Monthly Archives: January 2014

Give ‘Em Hell, Henry!

Henry Waxman announced his retirement today. I wish him well in retirement.
But with his departure, the country loses a tireless advocate for public health and the environment.

FiftyFourandAHalf

He’s been a hero of mine for more than thirty years.  A short little guy who I’m pretty sure was bald in high school.  But over the years I’ve watched him fight.  He’s fought tirelessly for a cleaner environment, a safer world, and for all kinds of tools, programs and systems to help improve the health of Americans.

I’m speaking of course of Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), past and future Chairman, currently Ranking Minority Member (head Democrat) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Energy and Commerce isn’t just any crummy old Committee.  Nope.  E&C has jurisdiction over a zillion things that touch our lives.  Energy (fossil fuels, wind, solar, alternatives), environmental issues (Clean water, clean air, pollution controls on cars and trucks), interstate commerce, the internets (Al Gore was on E&C when he really was instrumental in the start of what became the World Wide Web.  So he is…

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Are You Surprised?

I’m shocked!  Shocked!

Gallup Poll Finds

Democrats More Compassionate;

Republicans More Psychopathic

I did not make this up.  Nope.  But I’m happy to pass it on:

Gallup headlined on 28 January 2014, “Democrats and Republicans Differ on Top Priorities,” and reported that the biggest difference between supporters of the two Parties concerned “The environment,” where 71% of Democrats said it’s important to them, versus only 32% of Republicans who did: a whopping difference of 39%, between the two Parties, considered that issue to be important. The second-biggest difference was on “The distribution of income and wealth”: 72% of Democrats, versus only 38% of Republicans – a 34% difference. Third came “Poverty and homelessness”: 82% of Democrats, versus 53% of Republicans – a 29% difference. Fourth came “Education”: 91% of Democrats, versus 70% of Republicans – a 21% difference.

Here were the four issues on the conservative end, the four issues where Republicans scored the largest amount higher (more concerned) than Democrats: First, “The military and national defense”: 76% of Republicans, versus 61% of Democrats – a 15% difference – considered that issue to be important. Second, “Taxes”: 69% of Republicans, versus 56% of Democrats – a 13% difference. Third, “Terrorism”: 77% of Republicans, versus 68% of Democrats – a 9% difference. Fourth, “Government surveillance of U.S. citizens”: 45% of Republicans, versus 37% of Democrats – an 8% difference (but if the President had been a Republican, Democrats might have been more concerned about that issue than Republicans would have been).

Clearly, selfish fears swept concerns on the Republican side, whereas concerns for others (and especially the weak) swept concerns on the Democratic side.

One can therefore reasonably infer from this survey that the main difference between Democrats and Republicans is the difference between compassion versus psychopathy.

Vote for me.  I'll take care of your heart! (Google Image)

Vote for me. I’ll take care of your heart!
(Google Image)

Elections Matter.  Don’t vote for any psychopaths.  There seem to be more and more of them around the GOP.

 

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Siri-ously Monday

It was apparent pretty much from the start that today was Monday.

I got up late and everything that followed was just slightly off.

Traffic was awful.  I mean, this is DC – traffic is always awful.  But today I found myself stopped in places where I usually go.   I watched the clock tick past 9:00.  Past 9:15.

Luckily for me, though, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  When I arrive late, I stay late.  It all works out.  But still, I’d rather get there and not just hang out, stopped in traffic.

I thought I should call the office and let them know I was on my way.  Naturally, I had an ulterior motive.

Because I planned to call Yenny.

Yenny is my friend and colleague at the office.  But she has magical powers.  Because when I’m stuck in traffic and I call Yenny, traffic begins to move. It was important that I talk to Yenny or I knew I’d never make it to work.

I was at a dead stop.  My cell phone was in my pants pocket, but I put my earpiece in place and clicked that bluetooth on.  Siri, the magical creature in my iPhone sang a note to let me know that she was listening.  That she was ready to help.

In the months that I’ve had my iPhone 5C, I’ve come to rely on Siri for just these situations.  She’s great.  The Siri who lived in my iPhone 4?  An absolute idiot.  We were not friends.  We had words.   Those words rarely had more than four letters.  Siri4S would respond “what did I do to deserve that?”  Trust me.  She deserved it.

But Siri 5C?  She is a star.  She doesn’t let me down.  She helps me.  I love Siri5C.

“Call Yenny,” I instructed her politely.  I never swear at Siri5C.  In fact, she often comments on how polite I am with a casual “don’t mention it,” when I thank her.

Now this morning when I asked her to call Yenny, I realize that I didn’t say “please.”  That is because last week when I was in precisely this situation, and I said “Please call Yenny.”

“Should I call the Police?” Siri asked.  I didn’t think much of it at the time.  She may have been having a rough start to her day.  Still, I decided not to say “please” to Siri.  I always say “thank you,” though.

What did Siri say to today’s request  to “Call Yenny?”

“I don’t see that,” she said.  “Did you mean ‘conference call number’?  Or would you like to call Gastroenterology Fellow on call.”  She only heard the “call” and went from there.  This wasn’t an auspicious beginning.

“No,”  I said.  Clearly, Siri was having a rough start to the day, too.  I clicked my Bluetooth off, and clicked it on again immediately.

“Call Yenny … ” I gave Siri Yenny’s last name.  On a bad day, Siri will cooperate the second time I ask her to do something.  Much like my son.

“Do you want local businesses beginning with “call”

“No, Siri.” I said. I hung up.

Then I had an idea.  I figured I’d have Siri call my number at the office – and presto — I’d be connected!  So I clicked on again and said “Call Me-“

But I immediately remembered that “Me-Office” goes to my direct line, not the main company line.  So I’d be able to leave myself a message that I’d be late — which I already knew.  Because, well, you know.

So I interrupted myself.  Figured I’d stop before I said something stupid to Siri.  But it was too late.

Because what Siri heard was “Siri, call me … never mind.”

”OK,” Siri responded.  “From now on, I’ll call you ‘Never Mind.”

Sadly, this may be an improvement.   Before he went back to college, Jacob instructed Siri to call me “Queen,”  I couldn’t figure out how to change it.

Now I have.

Is it Friday yet?

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When I Became Famous. Sort of

Damn, I’m getting old.

So old, that I forgot to mention that I once broke a Guinness World Record.

It’s true.  Not only did I receive two, count ‘em, two Oscars, but I broke a Guinness World Record, on New Year’s Eve, 2001/2.

Now, I will admit that it wasn’t really a big deal for me.  I had already achieved my 15 minutes of fame by that time, and it had happened just a few days before breaking the record.

Oh, have I gotten ahead of myself again?  Sorry.  Fame does that to a person.  At least it does it to me.

It was our last year in Europe.  One of the reasons I had wanted to move to Europe was because I wanted to see Europe.  John had spent his junior year of college abroad, in Edinburgh, and fell in love with the place.  So whenever we crossed the Atlantic, Scotland was somehow where we landed every damn time.  During our 5 years living in Europe, we still found our way to Scotland.  Strangely, it became very much like going home to me.   I mean, they speak English there.  Sort of.

Edinburgh has the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in all of Europe – Hogmanay.  It is a week-long party, complete with medieval revelry and modern touches — Jacob especially loved the carnival rides set up along some of the main streets.  And the fire.

As all things in a good European city with a castle in the middle, the real kickoff starts at the Castle.

Google Image

Google Image

The Scots build a replica Viking ship like the ones that raided their shores for centuries.  They haul it from the Castle down through the medieval street called The Royal Mile which leads downhill to Holyrood Palace and then across town and up again, to Calton Hill, another high spot in the city with magical views of Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and the land formations known as Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Craigs  (where John asked me to marry him).  The crowd gathers around the Viking Ship while looking over the majestic city.  Seriously cool stuff — you can smell the history.

Oh, did I mention that they set the bloomin’ Viking Ship on fire first?  And pull it through the streets?

Or that literally everybody is carrying a bloomin’ flaming torch ­­– regardless of their age or state of inebriation?

Parade of Death (Google Image)

Parade of Death
Inebriated Revelers and children who should not be playing with fire
(Google Image)

It is brilliantly fun in a “this will be a memorable way to die” sort of way.

Jacob was 10 and thoroughly into it.  The flames, the burning ship, the old buildings, the bagpipes.  He was in a 10-year-old’s version of heaven.  Which meant that I was expecting one or all of us to die at any given moment.

When we reached the end of the parade and a film crew from the travel bureau was interviewing volunteers.  Looking for revelers to tell the folks at home what they loved about Hogmanay in Edinburgh, Jacob jumped right up.

“I’m gonna be on TV, Mom!”  he said excitedly.

Unfortunately, the laws required that a parent  go on film with him, though, because Jacob was under age.  The parent wouldn’t have to participate, but it was necessary that John or I stand next to our son.  On camera.  John, true to form, backed away and tried to hide.  It was the last thing that I wanted to do.  But it was for my son.  And I knew I’d be able to use my participation against my husband for decades.

Did I mention that I don’t like being filmed?  It’s true.  You see, cameras always bring out my psychotic side.  No matter what I am doing when they start filming me, I look like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.  Or Lizzie Borden on her way to buy the axe.  Or Carrie, when she discovers how to get back at all the people who were ever mean to her.  I look rather frightening.

“Please, Mom?  We can be on TV!”

How could I say no?  He was so excited!  So I took a deep breath and asked my husband if I looked OK.  It was a cold night;  we were layered up, Michelin Man-like, only not so photogenic.  Heavy down coats, and so many layers that my arms rested at 45 degree angles from my body.  Not exactly the way a girl who once dreamed of Hollywood wants to look for her first time on TV.

“You look fine,” he assured me.  “Warm,” he said, choking back his laugh.  The light of the thousand deadly torches shown in his damn dancing eyes.  It would have been so easy to just push him off the edge of the cliff he was backing towards.

Jacob and I turned back to the film crew.  They positioned us, turned the klieg lights on, pointed them at us, held a microphone up to Jacob and said in a lovely Scottish lilt:

“So, where are you from?”

….

“Ummm, what is your name?”

….

“What brings you to Hogmanay in Edinburgh?”

Jacob stood frozen in fear.  I tried to urge him on, silently, as the camera was rolling.  He just looked at me with his big, terrified eyes that positively screamed ‘Help me Mom!’

The reporter and camera crew were busy, however.  Three strikes, therefore, and he was out.  They turned the microphone – and the camera – towards me. Shit!  What could I do but answer their questions?

I had to explain that we were Americans, living in Geneva, and we’d come to enjoy the biggest party in Europe.  That we had all fallen in love with Edinburgh, and had returned many times.  This time, however was our first Hogmanay.

“What are you enjoying most?”

“My son, Jacob, loved the torch-light parade.  We couldn’t believe that they lit a replica of a Viking ship and paraded it through the ancient streets.  It was so cool, wasn’t it Jacob?”

“Yeah,” he said.  “Really cool.”

They asked him another question, and he froze again.  Poor kid.  Fame is hard work.

So they turned back to me.

“What would you say to the folks back home in America if they were considering traveling to Scotland?”

“I’d tell them that it’s a lovely country.  The cities are beautiful and filled with history.  The countryside is stunning.  And they speak English here.  Sort of.”

The reporter interviewing turned wide-eyed to her cameraman:

“Did you get that last bit?”

“Aye,” he said. “That I did.”

I was a star.  They were pleased.  But then they hadn’t seen the film yet.  As far as I know, it was never used.  Except perhaps in training reporters for signs of potential freezing and psycosis.

Still, there was anther, more lasting way for us to achieve fame during that trip.   We broke a Guinness World Record!

It was two days after my film debut – on New Year’s Eve proper.

Earlier in the day, we heard that the Hogmanay folks were planning on breaking one of the Guinness World Record.  Jacob was excited, and wanted to figure out how so he could watch.  But it turned out even better.  We not only watched, we helped break that Record!

Several city blocks were cordoned off — a block away and parallel to Princes’ Street, if you know the city.  A stage sat up at one end of the street with a Ceilidh band — a traditional Scottish folk band that played traditional Scottish folk reels.  A swarm of volunteers with clipboards snaked through the crowd taking names of folks who wanted to participate in the effort to break the world record for the Longest ‘Strip the Willow’ – a Scottish Highland reel – in the World.  The Guinness folks were on hand to verify if, in fact, the record was broken.

John, Jacob and I, not having the slighted idea of how to strip a willow, or even if it was a proper thing to do with a 10-year-old boy, joined in.  Yes!  Even John danced!

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay: “Longest Strip the Willow in the World”

We did it!  We broke the record!  And I must say it was total pandemonium.  Because virtually everybody in the world, it seemed, joined in.  Once it got going everybody was dancing.  Many folks like us didn’t really know how to strip a willow.  That made for a whole lot of people bashing into a whole lot of other people.  Fortunately, alcohol eased the pain.  Mostly we grabbed arms and swung our partners in time to the beat of the Ceilidh band.

We had a blast.  The Scots are the most wonderful people.  Friendly, crazy.  Willing to show us how to do the dances.  Willing to let us bash into them with abandon as we enjoyed reeling with the lot of them.  And that was, possibly the most challenging bit of it.  Because normally when I dance, I don’t wear a winter coat.  Or long johns.  Or a 25 lb backpack on my back.  I’m less graceful when I do.

There was really nothing to be done with my backpack other then wear it on my back and hit unsuspecting dancers with it whenever I spun.  Which is exactly what you do when you Strip the Willow.  You see, the backpack contained my wallet, John’s wallet, passports, keys.  Necessaries for the day out away from our hotel.  Everything that we couldn’t do without which was why I had it all there to begin with.

So if you look at that film, which may or may not be from the year when we were actually there (they break the record every year, a technicality we did not know at the time), look for a Michelin Man with curly reddish-blond hair bashing into every single person within a 2-block radius.  That’ll be me.

If only I’d thought to have the Guinness folks on the lookout for the most dance-induced bruises, my name would actually be in the book!  As it was, the event made it into the 2003 Guinness Book of World Records, but not the names of the thousands of participants.

Sigh.  Fame is so fleeting.

*     *     *

If you ever want to go somewhere special for New Years Eve, I highly recommend Edinburgh.  It is a wonderful, joyous, fun party.  The Scots are wonderful people and will welcome you to their city, which is magical.  You can feel history in each step you take in Edinburgh, and it is magical.

Besides, in Scotland they speak English.  Sort of.

*     *     *

 This post was inspired by Art who, ably assisted by Trent and X is valiantly trying to break a blogging record for the most comments ever on a blog.  Go on over and abuse him if you haven’t already.  Because breaking records is fun.  For no real reason, but it’s just fun.  Just leave your backpack behind if you’re dancing anywhere near me.

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*** COMMENT HERE ***

We are so very close …. go leave a comment. We can all smack Art around later for getting us into it.

Pouring My Art Out

I want to break the all-time record for the most comments on a WordPress blog post.

*** PLEASE COMMENT ON THIS POST ***

Okay, some of you will see this as a shallow attempt on my part to bump up my stats.

And I’m not saying you are wrong.

But here’s the thing… oh, thing, I missed you, where have you been?

I have always said that I have the best commenters on WordPress. I have two posts that have over 1,000 comments on them… True, half of those are my return answers to comments, because I always answer my comments, but still… And I will even go so far as to admit that my comment sections… OUR comment sections… are sometimes the funniest part of my posts. Are you happy now?

But this all has me wondering what the record for number of comments on one post actually is. I want to see…

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Uncle Sugar

You may find this surprising, but today I agree with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R-12th Century).

(Photo Credit Salon.com)

Lead me not into temptation
(Photo Credit Salon.com)

According to today’s Washington Post, Huck knows him some women.  And so he can point the way for his entire party, nay, the entire country, to make women ummmmmmm, Man Up.

We women, especially those who live close to the economic edge that GOP policies and politics have placed us at, don’t have any control over our libidos.  And so we need “Uncle Sugar” to massage our needs with free birth control. Covered under Obamacare.  The nerve of women to want to avoid pregnancy, avoid abortion, avoid abject poverty for the remainder of their lives.

Wanting to avoid co-pays.  The scum.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ9mcclfy8A

[Text provided cause I know you aren’t gonna click on that link and for some reason the video won’t embed]:

The Washington Post Reported:

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) said Thursday that Republicans need to take a more combative attitude toward winning the votes of women, by emphasizing that women aren’t weaklings in need of help from the government.

“I think it’s time Republicans no longer accept listening to the Democrats talk about a ‘war on women,'” Huckabee said during a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Washington. “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender.” […]

Huckabee said Democrats tell women “they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government.

Yes, Mike Huckabee is right.

Because when I see him, hear him, I cannot control myself.  I want.  I want.  I want.

I want to shout:

FUCK HUCK

I am so tired of Huckabee and the rest of the male-dominated GOP that is hell bent on keeping as many women in poverty as possible.  Barefoot and pregnant, that’s how they like us.  And so I repeat:

FUCK YOU

HUCK

and the Horse You Rode In On

Of course, now I will be accused of bestiality AND being unable to control my libido.

And I gotta figure out just exactly how this jives with yesterday’s enlightening story about Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) who believes that a wife is supposed to “voluntarily submit” to her husband.  Life must be damn confusing for Republican women.  The two who are still Republicans, that is.

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Please share to show my pupils how far a photo can go (even if you don’t want it to!)

You never do know who is looking at pictures you post on the internet.

Or where those folks are. Me, I’m outside of Washington, DC, USA.

Reblog an let’s see where this ends up!

Not about everything

Sharing this, because it seems an interesting lesson.

I am teaching E-safety to my pupils at the moment and wanted to try a little experiment. Please share this photo and see how far it gets, I want to show my students how easily photos etc can go viral, even when you may not want them to. Share it and see how far it goes!

1607017_10151583722947706_704715591_n

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