27 August 2009

Senator Ted Kennedy, (D) MA

Yes, I knew and, for a few years, frequently interviewed him. The picture to the left is how I see him in my mind.
I was always sort of caught between professional admiration of a man who really knew his stuff and how to work the political system in Washington to the advantage of his home state and his causes, and the other concerns about some things in his background that made him seem a little tawdry at times. We won't discuss those further here.
Instead, we'll discuss what I knew of him personally. He was unfailingly kind and gracious whenever I interviewed him. In spite of seeing me waiting, as if I was some sort of Washington political paparazzi, outside a hospital when his wife was ill. In spite of knowing that all of us were in Hyannisport or Martha's Vineyard when his nephew's plane went down. In spite of... all of it... he was kind.
I remember asking for a "one-on-one" interview about a particularly spicy subject. His press aide, Joe said "The Senator will give you two minutes in the hallway after the availability. But the interview is on condition that you shoot him from his good side." I was listening through this without surprise. Of course the Senator would give me two minutes. Hadn't he always?
But when the aide said "shoot him from his good side," I recall my eyes (after rolling upward) slightly laughing as I said, "And which side would that be, Joe?"
He didn't answer.
The Senator came in that day. In case you weren't aware, in his later years, he routinely seemed a bit disheveled. His suits were a little tight and his cotton shirts a bit rumpled. To add to the effect, this particular day, he appeared to have used a rusty old ax for his morning shave. He had sliced off thumbprint-sized bits of skin along his jawline on either side. I wondered which was the "good side" that he intended us to shoot? Both sides looked a little bloodied.
I need not have worried. We met him in the back hallway. The light turned on and the Senator turned to his desired angle. Left, I think, was his apparent preferred side. Naturally. It wouldn't be the Right.
Senator Ted Kennedy, dead but not soon forgotten, at 77.

25 August 2009

The High Cost of Comfort in One's Skin

Caution: There is a naked woman on this page and I don't consider it porn. It is, however, somewhat annoying.

Don't get excited. The naked woman in question is a reasonably modestly posed 20 year old "plus size" model named Lizzi Miller, who posed for the photo which graces the pages of Glamour Magazine. The article attached to it is about body image and "feeling comfortable in your skin.
Online fans have been buzzing about it since it went up late last week.
"I am gasping with delight...I love the woman on p 194!"
That was offered by one commenter, and apparently almost every statement that followed.
Am I glad to see it? Yes and no. Yes, I'm glad for any woman, any person really, to feel comfortable in their skin.
Am I comfortable with this particular woman? No. And here's why.
That little pooch, as the magazine lovingly refers to it, isn't really healthy for a 20 year old woman. It just isn't. If that were a 40 year old woman, she'd have earned it righteously. Maybe a few kids and a few days (or years) of "too busy to take care of me" meat on her bones. But on a 20 year old? Oh, please no.
And while I'm glad not to see one more stick-thin anorexia-infected model, I wonder about articles such as this one and another one in the New York Times suggesting, no, saying outright that it's "hip to be round."
Uh, no it's not. It's actually unhealthy. In fact, it could be downright deadly in a few years.
We all know that Americans have a health problem and it's right around our middle. We're gaining weight at an alarming rate. And to suggest that it's now become stylish to be overweight is outright insanity.
I don't want to call anyone out for their weight issues. I'm not even suggesting Lizzi Miller has a weight issue, but the fact is that the average American puts on 10 pounds per decade after age 20 and that is unhealthy.
Certainly, I have my own weight issues. But to suggest to the younger set, the group coming up, that carrying extra weight around one's middle is stylish is simply cultural suicide.
We're suffering from an epidemic of obesity and overweight in this country. And it's bringing with it something even worse. Right next to our weight issues are the attached health issues. Diabetes will be THE health issue of this 21st century. It is already striking in shocking numbers.
And oh, by the way, if you think the current health care program proposed by President Barack Obama will cost a lot now, you give it ten years, at our current rate of weight gain, and then check back, my friends. We won't have the current administration to blame then. If we continue to gain weight at our current rates, death panels won't be necessary. We'll be dying in record numbers, as we sit in wheelchairs with diabetes-induced blindness and minus our fingers and feet.
Personally, I don't want to pass the later years of my life suffering from numb, or even worse, amputated fingers, toes or full limbs. I have no intention of going blind in my later years, if I can avoid it at any cost. And if that cost means I don't eat the current average of 22 teaspoons of sugar in my daily diet, so be it. That article just linked, by the way, contains your daily bit of news from this blog.
It's NOT hip to be round. It's sad. It's indicative of a culture that has surrendered to its desires and shows no impulse control. If a candy bar a day is going to make you blind in your 60's and possibly kill you, is there really no way to avoid it?
There is. Stop now. Rethink your diet and exercise. It's not just society that will suffer. It's you. Take it personally before it becomes personal. Yes, please feel good about your body, but work at making it something to be proud of.
I have to cut this short. (You know I could go on about this for a lot longer, right?) But it's time for the gym.
Besides, there's nothing ironic, funny or hip about being round.

23 August 2009

"Fresh Veggies! Get Your Vegetables Here!"

Stop me before I get annoyed at naivete, er, I mean "change" in action again.

Mr. "Change," our rookie-year President, has said that he'd like to see a farmer's market set up outside the White House.
"One of the things we're trying to figure out is, can we get a little farmers market set up outside the White House. That is a win-win situation. It gives suddenly D.C. more access to good, fresh food, but it also is this enormous potential revenue maker for local farmers in the area."
Okay first and foremost, DC doesn't have a shortage of farmers' markets. There are somewhere between 50 and 70 (you try counting all these tiny little markers) between the southern most tip of Washington Metro area and Pennsylvania's state line. That map doesn't take into account the numbers of little sort of jitney roadside stands and actual farm locations where one can buy fresh produce.
Second, since the most likely position would be either the blocked off block at 1600 Pennsylvania (or the open Washington Mall area in what is technically the front of the White House), has our President considered the seemingly universally acknowledged favorite device of large-scale destruction known as the car bomb? How does he imagine those vegetables are going to get in to fill the tents and stalls that he wants put up? In his vast experience as an American, has he never seen a farm truck roll up? Perhaps he should consider that not all bushels of corn (or potatos) are what they seem.
Third, consider also this statement:
"Getting local farmers connected to school districts: That would benefit the farmers delivering fresh produce. Right now they don’t have the distribution mechanism set up."
Let me just submit that perhaps delivering the vegetables to the area near the White House is perhaps not the best point of destination. Since we only know of two little girls who are in need of vegetables (and theirs aren't sourced on a street-corner) perhaps this is an ill-conceived idea that President Obama has popped off the top of his head.
Er, another one.

22 August 2009

"Wee-weed The People"

Wee-weed? Wee-weed? The President of the United States said wee-weed? I'm having a Beavis and Butthead moment, which I think it's entirely appropriate. Here's what President Barack Obama said, according to the Washington Post.
"There's something about August going into September where everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed up," President Obama remarked Thursday as he tried to rally support for health-care reform. "I don't know what it is, but that's what happens."
At least he admits that he doesn't know that is, but what on earth is the President talking about?
There is a phenomenon in Washington where everyone involved in government, running the city, and basically well, everyone who lives and works in or around the Beltway gives themselves the entire month of August off.
(Anyone left in the office, by common consent, plays on Facebook.com all day, takes two hour lunch breaks, and pursues an online degree with the University of Phoenix. You have no idea how many MBA's are created this way.)

Off. You know. Vamanos. Off. Why? Well, it's tradition borne of necessity. Washington, DC was built on a swamp; the heat, humidity and mosquitoes all reach critical mass in August so the President, the Supreme Court, Members of Congress all pack up and leave. The kids are going back to school in a few weeks, so everyone who has seniority takes advantage and goes on vacation. (It seems President Obama is hip to this tradition. He's already gone to Martha's Vineyard with Michelle and the girls. Can you imagine seeing the above... and 6 guys in dark suits talking into their hands coming up the beach at you?)
In the month of August, by general consensus, no work gets done, none of the nation's business is moved forward, nothing gets accomplished in the District of Columbia. The city is a ghost-town. (Which in my business means... thank heavens celebrities are dying on the West Coast! Whew! Relief!)

But wee-weed? Yeeeeeaaaahhh, no, we don't know that term here in the District of Columbia.

In fact, it reminds me of an old Steve Martin comedy riff from the 1970's on his "Let's Get Small" (or was it Ramblin' Man?) album, in which Martin said it would be hilarious to teach your kids to speak using the wrong words. You know, if you used the wrong words every day of their first few formative years, think how screwed up they would be on the first day of kindergarten when they needed to be excused to use the bathroom.
"Hey mon, hamma ney banana pants gondaga go summa cum laude pe-pe?"
Maybe somewhere in the first formative 100 days of his Presidency, President Obama heard vacation referred to in terms of getting wee-weed? It does give one pause, doesn't it?
(Imagine what will happen when those "Birthers" start holding meetings with the "Make English the Official Language" guys. Hahaha! "Ohhhhhh Lou??")

20 August 2009

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses Who Need a Little Info...

I have been working at Voice of America for the past several months. It's interesting work. I write the basic news copy that is used by foreign language news services on American government radio broadcasts overseas. The copy I write is then translated for radio announcers in a couple dozen languages. It's interesting for several reasons.
First, because the world is a fascinating place.
Second, because it turns out that while our country may have more educated people per capita, we certainly aren't the most educated about world politics and what is going on out there.
As it turns out, people living in other countries are often much more focused on world politics and frankly, they sometimes know their geography better, too. Apathy and complacency have not been not good for America.
But one of the things I noticed quickly at VOA is that a lot of my coworkers are immigrants. Most of those are naturalized American citizens. But there are definitely lots of foreign nationals and former foreign nationals floating through those hallways, rubbing shoulders with us boring All-American domestically-produced-type of folks.
Some of that is great. I find it fascinating to see all the different national costumes that walk past me in the hallways. But some of their habits are a little distressing. I wonder if you might have noticed this, too?
I'm talking about little things that they do that are a little less than what we have come to expect in this country by virtue of hanging around together for a couple hundred years.
We're sorta like an old bachelor uncle who is stuck in his habits (and usually dug in deep to an old barcalounger) and doesn't want to change. Of course some of those habits are things that stop us from catching diseases, passing them along, and generally grossing each other out, right?
If you have encountered these thoughts with our newest citizens (or those lovely new wanna-be citizens), could you please leave a comment about it here for me? I'm doing some research on this and it would be extremely helpful.
Here's my disclaimer: I'm not trying to kick up dust on immigration issues. I'm not trying to poke fun at anyone's habits. I'm strictly looking for information on what these immigrants are missing in the way of information that would help them to fit in better. If you just want to fuss, please do it privately. If you need to vent, you can email me. But privately... please? I don't want the hate-comments. I want helpful comments, please.
For instance, when someone is coming directly toward me and we would have a head-on collision, whether we're talking on foot in a hallway or in a car on the road, I keep to the right side. I've grown up and been trained to drive on the right side of the road in traffic in this country. Therefore on foot, I would also walk to the right side.
Immigrants from around the world don't have the benefit of such training. Europeans might go to the left side, based on their background and training. People from developing countries have no idea which direction to go. The reason for that becomes obvious when you visit their countries: traffic goes every direction without any organizational flow.
So if you have a thought on this, please post it. I'll be most appreciative. Again, please be nice about it. If you can't be nice, then just email me directly. You can rant to me. I've listened to rants for living for some time now.

Addendum: The first and only comment I had so far was just someone going on to about how immigrants don't want to fit in; they just want the opportunities and freedom and to "wear their headgear in drivers license photos." As I said, if you want to rant and complain about immigrants, do it privately. This is a research project; not an (unkind) opinion poll. I'm sure I've already heard plenty of that.

16 August 2009

Happy Birthday... Pass the Toilet Paper

This past Thursday, Fidel Castro celebrated his 83rd birthday. He's been sick a lot for the last year or so, and although he does still remain the Dictator-in-Residence, he's handed over the reigns of every day Communistic Rule to his brother, Raoul.
But he did rise to the occasion to deliver a message of gloom and doom about the world's economic state to us, the crude Capitalists to the North. Do you ever wonder what he calls us behind our backs? "Krazy Capitalists!" "Jello-Pudding-Pop Loving Hedonists!" Or maybe "Toilet Paper Hogs!"
That last seems reasonably likely, since Cuba is suffering through a toilet paper crisis.
Reuters reports an official with the Cuban state conglomerate Cimex as saying:
"The corporation has taken all the steps so that at the end of the year there
will be an important importation of toilet paper."
Also that the shipment will enable the state-run company...
"to supply this demand that today is presenting problems."
It's good to know that Fidel and company are, er, regular, I guess. Cuba both imports toilet paper and produces its own, but does not currently have enough raw materials to make it, according to the official statement.
But seriously, what? Did they think suddenly one day they would stop needing bathroom tissue? That their people would stop producing wastes and supplies would no longer be necessary? I'm going to stop short of making the obvious jokes here because I don't consider this particular aspect to be funny. (Ask anyone who has seen me on a Costco run. I like Charmin in the jumbo economy pack.) No doubt I buy extra because of some scarring childhood bathroom incident.
Many an adult woman has hurried into the lavatory only to discover too late that she failed to adequately check the supplies. She usually just inquires with the woman in the next stall over. So this is what I would say.
Mr. Castro, we are far from perfect in this country. We appear to be in the midst of recalculating our priorities on a lot of things. But we can afford toilet paper. And if you knock on the door, who knows? Maybe what generally hits the fan could in this case open the door.

15 August 2009

Dreaming of Recovery?

They said this recession would see "the poor get poorer and the rich get richer." If you're watching at all, the truth of that statement is becoming more and more apparent.
In the past month, we've seen some banks (Goldman Sachs, for starters) giving back the bailout money they were given earlier by the government. In the case of several banks, they would not have accepted the money but were forced to in order to protect the reputations of all the banks so that the American people couldn't immediately ascertain which banks were troubled, and start a run on any or all of those banks. Congrats, boys, it worked.
But in reality, some of these banks were more than just a little healthy. They were robust. Which is why the current round of "little notices" tucked in your credit card bills don't make any sense.
Credit cards make money when they are used. The issuing companies each extract a certain cut of the business being done every time a transaction takes place. The card company gets a percentage point. Or three. That's why some businesses don't accept American Express; because the percentage that AmEx wants is higher than the rest.
The companies also make money when a consumer carries a balance. Considering that going into this recession, the average American was carrying $8000 in credit card debt every month, those banks weren't hurting. They were making money coming... and going.
But this month, yes, I did get a little notice in my monthly statement telling me that the interest rates are increasing, as are late fees. Fascinating. The banks are hurrying to institute their new fees because government rules regulating predatory practices among credit card companies go into effect soon. They printed those little notices and got them into the mail as fast as they could get the ink to dry.
And yes, government reports say that our economy is starting to come out of the recession. But sadly enough for the family down the street, unemployment is still sky-high. In some places, unemployment has hit double-digits and shows no sign of coming back down. Government economists admit that "unemployment will lag behind other indicators." That's a bloodless description of deep suffering, don't you agree?
Meantime, housing sales are starting to climb back up again. The American worker is still living in a recessionary mindset (and may be for some years to come, if any good is to come of the past 18 months worth of agony) but home sales and more importantly, prices are starting to come back up.
The bottomline is that for many Americans, the dream of owning their own home is now further away than ever before. If you spread out the unemployment, lost wages, foreclosures, bankruptcies and other lost wealth of this downturn, it equals a lot of stolen dreams and for many, those dreams will never come again.

14 August 2009

A Reporter's Story...

I've always admired my friend Lonni, but never more so than now. I've known her for a long time, through thick and thin. And often it seemed to me that she had the thick, and I had the thin.
It can be difficult to like someone who is intelligent, tall, willowy and beautiful when it seems one is always struggling to keep up, tall, "muscular" and well put together... some days. But it would have been more difficult to not like Lonni.
I met her years ago when we were both beginning reporters in Las Vegas. I was a general assignment reporter for a competing station. One day, as we were both covering the opening of a new "cop shop" in the housing projects in North Las Vegas, I noticed something on the police department car. She had written her contact number on the car, presumably for the officers' convenience.
I stopped,leaned over and added the words, "For a good time, call:" above her name and number.
Yeah, I was a little jealous. Maybe even a little intimidated. To say I had issues in those days would have been an understatement. But Lonni always seemed to gently look past that with me.
We both moved on from Las Vegas. I went to anchor in the midwest. She moved to an investigative reporting position in Phoenix, Arizona.
We didn't bump into each other again until years later, when she and a friend turned up at the church I was attending in Washington, DC. I immediately invited her and the friend over for dinner. They took me up on it.
We had a great time, catching up. She was working at KCBS in Los Angeles as part of the investigative reporting unit. I was working for Hearst Television as a national correspondent. We were on pretty level ground, and moreover, maybe I was starting to grow up. Lunch was nothing fancy. Just a barbecued chicken, served on some Asian-style noodles and a salad, if I recall.
Lonni seemed a little paler than I previously recalled. Most television reporters are gregarious, fun-loving types, with boundless energy and endless wit. She had the wit, but her energy seemed a bit flagging.
She explained she'd felt a little off for some time and the doctors were working on finding what was wrong. She and her friend left early and returned to where they were staying in order to let her rest.
A short time later, she was diagnosed with a parasitic infection brought on by a bug bite during a reporting trip to Haiti. Her health would never be as good as it was, but they caught it in time. She would survive.
The resulting slowdown gave her male friend a chance to end his long pursuit and finally catch her. They married a short time later. She later told me that they spent their honeymoon with her throwing up, and him holding her hair back and flushing.
I visited them at their home in Phoenix. It was a tiny little place, but together they had made it into almost an Enchanted Cottage. They seemed blissful. And when I quietly inquired with him about future children, he told me maybe they would have them "when Lonni gets better." But he also admitted, her health would never get better.
Still they seemed so happy. And a few years later, her doctor allowed that perhaps the infusion of hormones associated with pregnancy would actually improve her health. They leaped at the possibility and soon were thrilled to welcome their first child: a beautiful daughter.
Then a second daughter. And a third.
Lonni laughingly said that her husband was immersed in estrogen. He was surrounded by a wife, three beautiful daughters, and even a female dog. They seemed again, the picture of bliss.
So it was a surprise, as I mentioned in the earlier blog that they were pregnant. And all their friends were thrilled for them to learn the baby was to be a son.
The pregnancy was troubled, but they got through it. Earlier this week, after ten weeks in the hospital, Lonni delivered a baby boy that at first seemed healthier than anyone could have dreamed. They joyfully posted the pictures on their blog. (I won't post a link. I'm sharing their story, but not wishing to blast away their privacy.)
I looked at the pictures and wondered. There was something unusual about the shape of the infant's fingers. I felt an immediate sense of worry. There was a sense of dread when her blog reported that "tests are being done. The results will be in on Friday."
This morning I saw the results were posted. It is as I suspected. The beautiful baby boy so long dreamed and prayed for is still a beautiful baby boy, but he will have his challenges. He has Down Syndrome.
As a child, I associated Down Syndrome children with baby birds, somehow connecting the childlike attitude and innocence that they retain throughout their lives with the down of a baby bird. Like a baby bird that grows up, but beneath the feathers remains the down. Just so do their bodies grow up, but beneath it all, the childlike innocence. And I have seen the truth and reality of this situation in a family member's son.
I know my friend can handle this. I know that she is capable and wise and will learn everything that she needs to know to be everything that boy and the rest of her family need her to be. I just wanted so much for her... and them... not to have to pass through this.
And I know that every situation and life has its own unique problems. Professionally, I've always known that every job has its own black bag of uglies. Some, more than others it has seen. It reminds me of a little embroidered sampler kit someone gave me as a child. I stitched it up and hung it on the wall in all the places I've lived.
"If all our troubles were hung on a line, you would take yours and I would take mine."
I'm sure today more than most, Lonni would agree. Her blog explaining this new information about her son doesn't complain. It's simply titled, "Our Life Has Changed."
And so it has, Lonni. And so it has.

10 August 2009

A Different Kind of News

A friend of mine is having a baby today. She's 42. Her husband also in his forties. They have three beautiful little girls and thought they were "done."
But then Lonni started feeling a little sick. Which isn't surprising for her. She suffers chronic health problems brought on by a parasite that was transmitted to her in a bug bite during a reporting trip to the island of Haiti in the 1990's.
Eight months later after her latest "little sick" began, her newest little bug may be born today.
I woke up this morning and checked her blog. Yes, today is the day. The doctor is going to induce labor. So I went down to Voice of America, to get some training in using their new computerized video-sourcing system.

Meantime, the Washington Post notes that President Barack Obama is in Mexico, meeting with the Presidents of Mexico and Canada. As a group, they are called "The Three Amigos." I think that started during the Bush administration, because Bush, being former governor of Texas, had a special affinity for his southern neighbors. And maybe he liked the sound of saying "Adios, Amigos!" whenever they parted.
Lonni's "guest blogger" on her page says that the hospital staff tested to make sure that Lonni and the baby were in the best possible situation (heart rate, blood pressure, etc.) to start the labor.
Then they gave her a drug to start the process. Several of Lonni's friends said they were "on pins and needles," waiting for her baby to be born. The new phenomenon of blogging has served Lonni well. She notified all of her friends that she was going into the hospital to wait out the baby's birth, and then was able to update us on a daily basis.
In turn, she got back support posts full of love from family and friends on a regular basis. And anything that she felt she wanted to discuss further, she could take to private email with specific friends. She's stayed on my tail about various issues, being supportive and encouraging and pregnant, all at the same time. Online.
The NYTimes reports on a deadly day of bombings in Iraq. In the most devastating attack, a pair of flatbed trucks packed with bombs exploded simultaneously in a village near Mosul. Altogether, 50 are dead.
There was another update about Lonni and the baby a few hours later. The guest blogger said that Lonni's mother, who has stayed off and on for ten weeks alternately by her daughter's side and with her grandchildren (thus truly earning the nickname "Saint Dee") called to say that the labor was progressing and Lonni would soon be given that lovely drug treatment that women in labor scream for (if they wait too long) called "an epidural." There was some pre-delivery concern that the baby couldn't handle a vaginal delivery, but an epidural means they are going for it.
NYTimes also says that deathtolls from the typhoons in China are still climbing. The video from that region was stunning over the weekend, with people, cars, and even a six-floor hotel swept away in the waters. I wondered how the cameramen even got in to get those pictures safely.
Thank heavens there will be no pictures until after the delivery is over. And then it will be "smiling mother/father and conehead." I live in terror of those maternal "from the battlefield" pictures. I'm not much on reality tv, and since the "delivery room videos" kicked that off, maybe now we know why.

I've now hit the button to "refresh" on Lonni's webpage so many times that it seems silly. I know that things are going as fast as Lonni and her sweet baby boy can handle, but I am wishing for more information. I'm alternately holding my breath in anticipation and exhaling in frustration.
Accustomed as I am to charging up the sidewalk with a microphone and knocking on a door or two, this is so different. I'm finding the back and forth of it all amusing. With all the world's news at my fingertips, it boils down to the fact that today's biggest news for me comes out of a hospital room in Boise, Idaho where it's reported on a blog tucked into an out of the way spot on the Internet.
But I just can't help it. I am waiting and praying for word of one tiny little life. Good luck Lonni!

Update: Lonni's son was born the same day this was posted. He weighed 4 lbs. 4.5 ounces and was off a respirator within 24 hours. He's doing great, but as a preemie, will be staying at the hospital an extra month. Lonni will be/was released three days later, freeing her from her ten week hospital stay.

08 August 2009

The Marti/Julia Project

I want to go see "Julie & Julia," which judging by the buzz it is generating, will likely be one of the top movie releases for this weekend. The other new release this weekend is "GI Joe," (I refuse to link this movie in. Google it yourself, if you must know more.) and nobody knocks 'tweens and teens out of their market-making position.
"Julie & Julia" is the real-life story of Julie Powell, a young newly-married resident of Long Island City, NY who wants a writing job and needs to learn to cook, so she begins the "Julia Project," which is year-long effort to cook her way through Julia Child's classic "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and blog about it the entire way. Clever, huh? If you read her posts, it actually is very clever.
Then her blog became so popular that she got a book deal. And a movie deal. Life gets better and better, doesn't it? Good for her!
The movie is being relished by fans of Meryl Streep, who plays Julia Child, as she does all her roles, with aplomb and gusto. (So tempted by write "a-plum" but I stopped myself.)

The cinematic release plays back and forth between both women's lives. Watching Meryl Streep play Julia Child is more visual candy for my gluttonous little movie-loving soul. So I have promised myself that I shall get there.
In counterpoint, the portrayal is not pleasing to actual friends of Julia Child, who say that the lady herself (who passed in 2004, two days short of her 92nd birthday) didn't like the "Julie/Julia Project." She felt like Julie Powell was usurping her name and brand for personal benefit. She didn't approve or appreciate the little upstart from New York. Sigh.
I've not seen the movie. But I will. Until then, I've decided to begin the Marti/Julia project. I've decided to walk around in very tall shoes (Julia herself was 6'2"), trilling in a high falsetto and using words like "marvelous souffle-y concoction" and tossing the word "bechamel" into every third sentence.
Hmmm, "Marti/Julia Project." It just doesn't have the same ring, does it? Oh well. Bon appetit!

U.S. Postal Service... not serviceable?

So the Postal Service says their business is failing and they need some cuts. I sorta get that. Don't we all?
Last quarter, they lost $2.4 Billion, with future projections that by the end of the year, they will lose a total $7 Billion. As we all know, Internet and email have pretty much killed them. Sure, they raise the price of a stamp six to twelve months, and we all know what's going on there. Postal carriers think they need more money and benefits. Otherwise, they'll... uh, go postal. (Whew! Now that we've gotten that one out of the way, we can move on.)
But this time, they don't want more money. They want less responsibility. Their big cheese, the U.S. Postmaster told Congress this past week that he needs to cut services back.
He really needs to cut new deals and be allowed to whack away at union deals that were made before he was in office. He needs freedom to chip away at service agreements and benefits and entitlements that are "guaranteed" to government workers that frankly, well, we really can't afford right now. Nor possibly could we ever have really "afforded" them.
Apparently, our postal carriers weren't paying attention to what happens to big unions when their employers can't afford them anymore. They didn't notice what happened to workers at various auto plants and factories. They took no notice of mechanics and flight attendants who slowly squeezed (is that a word?) the life out of their big bosses. Why aren't they worried? Because their contracts forbid layoffs, cutbacks, or any other attempts to cut their piece of the pie. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service is archaically required to set aside benefits money for "future employees." Do you know any other business that is required to set aside money for employees they don't have?
So Postmaster John Potter wants to cut a day or two, here and there.
I have another idea. Since a good number of us already have post office boxes, perhaps we might consider whether a lot more of us should get P.O. boxes? We could eliminate deliveries, except where age or illness makes getting our own mail impossible. We'd make Americans responsible for their own make pickups.
And think about it. Think of all the glorious "stimulus money" we could spend, building the additional mail drop facilities.

Just makes you want to go out and buy some stamps, doesn't it?

06 August 2009

Read Me! Please Read Me!

Thank you for reading my blog. I know now there are lots of blogs out there that no one reads except for the writer. And maybe their mother. As far as we know, my mother doesn't read my blog. She's certainly never mentioned it. And you know, I'm okay with that.
Apparently George Sodini didn't have readers. He's the gunman who killed three women in a Pittsburgh fitness gym. Law authorities are now discovering that he had a blog which detailed his deep unhappiness with his personal life.
That's right; he was unhappy about not gettin' any.
George Sodini wanted to have a girlfriend, but 9 months ago was so unhappy that he bought a gun and headed for the gym to work out his "exit strategy" from misery. He was going to avenge himself that night, but he chickened out.
At this point, let me just say in defense of women who turned him down that maybe... just maybe all this unhappiness wasn't so attractive? He's not a bad looking fellow, so clearly it wasn't that he was so physically repulsive that it drove women away screaming and shrieking. Maybe his mental illness (because to be honest, he must have been mentally ill to do what he did) leached out of him like a pimple before it pops. It ain't pretty. It wasn't attractive.
But back to this blog. Nobody read it. Or if they did, they didn't have the sense to call him out on it. Or talk to the right authorities (the ones that would take it seriously) and stop the man.
I always say that I don't expect anyone to read this blog. I always assume it's my own little writing exercise and I tell anyone that I think may read it that there is no test afterward. It's just my little personal writing exercise and outlet. That explains a lot, doesn't it?
But listen, if you ever see me blowing off steam such that you think I'm going to hurt someone, please report it, huh? So far, all you've found out is that I might go crazy and buy used bathroom scales in bulk, or perhaps take a fire hose to someone from the Water Department.

03 August 2009

You Weigh How Much?

I went to a Goodwill store today. It wasn't my first trip. I'm famously thrifty and, since I am currently in the process of outfitting temporary housing in Washington DC, I am in the market for a few things on the cheap. Things such as Goodwill has in spades.
I went wandering through the housewares, just in case anything caught my eye. Then I meandered through the furniture section. I've never been able to get excited about second-hand couches. Then I had a last thought to go look at lamps.
The lamps were really sketchy. I think Ikea's $10 lighting section is a much better idea. And I will say that lately, the word in stores is deflation, not inflation. Seriously, Goodwill is trying to sell cups and bowls that I could get elsewhere, new, for the same price. They need to rethink their approach to pricing.
But this is what caught my eye. You know what these are, right? Remember them from your childhood, perhaps?
They are bathroom scales. They are flat, floor-models designed for some American to step onto as they step out of the shower and see how much they have gained or lost in the preceding 24 hour period. I've never wanted one myself, and I certainly wasn't interested today, but look at that stack! There were eight used bathroom scales, all cast offs, waiting for some "lucky customer" who wanted a deal on scales.
They sorta spoke to me. They chime in agreement with something I've been thinking for a month or two, trying to decide how to say this gently. But there is no gentle way to say it.
American society doesn't resemble people anymore, so much as it brings to mind kernels of corn, popping in hot oil. Walking down a street lately, it seems like if I look away for a moment, another two or three of us will "pop" with extra weight.
Oh yes, it is a hot spot we're in. Government studies show that 67% of us are overweight; another third of that number are actually morbidly obese. Obesity and overweight will cost us billions of dollars in lost productivity and healthcare expenses that we might have averted, if we didn't abuse our bodies this way.
And apparently, some of us want to just settle in to it, too. There's a new reality dating show for people of size. During the commercials for "More to Love," I heard the male lead in the show (because lately, it seems that all shows are about women frantically chasing men) discussing how he likes being a Big Man. I wondered what part he likes most? Feeling cramped in traditional clothing sizes, getting checked regularly for diabetes and heart disease, not being able to get in and out of cars easily or merely using his body as a floatation device at swimming pools. The whole thing makes me sad.
It makes me sad because like most Americans, I do fight my weight a bit. I refuse to go quietly into that good night of cellulite. I workout regularly. I am trying to eat fewer processed foods and make healthier choices. (I know I could make a lot more headway if Frito-Lay would make whole-grain Cheetos. I guess I need to approach them about that.) I'm also trying to enjoy life more and have fewer stresses, but oh what the heck, I like a good bit of stress. Makes me feel alive.
Anyway, back to our Goodwill market's glut on bathroom scales. I've about decided to go back and buy the whole lot of 'em tomorrow. Maybe the manager'd give me a bulk deal? Might be fun to give them as gifts at Christmas. Just to see them show up at Goodwill again by the Monday morning after.