Baby Names One

A friend of mine mentioned that she liked to read all the baby names listed in the paper each Sunday. I decided to steal her idea and so I have collected the baby names from the past two Sundays. I think I’ll buy a New York Times and see if the names are different in any way.

Boy Names: Ty Patrick, Hunter Ted, Luca Angelo, Brice Cayden, Isaac Robert, Sean Edward, Alexander Philip, Owen Michael, Ethan Patrick, John Edward, Hudson Loki

Girl Names: Mia Carmen, Ainsley Jane, Adelyn Cadence, Layla Rose, Jaelynn Lorraine, Mara Marie, Brooke Ellen

Books – Unfinished Desires

Unfinished Desires: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle)I am working on my August booklist. All the house shopping has put me really behind on my reading. I finished Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin, a book of Catholic nuns and a Catholic girl’s school in Appalachia and a particular nun who became the headmistress of the school. Although she led the school for decades, the girls in 1952 are the focus. This class includes the daughters of the girls Sister Suzanne Ravenel went to high school with. The Sister, now retired, must deal with several bits of emotional trauma centering on the girls and her old classmates that she has carried with her throughout her career.
It’s obvious that being a nun doesn’t protect you from life’s guilt, pain, ambition, pride, and all the pathos and bathos. Was she a good headmistress most of the time? We get the feeling that she was. Was she a good headmistress in 1952?
Not for everyone, but the characters are nicely done.

What Small Government Really Means

The idea of small federal government or “federalism” which may have been appropriate in the 1770’s or even in the 1860’s is not a useful concept in the 21st century. Our population is huge compared to the population in 18th and 19th century America. Our society has become skewed in that the rules have favored the rich for so long that a few people have cornered most of the wealth. Our forefathers were elitist. They did not put too fine a point on the rights of people who did not own land.

We are experiencing a return to elitism. Those who have been financially successful want to cut the rest of us loose now that we have become a drag on the economy instead of a useful work force (cash cow). They want to end all entitlements – no Social Security-no Medicaid-no Medicare. Then they could just pocket our tax dollars in the name of jump-starting the economy.

This approach will not really satisfy anyone. Pretty soon they’ll be tripping over us on the streets, we will have massive new slums, crime rates will rise, disease rates will rise. America will not look or feel anything like America.

This is what the Tea Party wants to do. This is what the Republicans want to do. It is all about greed and the status quo (those with the dollars get to keep the dollars.)

Haiti Concerns

US C-17 emergency airdrop in Haiti, Jan 18.Image via WikipediaEveryone seems to believe that Americans have forgotten all about Haiti. We haven’t. It is difficult to forget people who have had to live in tents for months on end and face the lack of privacy and disease and the rains.

Haiti had a lot of help just after the earthquake,although I remember how long it took to arrive because of logistics.We all felt a sense of urgency about getting food and water to the survivors. Then I believe I remember the President of Haiti asking the aid workers to step back. I remember pictures of supplies sitting in warehouses because distributing free aid supplies was supplanting the Haitian economy.

Haiti is an independent nation and apparently felt the need to take charge of the rebuilding. If we are asked to step back, I guess that means we step back.

If our government pledged money to Haiti and has not delivered it, is this, perhaps, because our aid was not welcome, or is it because we want some control over how the money will be spent, or is this just part of our own government’s current dysfunction? “Curious minds want to know.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

Taking it Personally

Homeland Security Advisory System scale.Image via WikipediaMy friends, a young-senior couple, recently left the U.S. to live in Germany for three years. We have all had mixed feelings about this. First we will miss them. Besides this our feelings have been part “are they nuts?” and part “aren’t they lucky?”. We are all a bit jealous and we hope to make plans to visit them and Europe at some future time.

But Europe is in the news this week for a couple of reasons. They are experiencing some economic difficulties which are serious enough to send our stock market all kerflooey. Secondly, and more worrying to those of us with loved ones in Europe, they have raised the terror threat level throughout Europe and especially in Germany where our friends are. I believe my friends will be safe and I have hopes that officials in Europe will be able to defuse possible attacks.

What if I had made plans to travel to Europe this week? Would I go? All the brave people are saying that they will live their lives and not let terror threats dictate their behavior. I admire their moxie, but I can feel a little shiver in my knees. Maybe it’s just arthritis.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Q me

I wish that every day before I go out into the world I would meet with Q (or was it M) at MI5 or MI6 or whatever. I would be given all the clever gadgets I would need to get through my days. Maybe I would get some kind of sexy car with rocket afterburners in case I needed to make a fast exit. Maybe Q would give me a pen that would stun a salesman into making a spectacularly low offer. Maybe he would have invented an invisible patch that taps into some special area of the brain and turns me into a great negotiator, or perhaps a pheromone that makes me so hypnotic that I can have my way with the universe. Of course this would have to be the kinder, gentler MI5/6 because all the gadgets usually did was kill someone (in self-defense, of course.)

Being Honest About Our Dark Side

Today on CNN I heard that 60 years ago (1946-48) America conducted “health” experiments in Guatemala. We infected mental patients with STD’s. We used living people in another nation (with the cooperation of their government) for science experiments. I am saddened to hear this, but after hearing about the infamous Tuskegee experiments, not totally surprised. I like to believe that my beloved America always takes the high road. But this type of human experiment reeks. Didn’t we just learn this lesson in World War II? Wasn’t the Holocaust proof enough that humans are capable of great depravity? Apparently we wanted to see if penicillin would prevent syphilis, however there is no medical purpose that would justify this and I hope we don’t have more skeletons like this in our closet. As an American I am deeply sorry that we would ever be involved in anything like this. I apologize (too late) to the people involved and I ask the world to forgive us this egregious wrong. The American people, I would guess, knew little-to-nothing about this.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Seeing Stars

A Hubble Space Telescope image of the R136 sup...Image via WikipediaSometimes I imagine that I live in the world before electricity. I am lying on my back looking at the night sky and it is a stunning display. The stars whirling across the sky are a dizzying mystery. I have no TV, I have no cell phone, I have no computer, no radio. Only the sky with its myriad lights, some blinking, some steady.

No city aura softens the blackness of the night. It is a moonless night. I like the moon, but I like moon-free nights best for watching the heavenly lights. They may not even be called stars yet. How much do cities dilute the dark? Are there spots in Outer Mongolia where no city aura weakens the light show? Or do the lights of the giant cities bleed into the lower atmosphere so that no night is as deeply black as it once was.

Maybe I live before fire was discovered. Maybe I and my “family” lay in a row with our heads forming a level line and look for patterns in the stars. We make up stories about the patterns. We invent an entire cosmology. We pass it on to our children and through many generations until we reach a time where there is so much light bleaching out even the darkest night that people only see a tiny portion of the stars and cannot imagine how well they entertained us, once upon a time.

As compensation, we have the Hubble telescope which unveils a whole other dimension of cosmic beauty.

Enhanced by Zemanta

House Shopping – Last (I Hope)

I have seen all the contractors. All the measurements have been taken. These are the things I wanted to do:

New kitchen cupboards
New kitchen countertops and sink
New kitchen floor
New furnace and AC
New refrigerator
New windows on porch
Fence in back yard (split rail)
Paint throughout

What I have learned is that if you invite someone into your house to give an estimate, the cost of any project will always exceed $1000. Many projects will always exceed $5000. We are talking very simple projects here. So how many projects do I get to do? I get to do the 1st five.

Next the appraiser has to look over the house and decide if the projects will raise the value of the house to the value of the mortgage plus the rehab loan. If not I am not sure what happens. Maybe I can buy the house at the original price without the rehab loan. Perhaps they will make me complete different projects. As soon as I turn in my estimates I wait, again. This is a long process.

Blame Labor Unions?

All of a sudden labor unions are an enemy in America. People blame the labor unions for the loss of our manufacturing jobs. Labor unions, according to this version, priced the American worker out of the marketplace. Labor unions have, in this estimate, ruined the free market and reined in capitalism. Labor unions are responsible for the currently depressed economic state in America.

Teachers unions are under fire also. They are, apparently, responsible for forcing school districts to keep bad teachers through the practice of tenure. They are also holding schools back academically by supporting old hide-bound rules and practices.

But we have all studied the history of America without unions. Profits ruled then even more than now. Long hours, low pay, inhuman working conditions, cruelty, child labor – rampant Capitalism is not pretty without the counterpoint of labor unions to defend workers.

Perhaps labor unions (which, incidentally, are made up of American workers) were not keeping their heads up. Perhaps they were not looking at the writing on the wall. They may have thought that jobs were secure and that wages would just go on keeping pace with prices. They sort of knew other markets were waiting in the wings, but they thought American business would stay in America. Although the development of a global economy was inevitable, they (we) just weren’t expecting it now.

Teachers without unions could be fired for any reason or no reason whatsoever. They could be fired for expressing an unpopular idea. Imagine what could have happened to teachers who spoke out against McCarthyism. What about teachers who do not want to teach only “creationism”? Academic freedom is extremely central to a democracy. The 1st Amendment to our Constitution protects freedom of speech. But we still have people who want to ban books.

If tenure is a problem, work with unions to use the window of opportunity that exists for firing “bad” teachers. If the window is too short make it a bit longer. Work with unions on a great evaluation system, perhaps a peer review system, so a paper trail exists when a teacher needs to be pulled out of the classroom. Retrain where possible, let go where necessary, but don’t get rid of fail safes that guarantee academic freedom.

Our labor unions are not the villains that they are being painted in the media. However, maybe they have become a bit set in their ways. If they keep defending wage and hours standards for jobs that don’t exist they will ensure their obsolescence.

I am not like Ahmadinejad. I do not believe capitalism is dying. Obviously it is alive and well and living in China. Small businesses spring up naturally wherever there are people. Capitalism is a grassroots phenomenon. So are labor unions.