaneously aggressively campaigning for the Presidency, a pressure cooker in itself. All of these behaviors were such a contrast with the man the electorate had perceived.

Personally, I couldn't help wondering if Edwards had never heard of Gary Hart who became a political pariah years ago. Hart had his presidential aspirations extinguished because of an indiscretion of less complications compared to Edwards own. I thought, too, of Newt Gingrich who prior to his prominence in national government was reported to have asked his wife for a divorce when she was battling cancer.

Ms Dowd concluded her talk mentioning her last book titled, Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide published in 2005 which became a New York Times Bestseller. I recalled hearing about the book but hadn't read it. She noted her book would be for sale at the end of her talk, so I decided to purchase a copy. Eye-catching work by talented artist Owen Smith is on the cover of this large size paperback. She spoke of the significance to her of the girl in the picture. Dowd's exact words describing this art in her acknowledgements as making her

"...dream of a pulp noir paperback cover come blazing to lush life. The girl in the red dress will always be my red badge of courage."

Just as I completed purchasing the book Ms Dowd came to the book table. I hadn't thought about this being a book signing and have rarely pursued obtaining author's signatures. In fact, I read once that most books were generally more valuable to collectors in years to come if they had no signatures. I don't know whether or not that's true, but I think of any author's signature I obtain as mattering only to me. I did spontaneously decide to ask her to sign the book. I'm sure I was partially favorably influenced to seek her signature by the fact she's a redhead. Being a natural redhead myself I confess to being automatically prejudiced with an inclination to believe all redheads are uniquely special persons -- until proven otherwise.

She graciously asked for my name to write, then added an "Of course!" preceding her signed given name on the title page in answer to the book title's question. I'd previously had little doubt about the answer to that question -- most of the time. I told her I had read her first book which I greatly enjoyed as I did her New York Times Opinion pieces that I read occasionally. She, smilingly, urged that I should read them more frequently, having actually listened to what I said. Not everyone listens, you know, or even reads all of what you write.

I told her I also liked her talk, that I was one of those bloggers she mentioned and was part of an informal Elderblogging community. I recommended she read Ronni Bennett's blog at "Time Goes By." Ms Dowd seemed genuinely interested and I thought later had warmly responded with some curiosity. Her manner suggested she might have been willing to talk longer which I would have enjoyed doing. However, I saw the line of students waiting for her to sign a copy of their books so I turned and quickly walked away. I drove home, poured a glass of wine and started reading her book after preparing myself for bed.

I suppose I should have promoted my own blog to her, but I think blog-reading newcomers are more apt to be impressed with TGB and want to return to the blogosphere as I did in the beginning because of the quality of writing, topics and features there. I figure they can always find my "Along The Way" blog and the rest of the blogs later. Maybe those of us with blogs should print up business cards to distribute to others we encounter who express interest.

I've been occupied with enough activities for most of this year that I've relished down time, but I think it might be time to take advantage of attending more of the colleges future events. Meanwhile, I can recall the humor and reflect with pleasure on this experience of listening to Maureen Dowd -- oh, yes, and reading her Opinion articles in the New York Times more frequently.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Recent Evening With Maureen Dowd

Maureen Dowd walked to the podium as an expectant audience watched, waited and listened for her words. She carried a noticeably large book manuscript-size packet of papers she placed on the stand before her. Humorously, she noted that amount of written material appeared to be the equivalent of War and Peace, but she quickly reassured us we wouldn't be hearing it all. She added that speaking wasn't her strongest talent, so she needed this written support.

The occasion was Ms Dowd's recent appearance as a guest speaker at Claremont McKenna College's Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. (CMC was known as Claremont Men's College but, after becoming coeducational some years ago, they finally changed the college's name.) Ms Dowd is one of forty-one speakers throughout this Fall Semester invited to speak to the subject "Critical Topics in World History." Of the six underlying themes her talk was part of the one focused on "Perspectives on Election 2008: The Media Revolution."

This program was preceded by a dinner attended by students. After their dinner, any seats left in the room were available to community members who were admitted free. I learned later Ms Dowd's appearance was of such interest the couple seated next to me had driven from distant Loma Linda when freeway traffic would have extended the time of their drive even longer.

I arrived fifty minutes early to discover there was already a long line of interested individuals outside the Athenaeum waiting to enter. When we were allowed inside, an audible count was being made as we walked through the door, so that once the available seats had been filled they could end the admissions.

Eventually, the walls at the back of the room were lined with people standing. At the room's front from the speaker's podium radiating outward, long tables were lined on each side with students who were now receiving their dessert after having finished the dinner course.

I've enjoyed numerous events in varying campus locations through the years that have been presented by one or the other of the seven independent colleges composing the Claremont University Consortium. Years past I sat in some of their large college auditoriums and have been entertained by a variety of speakers and stage performers. Some that immediately come to mind are Benny Goodman, the clarinetist (without his orchestra, see YouTube video) then Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain (see YouTube video.) I especially recall Maya Angelou's appearance.

Now on this November Monday night, I was on the CMC campus, this time listening to Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed columnist, New York Times, author of a book I read several years ago: Bushworld: Enter At Your Own Risk. She is a 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary. The Pulitzer committee particularly cited her columns on the impeachment of Bill Clinton after his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Maureen Dowd's talk at CMC included a brief description of growing up in Washington, D.C. where her father was a police detective and her mother a homemaker. She noted she still has numerous staunchly Republican relatives. Her family resided in an area where the school student body was composed of mixed races.

She continued recounting her personal history by briefly speaking of how she evolved into becoming a news writer after a beginning stint in sports reporting. In college she had been a Shakespearean fascinated by the social and political intrigues of those long classic stories. Their ageless universal plots center on human nature and the many shades of men and women's behavior from the loving to the perverse, so prevalent through the ages. After graduation, she became gainfully, happily and contentedly employed as a waitress, possibly as a respite from intense studies, I speculate. Eventually, her parents penetrated the comfort level of what might be described as an insulated cocoon that she was in no hurry to leave. They informed her, she said, that having paid for her higher education they expected her to seek work in a more professional arena offering a potential in keeping with her educational level.

Pressed to find and utilize her talents she progressed through various news organizations including The Washington Post and Time. Eventually she covered presidential campaigns and became a White House correspondent. Given her educational background she began to notice the Shakespearean aspect to the events, lives and activities of the individuals she was encountering for her news stories. Her writing, beginning to reflect this influence, has resulted in all those about whom she writes being subjected to her particular commentary perspective and style, regardless of their political party affiliation.

Her intent is to be non-partisan, she says, though she is sometimes accused of being otherwise. She believes those with opposing views equally see her as catering to the other side. Her words and opinions have been variously praised and criticized depending upon each reader's reaction. She clearly employs a biting wit on occasion that has been characterized as being quite acerbic. This facet surfaced in the stories she shared with us. I enjoy how she laces her words on serious issues with an underlying current of humor through the prism of her perspective.

You can enjoy Ms Dowd's observations in some of her thought provoking New York Times opinion pieces.

Her talk referenced many of the stories and individuals with whom she has had contact and/or about whom she has written including Hillary and Bill Clinton, John McCain, Sarah and Todd Palin, Barack and Michelle Obama, the Bushes, and Dick Cheney. The subject of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, their influence and possible lessons to be learned from them, introduced by a student's question after her talk prompted Ms Dowd to recall an experience. She related how her natural curiosity prompted her to ask Stewart in an interview when writing an article published in Rolling Stone how they're able to find so many of the videos they use on their television shows? Stewart, she said, told her very simply, "interns," researching and viewing lots of clips.

Her stories sometimes included references to personal friends, some of whom she has been linked romantically.

More of my experience will conclude in another written piece here about Maureen Dowd to be posted soon. Included will be her entertaining comments regarding some individuals named above, along with a few observational words from Ms Dowd's unique angle screened through her thought processes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Economy, Catastrophes, Bloggers, Hope

My previous post on the exorcism of evil spirits evolved into releasing these thoughts. The past few days news reports tell of a local bank on the verge of bankruptcy. Rumors suggest a different bank which had been presumed to have been rescued by another institution at the beginning of the financial collapse may not be purchased after all. This leaves me wondering what happens to that bank? California Public Employees Retirement System announced extensive losses, but officials hope its broad investments will enable them to weather a long term down turn. Additional news stories speak of California companies and others across the country laying off employees, going out of business and filings for bankruptcy.

Our state of California has been in dire financial straits for years. A previous governor, Gray Davis, had been recalled because he wanted to take some unpopular financial action toward resolving our problems. I was enraged since the recall forced a special election at considerable public expense when our state already had no money to spare. The new governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in office for several years now has yet to rectify the deficits but now wants to institute the very financial action he condemned the recalled governor for wanting to take. Neither governors bear all the blame for our state's poor financial status. Our state legislators and residents have certainly contributed to the mess, too.

Do aspects of that scenario sound familiar? Reminds me of a microcosm of our federal government operations. Our government hopes to resolve some financial issues by manipulating our state lottery. Thank heavens we don't have a federal lottery. Maybe we really do and it's what the U.S. Treasury is doing with our 700 billion loan.

Depending on how these issues all work out I may be more adversely affected than by the limited way I have been so far. I expect my story and/or variations is/are already true, or may gradually become more true for many across this country in their own states. Uncertainty reigns supreme for many, not just Wall Street as I listen to the analysts speculate about the market going up and down, with some saying we've hit bottom. They don't know any more about where bottom is now than when they said the bubble would keep expanding.

They chortled over Alan Greenspan's use of language in his periodic vague reports including his pronouncement years ago about financial world issues of "irrational exuberance." His protecting ordinary people during such times and ensuring enforcement of existing financial rules might have helped but were ignored. Am I supposed to feel compensated now because he says words to the effect, "Oops, I made a mistake"? Financial peddlers and advisors to whom so many listen are easily off the hook with similar simple acknowledgments, "Oh, guess I was wrong this time."

I watch with keen interest the actions of the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, this current administration and legislators. I expect their accountability as to just how much and to whom they are distributing my money in that 700 billion dollar loan. I have a few debts of my own as you might note in earlier posts about major purchases I've had to make this year. So, I don't have a lot of money to line the pockets of those who got us into this mess, or to pad the pockets of any new greedy types.

I listened to the discussion on Charlie Rose's program (Thurs., 11/13)that in the past twenty years the United States has gone from being the largest creditor in the world to the largest debtor in the world. Preparatory to this weekend's Economic Summit, his guest spoke of countries needing to give up certain financial sovereignty to some international monetary organization to provide regulation and govern the world's economy. This interview can be seen at the Charlie Rose Show's website.

Also, since I began writing this the night of 11/13 our local television news has been replete with heart-breaking fire-filled pictures and verbal narrative describing devastating destruction of homes in the Montecito area, an upscale enclave near Santa Barbara, home to many celebrities. Since then additional fires in Southern California have been engulfing more homes in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Miraculously, no known lives have been taken. Injuries have been limited to firemen which is not wanted either though none have been reported to be serious. My heart always goes out to those subjected to catastrophe and those hurt trying to help.

Just before sunset tonight as I drove home my eye caught an awesome view in the southwest sky ahead of me. I saw a gigantic large round fiery red sun that appeared exactly like the link. The sun gradually dropped behind gray streaked clouds before sinking out of sight on the horizon. The sight of the sun was an obscenely spectacular sight when I considered the atmospheric conditions responsible for it's coloring. Resident evacuations are continuing as fires threaten thousands of homes in areas a significant distance south and east of where I live, so I'm not remotely in any danger, nor will I be.

Trying to put all these events, circumstances and many more situations in perspective can be overwhelming. Some more directly affect my life than others. We are all connected to these topics in some way as well as to each other. I am reminded to be grateful for what I currently have. I also know I cannot expend emotional energy over what I cannot control, but determining what I can try to change and what not is not always easy. My life issues seem quite trivial when I consider an overall view of all the issues I've mentioned.

I've understood I must find my own way to maintain joy, pleasure and happiness in my daily life. I learned I have choices as to how I perceive and interpret my experiences even during the most difficult of circumstances. Like many people, I personally have relished finding humor in some of the most bleak situations I've encountered in life as a way of remaining in good spirits.

I think many of the bloggers I've encountered have survived life's extreme offerings in much the same way. Perhaps it is this underlying attitude toward living that permeates most of our writing that not only links us, but provides support enabling each of us to view the future with hope.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Evil Spirits Exorcised

The past year I've exerted much effort in an attempt to banish evil spirits which have intruded into my life. I finally acknowledged their presence when I shared my tale of woe here. I was overwhelmed with a variety of remedies suggested to me by kind readers for dispelling bad juju as described in earlier posts about bottle trees, running around coffee tables and peacock feathers just to name a few curative magical solutions offered for my considered use. I am convinced these evil spirits have finally been relegated to one most appropriate central location in sewer pipes just outside my home from which I now believe they have been exorcised.

Throughout these trials I have laughed in irony in order to maintain my sanity at the continuing onslaught of unexpected events. This all seemed to begin the first of the year with personal health matters followed by periodic introduction throughout the rest of this year of different ailments new to me. Mechanical equipment problems joined the fray conspiring to unnerve me beginning this spring with the stubborn refusal of my home air conditioner to perform its duties during a major three digit heat wave, then having an outside water leak develop endangering a reasonable balance on my water bill. Even my car was subjected to unknown assailants which cost me a pretty penny.

If that wasn't enough, competition ensued between my appliances as to which one could be the first to next cease operation when they learned the oven wasn't working at all. I hadn't been able to get the oven rejuvenated due to it's ancientness. This was age discrimination in it's worst form resulting in my fifty year old oven having to be prematurely relegated to the junk heap for lack of new parts or even a caring repair person. (I still await the replacement oven's installation but hope to have it before Thanksgiving.) First the washer developed a leak I feared could become a flood at any time, then the dryer assaulted my senses with strange noises and a fear this machine would cause a fire. They have now been replaced with high energy-saving and water conserving appliances. There have been other problematic complications but writing of these is more than enough.

Earlier this year I managed a couple of out of state trips that I previously wrote about, only to discover the evil spirits had followed me. Eventually, having resolved some of these aforementioned problems I was feeling quite confident that I had prevailed in this contest with evil, just in time to focus my attention on the 2008 presidential election. I peacefully went to sleep election eve anticipating the morrow. I was convinced my schedule was going to be relaxed on election day once mid-afternoon arrived. Then I could settle down to watch news accounts of the final returns.

In the middle of the night I discovered very slow drains in my bathroom that even a plunger helped very little. My hope that during the time between then and morning might correct the problem was misplaced. I soon found out when I arose election day calm was not to be on my agenda after all. I quickly perceived the evil spirits had congregated in my sewer pipes when it was confirmed to me the commodes in this house had been rendered unusable even though the rest of the water drains worked just fine. My first thought was "Oh, s---!" or as I told my mother when I was young, sometimes smart mouthing, and she questioned my language, "I was only going to say, 'Oh shoot.' "

I want to explain that when I first awaken in the morning and begin to engage in personal care preparatory to work, being deprived of the use of such porcelain works of art as inhabit my bathrooms challenges my stamina, will power and even better judgment. I raced through what activities I could while considering my options though absent was the choice of being able to sit on the throne. I wished I lived in a wooded area. What seemed an eternity to me, but was actually three auto driving miles later through a multitude of consecutive miraculously green lights, I arrived at my work location and none too soon. I was relieved to be there in more ways than one. I got to repeat this feat the next morning after what appeared to have been a false alarm my sewer drain was clear after the plumber's first visit, but that's another story.

Election day afternoon after returning home from work I awaited the magic hour when the plumber was supposed to phone preparatory to his house visit. During the one half hour waiting time my thoughts turned to some I had entertained for many years about how prepared I would be in case of a disaster should power, water, and gas no longer be available. I had thought before just how challenging life could be without the use of bathroom facilities, but I realized this now in a very real way. I spontaneously decided to finally act on an idea I had entertained for years whenever I thought of emergency preparedness such as for earthquake here in Southern California.

I quickly drove to my nearby surplus store and purchased not the most inexpensive, nor the most expensive, but a moderately priced and what appeared to be a reasonably comfortable portable camping toilet. I was back home feeling quite comforted I could now cope and awaited the plumber's call which soon came. Even now, I'm enjoying a very unique peace of mind only we non-camping city folk who possess their own personal portable toilet can appreciate. I somehow feel more in control of my own destiny.

I felt so good about this purchase I was numb to the cost of needed repairs on one commode once the plumber arrived and had the water flowing freely again. Furthermore, I also willingly had a new water-saving commode installed in the other bathroom rather than repair that fifty year old water guzzler. Water had been periodically running inappropriately in that tank, so I had cut the water supply some months ago. I had earlier received a notice from the city to all residents requesting voluntary utility cutbacks, especially water, so I've made my contribution.

I think the evil spirits that have plagued me this year are finally gone, since the plumber ground out a huge ball of roots from the sewer line. The tree to which they once belonged has been gone for a couple of years. I'm convinced those evil spirits wickedly congregated there making that location their den of iniquity. They have been exorcised. Now I can move on to other vital matters of concern.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

U.S.A. 2008 Historic Election

United States of America's democracy is not static but is always evolving to paraphrase President-elect Barack Obama in his speech acknowledging his election.

The electorate of this country continues to change, too, in many ways.

Together, we can all bring change -- yes, we can!

Let's all enjoy this significant time in history that presents an opportunity to bring us together.

Tears of happiness fill my eyes when I think what once was only a dream has become a reality.

These words come to mind:


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Will Your Vote Count?

These are exciting times with the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election only a few days away. Many voters have been able to take advantage of early voting and others have already mailed an absentee ballot. Each state seems to have different rules, guidelines or provisions for early voting. For example, here in Los Angeles County where I live there are a very limited number of early voting sites and none very close to my city. When I've listened to news accounts of those voting early in the city to which I would have to go, the lines have been described as long, sometimes requiring standing in line for two or more hours.

Recently I learned the absentee ballots mailed in before the election here in L.A. County California are counted first as I had been concerned about that process. In fact, as someone commented on that matter on another blog in response to my raising that question, their experience working in an election precinct in their home state (unnamed) had been like the concern I described. Absentee ballots were counted last or not at all if the election wasn't close. I just wanted to know my vote got counted if I voted absentee as my husband did for many years.

Especially this year I didn't want my ballot left in a box somewhere that might conveniently "get lost." That former election volunteer writer suggested we each needed to check our own state and county election rules also. We might want to familiarize ourselves with the voting processes and ballot counting where each of us lives since there can be such a variance. Ask your election officials or call the election office just for your own edification, to let them know you are keeping track of what happens to ballots, however and whenever the vote is cast. Also, this information can help us determine exactly how we might want to vote in all future elections, not just important Presidential ones.

Actually, I decided to follow my usual pattern and vote at my designated voting place on the traditional election day, the first Tuesday of November which falls on the 4th this year. I'm curious to see who the election staff is, how efficient the operation is, what the turn out is like when I'm there and what sort of wait I have, if any, before I can enter a voting booth. Rarely ever have I had to wait, and then only five minutes or less at the most.

In L. A. County we use the Ink-a-vote system. We adopted this system after considerable concerns with the reliability of various computer systems. I've been feeling pretty confident this was a wise move until the touch screen computer voting system is determined to be more trust worthy. I'd not read about any major problems with our current temporary Ink-a-vote system, but I just thought I'd look this up on the Internet. This is the informative web site I located which provides information about most states for the purpose of educating the public.'s mission statement follows:

"The Verified Voting Foundation is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization championing reliable and publicly verifiable elections. Founded by Stanford University Computer Science Professor David Dill, the organization supports a requirement for voter-verified paper ballots (VVPBs) on electronic voting machines allowing voters to verify individual permanent records of their ballots and election officials to conduct meaningful recounts. The Verified Voting Foundation is the recognized leader of the nationwide grassroots movement for VVPBs and verifiable elections..."

They have a section about a voting system company "Election Systems and Software" (ES&S) you may be interested to learn states "The company's products can be found in more than 1,700 voting jurisdictions in 47 US states and Canada." Also of interest are some reported malfunctions of their machines in France and New Jersey.

On the VVF site was this section titled
" -- The nation's clearinghouse for election audit information."

They revealed the ES&S company is the manufacturer of L.A. County's Ink-a-vote system " well as the iVotronic systems that made news in Sarasota, Florida in 2006..." Also of note is the company has submitted a new system for California's approval. VVF's ElectionAudit page notes: "ES&S systems were also considered by Ohio’s study last year, which found a variety of security problems."

I'm not suggesting we will experience voting problems with this 2008 Presidential Election. But I must admit I believe a better part of wisdom is for all voters to make themselves aware of the system in which they cast their votes, how they're tabulated and how any needed recount could accurately be conducted. This may be one source we can access to be informed so our votes in any election do not become disenfranchised by default.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Second Blog Anniversary

"Along The Way" celebrates a second annual anniversary with a new look. I've written previously about the serendipitous manner in which this blog was started that you can read about here in my initial posts (see Oct. '06 Archives.) The appearance of ATW has recently been altered with some features I prefer and others I don't like as well when compared to my original home page format, so there will likely be more changes over time. I was finally able to add the "Proud Elderblogger" badge to my blog.

This alteration all came about because I had the benefit of my tech guru son to aid me in a quick efficient manner in adopting this new blog look. I still experience internet connectivity problems here at home, but since we were working on his computer during my recent visit to his home we could not trouble shoot further my computer's problems.

My posts have been few for some time, especially this month, and my other blogging limited for a multitude of reasons including the aforementioned internet connectivity problems. Murphy's Law about which I previously have written has continued to be operative, but since last I wrote about the Law, bad juju, bottle trees, evil spirits, hoodoo, voodoo and peacock feathers, effects have been largely restricted to my personal health arena. I guess that's an improvement over household mechanical items breaking down, too.

My health issues that emerge are always unexpected and unusual for me including weeks of dental problems that culminated in my being in a specialists office for a root canal with plenty of roots. Worst of all for me was having to hold my mouth open for two solid hours and being unable to speak. Living alone in my home with no one to whom I could talk when the mood strikes has been an adjustment these two plus years, so guess that has been good preparation for those dental hours. I once longed for more quiet and now I have all I want and then some.

Soon after the dental episode I enjoyed a trip with friends to visit their son and family in Las Vegas. Yes, I donated to the commerce there via their slots though my friends actually won enough to cover the added expense when we had to stay over an extra day because guess who apparently contracted what I'm convinced was the Norovirus. That's the virus that surfaces in large groups as has been reported on cruise ships, in nursing homes, or more recently in the student body of the Univ. of Southern California almost canceling one of their football games.

While my friends spent more time with their grandchildren and later gambling, I devoted a night and the next day and night to staggering between the bed and bath, staying hydrated, before we were able to return home the following morning. The real highlight of that trip before my upset was visiting their family, the guitarist son's music store where we attended a rehearsal of his new up and coming blues group about which I'll write later.

A Sunday following my return home I read a piece in the Los Angeles Times travel section with a colorful picture recalling to me how much I longed to once again visit the New England states during the peak of my favorite fall season when the leaves were changing color. My daughter reminded me during a phone conversation I had a few flight miles to be used and could probably find some colors I wanted at her brothers should I go there, plus they had been wanting me to visit for some time. We learned my travel had to be completed by a certain Oct. date or I would lose the miles. Coincidentally, I would celebrate my Oct. 20th birthday while there. I would need to start this trip within days. I mentioned this to my son and his wife and the next thing I knew they had convinced me I should fly to their new Great Lakes area home.

I knew from my Ohio years the Great Lakes area including their state, too, had lots of fall color with many maple trees which typically offer varying leaf shades of gold and red to contrast against the green and browns much like New England. So, my daughter I've designated as my travel agent hastily made my flight reservations. I was not disappointed and actually was present during the peak of the green leaves changing to those spectacular fall colors I viewed daily from their home's windows and during several driving trips. Yes, I have pictures, but I will likely not acquire the skill of downloading from my digital camera to my computer and then figuring out how to post to my blog until possibly if we find time when my daughter visits in December.

Of course, I had to create a bit of excitement soon after my arrival at my son's by having a huge piece of tooth break off leaving an open nerve exposure sensitive to room air as I was brushing one morning. Their dentist came to my rescue and four hours later I was good to continue enjoying the rest of my trip. This included two more October plus one December birthday celebrations, helping decorate for a Halloween storytelling event conducted by my daughter-in-law and numerous other nature activities. Life was enhanced by entertaining and being entertained by two lively cats, one of whom is clearly neurotic and has a voracious appetite that is requiring retraining.

I'm home now with no additional travel plans this year but have concluded being ready to go anywhere anytime is a wise idea. I've come home rejuvenated and am undertaking some long overdue projects I just hadn't been able to get enthusiastic about starting. I'm finally in the process of getting a new kitchen oven installed after having to replace my washer, and dryer earlier this year. There's still much to do to this house's interior.

These two and one-half years since my husband's death including the two years since starting this blog have been an emotional roller coaster ride. I've alternated between obsessive blogging and emailing to opposite periods of virtual abstinence. I've ricocheted between a sense of obligation to post here daily to resentment I had this self-imposed commitment and I sometimes became determined I would simply delete this blog once and for all.

I always seem to come back to the fact I feel a sense of connection with other bloggers here, some more so than others by virtue of the length of time I've had contact with them and the nature of our interaction. Each of you knows how your words and actions through blog comments, private emails and phone contact contributed to my comfort though you may not have realized the significance to me of your acts at the time. I cannot dismiss the fact that virtual though these relationships may be, since I've never met another blogger in person, I've experienced a special and unique support during this special time in my life. I want to express my appreciation to each of you, confident you know just how much I value you.

This year in mid-April I recall sitting at my computer one afternoon, gazing out the window with my thoughts lost in the greenery of the bushes upon which my eyes were focused. Suddenly I was aware of an inner calm deep inside my being that had previously been absent. Instantly, I knew without question my life had somehow evolved to a different state ready for further forward progression.

The unexpected episodes of a deep gnawing ache centered just below my rib cage seem to have vanished. I always have wondered what those feelings indicated when I first experienced them many years before my husband's death. They sometimes seemed associated with individuals still living but also those long dead, then became acute, sometimes overwhelming and more erratically frequent the past two years. I considered the feeling encompassed an empty hole inside me that can never be filled. I even had realized this feeling could be erroneously perceived as one of hunger, but fortunately never made the mistake of trying to fill that vacuum by excessive eating. I have concluded these feelings are associated with loss or perceived loss, but perhaps I'm wrong.

I truly don't know what this coming third year of blogging will bring. I anticipate more active participation in the blogosphere. I do look forward to whatever that may be and view the future with optimism.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Financial Meltdown & Trust

Bailout/Rescue Plan Doesn't Seem to be Helping

Is Meaningful Regulation Missing ?

Financial Return On Our Investment Necessary

Is this a bailout of those on Wall St. who created the financial crisis or is it a rescue plan for Main Street America? The answer depends upon personal perspective based on information we each gather, process and interpret to reach an ultimate conclusion independently. The fact there have been so many financial experts offering conflicting views as to what action is best has not clarified the issues. The pundits state the problem, potential solutions, and possible consequences have not been explained well. Even more critical in creating uncertainty among all of us is the experts general agreement the results of implementing this plan are unknown. What is proving to be the case so far is that the plan has not resulted in a desired positive effect on the financial markets in the U.S. and the world.

I've read news reports, and listened to more than a few knowledgeable financial authorities of differing ideological persuasions explain their point of view. I've engaged in thoughtful debate with friends of varying socio-economic status who have been equally anxious to consider all the angles as best we were capable. I am familiar with young people attempting to sustain a new successful several year old business, raise young children, and maintain their home's mortgage. My own family consists of members a next generation older than that couple who are also striving to prepare for their futures. I have personal knowledge of couples entered into their first medicare-elgibilty retirement years whose financial well-being is paramount now that they're no longer in the work force. Especially vulnerable are some other couple friends and singles already in their retirement years whose financial security is most eminent. Will some of the older people need to return to work and might they encounter that unlawful but still covertly practiced age discrimination?

My Representative, Republican David Dreier, coincidentally the night before the second bailout/rescue vote offered me an opportunity to participate in another of his periodic phone conferences. I have yet, however, to be selected to ask questions and speak directly with him. His votes have not often reflected my point of view, but I value hearing his perspective. I sometimes let his office aides know by phone, letter or email my own opinion that I expect him to seriously consider whether contrary to or supportive of his position.

During his exchange with constituents in this phone conference I informally judged 80% to 90% of those who spoke had the same reaction I did of outrage – outrage that we were being asked to underwrite the excesses of Wall Street, the failure of government to regulate the violators of sound business practices and provide carte blanche authority to one government official for dispersing 700 billion dollars. He said he agreed with our concerns, but was convinced there was too much at stake for each of us, our country and the world financial markets, so he "held his nose" and voted for the first bill. Before this conference call I had reached that same conclusion as he had stated when it came to a vote on that bill. My Democratic Senators, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer also voted for the bill.

The other night Warren Buffett appeared on The Charlie Rose Show on PBS-TV making a similar case for a "yes" vote on this revised bill. I do respect Buffett, but I realize he has his own business perspective and agenda though it does seem to be one supportive of Main Street Americans. I did conclude, nevertheless, that everything considered I was not willing to gamble the financial condition of this country against the unknown of what might be our future if this revised bill did not pass. I left a message for Rep. Dreier that I hoped he would vote "yes" on this revised bill, too, as he did. Expectedly my Senators Feinstein and Boxer would again vote their support.

I continue to feel a crisis of trust toward current governing figures but now even far greater than any I've ever felt before in my lifetime toward any other administration. Congressional persons and those occupying the executive branch of our government from both of our major political parties have not only failed to serve the American people well as they pledged to do, but they have betrayed us for too many years.

Whose opinion on how to act do we trust to resolve the financial debacle our country is experiencing? Originally I thought U. S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was that person by default but then I was quite repelled by the original bailout plan he proposed. What a power grab to rival that of what the current executive branch has been doing these past years. The constant admonitions by officials urging fast action to endorse this plan had me questioning whether or not this tactic might just be rushing us to action saying time was of the essence in classic sales closing pressure tactics. I also knew that approach almost always raises a red flag of caution to not get stampeded into what might likely be a questionable investment. Common sense suggested to me that both the original plan and the revised bailout/rescue plan saddling 700 billion dollars of debt risk on to all citizens was tantamount to rape of the American people. Despite all that, right or wrong, I over-rode my hesitations and was willing to accept that revised bailout/rescue plan.

Friday night 10/10/08 I listened to George Soros interviewed extensively on Bill Moyers Journal PBS television program. Soros basically said this rescue plan was already too late to be effective, so I wonder what are we doing? We can't rescind this plan now, but I believe we need to keep up the pressure on our Representatives and Senators to see that items I mentioned in my previous post are adopted in new bills if need be to ensure their implementation. I'm especially concerned that regulations are strengthened, if need be, but definitely strongly enforced in the financial world, including banking. Also, the Securities Exchange Commission purportedly has long fought off regulation to their and our detriment it seems. Specific approval and accountability beyond "oversight" needs to be required for the distribution of my portion of the $700 billion tax dollars and I'm just not sure that will effectively be done.

I want those same 700 billion tax dollars and any new amounts appropriated rewarded with earnings repaid at an interest rate that any such high risk investment would generate. The principle, of course, must also be reimbursed to our U. S. Treasury. Perhaps we should even charge the financial market the same usury rates they've forced us to pay for many years which our state and federal government officials have permitted. All the financial groups who benefit from loans, cash infusions and/or purchases of their bad debts are monetarily, morally and ethically indebted to all U. S. citizens.

The very least the financial markets and banks can do is to dedicate themselves to making our investment in them profitable for all of us.