Monday, December 26, 2005

December Dilemma

We celebrate Christmas here at my house because I grew up celebrating a secular Christmas and when my husband & I were first married, that's what we did. So we have a tree, an artificial one, but decorated with lights and ornaments and no religious symbols--well no Christian symbols. The tree itself is pagan, I suppose.

We give gifts. Our son gets a stocking full of small items, a large orange & a large apple. Those are from my spouse's family traditions.

Since Chanukah started last night, we lit our hanukkiyot (Chanukah menorahs) in the window and will do so every night of Chanukah. However we spell it.

The kid's a bit disappointed that we don't seem to have a small gift for him each night of Hanukkah, but we told him that we gave them all out on Christmas and that's that. The gift giving on Chanukah evolved in the US as a way for us Jews to compete with the allure of the Christmas. I guess we reason if our kids get gifts on Chanukah, they won't thirst after Christmas...

To tell you the truth, since my home was spectacularly secular and my grandparents didn't seem to want to inculcate Judaism as lovely way of life, I guess I fell under the spell of the season and every year I suffer a number of things:

1) seasonal affect disorder starting as soon as DST ends or whatever we fall back for occurs and that makes me susceptible.

2) being torn between wanting to celebrate Christmas secularly and religiously--although not in a particularly Christian way.

3) Wanting to sing Christmas carols, but knowing that they are not celebrating being Jewish--or all my values, I'm torn. To me, there is no king of Israel. The messiah has not arrived and if people will always be pigheaded, she won't be coming any day soon.

4) wanting to spend money in an extravagant and urgent way--especially on Oscar who will have a birthday in about a month and a half and who doesn't really require "stuff."

5) crying over sentimental Christmas movies, stories, etc and feeling cynical about doing so.

As you can see, if you've read this far, Whitman's phrase,"I am large, I contain multitudes," applies to me. I guess it's okay to have these contradictory feelings and impulses as long as I don't let them tear me apart. And as long as I'm aware of them and don't try to repress them, but if I always think about them and what they mean to me it helps keep me honest about who I am.

And the person I am could not just embrace an entirely Jewish life, living as I do in the secular world and married as I am with a man who is neither religious nor Jewish.

Today I am feeling comfortable with all these choices and not scared of anyone's disapproval or disdain.

And there is some in the Jewish community. I hear over and over again: a Jewish house shouldn't have a tree. But we do and that's that.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Autism: The Band Concert Part

Maybe I should just quit going to band concerts. I swear, being a mother can be bad for the ticker.

No seriously, it's the night of the Winter Concert at our high school and Percussion Ensemble, the Choir, the Concert Band, the combined band and the orchestra are all playing.

Logistics are not my son's strong suit and we get him to the band room and I ask him if he knows what to do and he says no, so I say, we'll ask your teacher. He does and I leave and meet up with my husband. We sit in the auditorium for half an hour waiting for the concert to start.

We watch as the kids file in and sit down while waiting for their turn. There's Osc with his trumpet--oh good he's near someone by whom he sat last year in band...if he follows this one...

The Concert Band which is only 15 students is what Osc is in and they have one number: Alleluja from Exsultate Jubilate. Osc does fine.

The last numbers are for the combined band. It's huge, this band. Zillions of kids on stage. I notice Osc hesitating and not going at what I think is the right time, behind the person I think he needs to be behind (not that kid this time). Both my husband and I wait tensely to see him get on stage and try to find a place.

He turns, he's lost, there's no chair, something's wrong. He raises his hand to try to attract the teacher's attention--he's like the last one not sitting and finally the teacher notices and directs him toward a seat.

I tell you watching that was some of the worst moments of my life. I wanted to jump up and guide Osc. I wanted to part the sea of band kids and make room for mine.

I don't know if it's ever going to get easier for Osc. (or me) I think part of it is, as kind as the band teacher is, he can't be watching out for Osc all the time--it's not on his radar. He's one of the top high school band teachers in the country. I am sure he thinks about how good the band has to sound and look...

Actually I'm not sure...but at the high school level, there's more competitiveness that goes along with the competence of students. So I don't know, but I don't get a sense of he's here to nurture talent. Maybe that's because I don't see the rehearsals, just the finished product.

And the finished product is damn good. I don't know if I should demand that my son has a para for Band. Someone to help him with the logistics of stuff.

Oh well. It's maybe a good thing he's not in Marching Band. Or maybe he should be--more logistics, more stuff to keep in mind. Help him practice for real life.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Awful Tooth/Lunar Phases

It's been a while since my last post and it's not because I've had nothing to say.
Nothing earthshaking anyway. Just not enough time in the day.
On Dentistry:
In any event, I would like to draw your attention to the website for the dental practice I visit:Dr Mingos & Associates.

I like their website. It's not goofy or full of flashy graphics. It's got links to information about dental problems, treatments,how to relax if you're anxious about visiting the dentist. It's a seriously useful site--even if you're not going to switch dentists or move to Kansas City just to visit these guys, you can learn a lot about both dentistry and web design.

Lunar Phases: And if you're interested in keeping track of what phase of the moon we're in (waxing gibbous?)go visit Star Date. The whole site is full of great information about astronomy. And the lunar phase calculator site is graphically nifty.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Salinas Library--Measure V passes!

You might know that the Salinas Public Library, in Salinas, California--once home to John Steinbeck was slated to close forever by the end of 2005 if more funding had not been found. Well, this brief note in Library Journal from November 10th links to information on Measure V, recently passed.

Salinas Library will stay open, serving the public.
Measure V also provides funding for public recreation facilities. People are really being civic-minded here, providing opportunities for learning and recreation for ALL the people of Salinas.

Victory for our side.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Kansas Democratic Party




Just to let you know, here's a link to the Kansas Democratic Party.

You can sign up to participate on forums (fora) and blog from there if you wish.

I just don't have much time lately to blog period!!! But there's a lot to keep track of.

In any event, by scrolling down you'll see that our governor, Kathleen Sebelius is among Time Magazine's picks for hardest working governors in the nation.

(you'll also have to scroll down in the Time article) (but she's there).

High fives for Governor Sebelius!!! Some things are fine in Kansas :)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hope in Pennsylvania--in Kansas, we wait until 2006

From the NY Times this morning:

Evolution Slate Outpolls Rivals

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

Published: November 9, 2005



All eight members up for re-election to the Pennsylvania school board that had been sued for introducing the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in biology class were swept out of office yesterday by a slate of challengers who campaigned against the intelligent design policy.

Among the losing incumbents on the Dover, Pa., board were two members who testified in favor of the intelligent design policy at a recently concluded federal trial on the Dover policy: the chairwoman, Sheila Harkins, and Alan Bonsell.

The election results were a repudiation of the first school district in the nation to order the introduction of intelligent design in a science class curriculum. The policy was the subject of a trial in Federal District Court that ended last Friday. A verdict by Judge John E. Jones III is expected by early January.

"I think voters were tired of the trial, they were tired of intelligent design, they were tired of everything that this school board brought about," said Bernadette Reinking, who was among the winners.

The election will not alter the facts on which the judge must decide the case. But if the intelligent design policy is defeated in court, the new school board could refuse to pursue an appeal. It could also withdraw the policy, a step that many challengers said they intended to take.

"We are all for it being discussed, but we do not want to see it in biology class," said Judy McIlvaine, a member of the winning slate. "It is not a science."


In Kansas, however, the school board in a 6-4 vote, decided to change the science standards once again to dumb down science.

Four of the board members are up for reelection, however next year and we should try to vote them out. They are among those who are voting to strike the current science standards down.

Intelligent Design is a theory, yes, but it's not science. My opinion is that it belongs in a religion curriculum and not in a science curriculum. And now it belongs in teachings about what's wrong with Kansas.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Grilled Cheese

I may have a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.

I don't add mustard. Ketchup would be unpalatable for me. As for H&P sauce, well, I have no idea what that tastes like, so, nope. Not gonna do it.

I like my grilled cheese plain and redolent with butter. I soften the butter in the microwave, smear one side of one piece of bread first. The slices of cheese are lying on top of the other slice of bread. Then I toss the sandwich buttered side down onto a hot skillet. At that point, I butter the side that's on top. And in a few moments, it's ready to turn.

And soon it's done. Oh why am I not hungry for lunch right now!!!

Now as for cheeses, I have to admit that a sharp or medium cheddar or even American cheese (not cheese-food, though) work best for me. I have a hard time with cheese that melts and gets stringy like mozzarella or even swiss.

Grilled cheese is excellent when accompanied by a lovely tomato soup. Campbells is okay, traditional comfort fare, but the Pacific brand--found in Wild Oats or Whole Foods--now that is ambrosia!

Unless you make your own exquisite tomato soup.

Or chili. That'd be good. Kosher dill pickles on the side.

Yes.

My mouth is watering.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Einstein

Check out the Einstein pumpkinheads at the Johnson County Public Library. The carved one with the light inside is simply awesome!

Thinking versus politics, part one

I have to agree with Mike Hendricks--Hendricks writes commentary on the front of the Metro section of the Kansas City Star--who wrote along the lines that Paul Morrison, Johnson County District Attorney did not do the politically expedient thing. It will generate controversy, to be sure, but will hopefully give people something to think about.

From today’s Star, Friday, November 4th, 2005

Refusal to seek death penalty becomes political issue

By STEVE KRASKE

The Kansas City Star

The decision not to seek the death penalty in the Ali Kemp murder case turned political Thursday, with a Republican questioning District Attorney Paul Morrison, a newly minted Democrat.

“If this isn’t clear, if a crime that is this heinous and this awful doesn’t fit the death penalty statute, then what does?” state Rep. Eric Carter, an Overland Park Republican, said outside the Johnson County Courthouse.

Morrison, who met with reporters a short time before, defended his decision as one that was relatively straightforward and generated little controversy within his staff.

He said staff members spent months considering whether there was a way to go for the death penalty, but in the end, “I don’t think it was a close call.”


I haven't followed the Ali Kemp murder case with enough zeal to understand all sides of the story. I understand the father's pain. I wrestle myself with my thoughts about what I'd want if my son or husband were murdered.

To tell you the truth, I'd want mercy. But that's the way I feel today. It hasn't happened to me. If it ever did, I might change my mind.

Enough of me. To recap: Paul Morrison, Johnson County DA just changed parties and is planning to challenge current Kansas Attorney General, Phill Kline. Kline's campaign will probably focus on Morrison being "soft on crime." (my quotation marks--it's just a common term). Nevertheless, Morrison is enough of a professional lawman that he understands you can't just seek the death penalty. And since the young man convicted in the Kemp case is pleading "Not Guilty," I wonder what other evidence there is. To read a bit more on the proceedings in the Ali Kemp case, here's a link to an article in the Star.

Ali's parents and friends, I believe, have set up a a website in her memory.

I don't know all the legal ins and outs. Maybe Morrison has really shortcircuited his campaign. I doubt it. He's doing his job and not seeking to score political points with this side or that. I don't know about you, but that's refreshing.

I do know enough though that for even the state to put someone to death,it's got to be really, truly well-deserved. How many of us can make that decision with equanimity?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Alito and Oil

What do Alito and Big Oil have to do with one another...just some thoughts.

Of course with Alito on the bench, the atmosphere for big bidness will probably open up even more than it has with the restriction-fearing Republicans.
But I’m truly more afraid that their Democratic counterparts will be powerless to resist. The era of big government is over and we're neck deep in the era of big business.

In any event, I suspect the Democrats are showing more guts lately, despite the disheartening news about the Senate allowing drilling for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. This from the Washington Post:
The Senate today moved closer to allowing oil companies to drill in an Alaskan wildlife refuge, narrowly defeating a provision that would have removed drilling authority from a massive budget reconciliation bill.

The entire package is scheduled for a vote later today, and the House plans to vote on its version of the bill next week. The two versions must then be reconciled by a House-Senate conference committee.

By a 51-48 vote, the Senate defeated an amendment sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that would have stripped the bill of a provision authorizing oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The Senate subsequently voted 86-13 to bar any exportation of oil eventually produced from the refuge, requiring instead that it be used domestically to help lower the nation's dependence on foreign oil.




And hearings on Alito won't begin until January. Plenty of time to keep focused.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Children and our economy

From a New York Times article today, in Business:
But what if our educational shortcomings could be put in strictly economic terms, instead of being part of a humanitarian debate? What, in short, does it cost the nation when a child drops out of high school? That was the focus of a symposium at Teachers College at Columbia University last week called "The Social Costs of Inadequate Education," part of the college's Campaign for Educational Equity.

The answer is hundreds of billions of dollars. Looking at taxes alone, the researchers calculated that federal and state income tax receipts would be at least $50 billion higher each year if every high school dropout had graduated instead. And billions more are lost, the researchers figure, to added health costs and increased crime.

Hubert B. Herring



The rest of the brief article is here.

Just thought this would be of interest to supporters of public education. Now the challenge from that is to see if No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is pulling its weight in educating competent young people.
I find it especially challenging because NCLB is punitive rather than proactive--starving schools of funding if they fail to meet certain criteria. And those criteria are met with scores from standardized tests.

And guess what: special ed students have to be included in these standardized tests with no modifications. Or bare minimum modifications. My son, who barely knows how to add will have to take the standard 9th or 10th grade exam. His score could drag the whole school down.

Is that fair?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Not for Johnson County Only: True Blue Women

TrueBlue Women is where you'll find information about a relatively new grassroots organization in the Kansas City area.

From their website:

The Mission of True Blue Women

True Blue gathers progressive women to advocate social change,
provide education and promote camaraderie.




I also liked their reading list.

I don't know why it took me so long to look at the website. Anyway, if you're reading this, you might also be interested in The MAINstream Coalition, also a local KC group that works to counter the political aspirations of the fanatic fringe which seems to have a chokehold on the area and the nation.

In any event--and I know I'm not the most skilled blogger--I plan on adding more links to Kansas Democratic and/or liberal and/or thoughtful & open-minded websites and stories as I go along here.

My original purpose in starting a blog was to practice writing little essays. And dang it all, here I am getting political!

Well, why not indeed?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More for Morrison

To find out more about Paul Morrison and his candidacy you might want to check out the following:
The website for the Kansas Democratic Party.

Of course you can contribute money there too :)

I'm planning on it!

Paul Morrison for Kansas Attorney General!

This just (well, yesterday) in from the Kansas City Star:

Johnson County district attorney Paul Morrison made it official this morning: He will challenge incumbent Phill Kline for Kansas attorney general next year.

And he’ll do it as a Democrat.

Morrison made the announcement on the steps of the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe. Other press conferences were scheduled today in Wichita, Topeka and Pittsburg.

Although never mentioning Kline by name, Morrison said it was time to put the office of attorney general in the hands of a prosecutor and not a politician.

“As attorney general, I’ll insist we get that office back to the basics: safety, security, and the kind of independent approach Kansans ought to be able to expect from the state’s chief law enforcement officer,” said Morrison, who previously has been affiliated with the Republican Party.

After Morrison’s announcement, a Kline supporter handed out a statement from Kline suggesting Morrison was soft on crime.


Welcome news in Kansas, indeed. Just so you know what Mr. Morrison is up against, here's something from the Washington Post, back in March on Phill Kline:
washingtonpost.com
A Kansan With Conviction
Attorney General Sees Abortion Records Fight as Matter of Principle

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page A03

Phill Kline, Republican attorney general of Kansas, is determined not to be defensive. Making headlines with his subpoena of abortion records and his closed-door discussions of evolution with State Board of Education members, the former scholarship wrestler comes across as well satisfied with what he has wrought.

He has a job to do, Kline explained during a break at a meeting of attorneys general in Washington. Principles are at stake, he said, and liberals who dismiss the conservative values agenda as a political stratagem really do not know what they are talking about.
.....

"Kansans know that freedom does not mean license and that values do matter," Kline, 45, wrote in an op-ed article in the Kansas City Star last week. His theme was "what's right with Kansas."

"For if we lose these common threads, common truths, then all liberty is truly in danger," Kline continued. "Kansans know that democracy without virtue is two wolves and a sheep deciding what is for dinner -- the sheep will always be eaten."

Kline, a fifth-generation Kansan, spent eight years in the Kansas House, adding an extra "l" to his first name to avoid mix-ups with a senior legislator with the same name. Becoming known as "Little Phill," he sponsored laws on crime victims' rights and was named legislator of the year by the state's developmentally disabled and mental health communities, according to his Web site.
Kline on Abortion Rights Issues (my headline here):
He ...helped write a state law restricting late-term abortions, the issue now winning so much national attention from friends and foes.

......
As attorney general, Kline sought to require Kansas health workers to report sexual activity of girls younger than 16, the age of consent. The workers filed suit, and a federal judge blocked the request. Kline then persuaded a state judge to back the subpoena for records of more than 80 women and girls who received abortions in 2003 at two clinics. He described it as a search for evidence of illegal late-term abortions and child rape.

Clinic lawyers made the investigation public last month when they termed Kline's quest a "fishing expedition" and asked the Kansas Supreme Court to intercede on grounds of privacy. Supporters of the clinics -- Women's Health Care Services in Wichita and a Planned Parenthood facility in Overland Park -- noted Kline's hope that Roe v. Wade (the case that resulted in a decision upholding the right to abortion) will be overturned, and said his true goal is to frighten women away from abortions.

Referring to the current battle with abortion clinics, skeptics said that if his ambition were to find criminal cases of underage sex, Kline would have targeted other categories of health workers and focused just as intently on girls who gave birth as on those who had abortions. They also noted that the Wichita clinic is operated by George R. Tiller, who channeled about $150,000 to Kline's opponent in 2002.
.......
Kline insisted his goal is to uncover criminal activity, including at the clinics.

"They are a target of an investigation. It's like you show up at a bank robber's house and say, 'Hey, we think you robbed a bank. You have a ski mask inside, a gun and some money.' 'Well, let me go and check, and I'll get back to you,' " Kline said.

Kline on Evolution (
my headline here):
In February, Kline sparked complaints from six news organizations after he met behind closed doors with the six conservative members of the Kansas State Board of Education. He held back-to-back sessions, each attended by three members. Had he met with the six together, the media organizations wrote, the state Open Meetings Act would have required the session to be open.

Kline said he discussed education funding and the issue of evolution in both meetings. He said board members -- intent on changing how evolution is taught in public schools
(my bold) -- asked him if it would be constitutional to affix a sticker to textbooks saying evolution is a theory, not a fact. A federal judge in Cobb County, Ga., recently ordered such stickers removed.

"Yeah, it's constitutional. It is theory. I know the difference between scientific law, scientific theory, scientific hypothesis," Kline said in the interview.

Although evolution is commonly termed a theory, most scientists consider the evidence, accumulated over 150-plus years, to be overwhelming, and they say opponents misuse language to mislead the public.

It is a touchstone of Kline's political philosophy that Kansans -- especially conservative Kansans who gave the state to President Bush by nearly 2 to 1 in November -- do not always get the credit they deserve from outsiders, especially liberals.

"As our culture screams, eviscerating words through cheap use, Kansans assess," he wrote in the Kansas City Star. "As national pundits scurry, Kansans think. And as a national focus turns to the latest sexy voyeuristic tidbit, masquerading as news, Kansans decide. Then Kansans act with deep conviction."

In the interview, Kline decried "this almost silencing of dissent and debate . . . out of this false claim that we might be embarrassed by the discussion."

.....
Kline's use of "dissent," Frank
(my note: Thomas Frank, author of "What's the Matter with Kansas?") wrote in an e-mail commenting for this report, "confirms my book's central thesis, that the conservative movement understands itself as a heroic uprising of the downtrodden against the powers that be.

"The day I take that narcissistic image seriously is the day that Mr. Kline goes to the masters of Kansas and tells them he is going to fight the agribusiness conglomerates, zealously defend the right of workers to organize in the state's meatpacking plants, and dedicate his career to ensuring proper education and health care even for the very poorest."

For the record, I am a registered Republican in this state, so I can vote in the primaries. Democrats just don't have the clout here in the primary elections. I vote for the moderate candidates, unless they're running against a Democrat in the general election and then I have to weigh in--do I vote in the primary at all.

I was a Democrat all my life until I moved to Kansas. In any event, I'm putting my political energy behind Paul Morrison. He's been a good and able district prosecutor and someone who seems even-handed. Not soft on crime. My guess is that Kline will cite something like the following (from the KC Star back in 2001):
Prosecutors urge appointment of more experienced lawyer to aid Robinson

By TONY RIZZO - The Kansas City Star
Date: 07/25/01 22:15

Does John E. Robinson Sr. have the absolute right to hire any lawyer he wants?

Johnson County prosecutors say not if that lawyer lacks the experience to handle a death-penalty case. On Wednesday they filed written arguments to back up their position that a more experienced lawyer should be appointed to assist Robinson's hand-picked defender.

District Attorney Paul Morrison and Sara Welch, an assistant district attorney, cited Kansas law as well as rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

They wrote that they knew "of no cases where a conviction has been reversed because of over-representation by counsel. We know of many convictions reversed because of under-representation by counsel, however."

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, they said, "the essential aim of the (Sixth) Amendment is to guarantee an effective advocate for each criminal defendant rather than to ensure the defendant will inexorably be represented by the lawyer whom he prefers."

Robinson has been represented by the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit since shortly after his arrest last summer. Those lawyers, paid by the state, were appointed after Robinson was found to be indigent.



But it seems to me, that's the law and Morrison knew the case against Robinson was airtight. It's a law that's supposed to help provide fair treatment.

That's what I'm thrilled about this morning. Wanting to see Kline & Morrison duke it out and eager to stand behind Morrison and help!!!

So now you know--the word is out! There's hope in this here red state!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Onion vs. the President of the United States!!!!

A quick and dirty post, reaction to something I just read, with a hovering migraine...




Oh no! The Onion, one of our favorite news sources, is facing a legal challenge.

Is nothing sacred? What is with these people? Karl Rove & Libby Scooter get in a heap of trouble and El Presidente loses his down-home sense of humor? Lighten up already. Especially if Rove, Scooter and Cheney go down...shoot, someone will come up smelling like roses...

Takes a heap o'manure to make purty roses, though.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Pencil Revolution and My Compulsive Nature


There’s The Pencil Revolution , a wonderful blog about…pencils and other somewhat anachronistic writing implements.

I have to admit, I love pencils. I have a thing about pens, too, but I rarely write by hand lately. One thing, I started doing these silly word puzzles in the newspaper and I’ll admit that I’m very compulsive about them.

I use a sharp pencil. I prefer a point that doesn’t blur. A #2 Dixon Ticonderoga would be perfect, for example but some of the cheaper pencils around today have lead that is too soft. After making sure my pencil is sharp, I get a piece of colored scrap paper, about the size of a 3” x 5” index card that I have for this purpose (and for grocery lists).

Whatever the word is, I write it in caps at the top of the scrap—which I hold horizontally, I write down the number of words (4 letters or more) I’m supposed to be able to get out of it. I draw a line underneath it. Then, in the space between the line and the top of the paper, I write, as small as I possibly can,the letters of the word in alphabetical order.

Then underneath the line, in columns for each letter in the word, I start my lists of words that I can make. My spouse and I used to do this together and compare our lists and fill in what each of us missed. Lately, it’s my thing alone.

See, compulsive—and I can’t do it in ink!!!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Migraine Remedy/Belchless in Kansas

I had a terrible migraine on Yom Kippur. Not as a result of, but starting the night before and laying me low for all the holy day.

I told my son's trumpet teacher about this and he told me his wife gets migraine with aura. As soon as she has the aura, she chugs a can of something carbonated (he said, "Sprite," but I don't know why it couldn't be a beer...) and then lets out a mighty belch, sleeps for half an hour and she's fine.

So, anyone reading this--is this a documented remedy for migraine? I don't get the aura, myself (I have common migraine (scroll down)).

I wish I could make myself belch. I can't I've never been able to do that. I tried chugging a can of fizzy water just to see what would happen--and it swelled my stomach and I flet uncomfortable for the rest of the morning.

Couldn't belch.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Thoughts on science

From Leonard Pitts, writing in the Miami Herald on Friday September 30th (no doubt already blogged and reblogged, but I'm kinda slow):
The Ku Klux Klan is a terrorist group. It was organized in 1865 for the purpose of controlling and oppressing newly freed slaves through intimidation, violence and murder.

Not many people will argue with that. Historians in particular will find the statement uncontroversial.

But 10 years ago in Vicksburg, Miss., I learned an alternate view. Vicksburg was an especially stubborn stronghold of Confederate sentiment during the Civil War -- refused to celebrate the Fourth of July again until 1944. Small wonder, then, that a museum there featured an exhibit claiming the Klan was actually formed to save the South from corrupt black governments and that, while ''many people suffered, some no doubt innocently,'' the night riders sought only to ``restore some semblance of decency.''

It's a lie, of course, but it's a lie some of us believe. So here's the question: When we teach schoolchildren about the Klan, must we give equal time to this view? Are we required to treat it as if it has the slightest credibility?

Or would that not be an affront to scholarship itself?


Read the rest here.

I'm thinking about this because of what's been going on in Kansas schools.

Pitts also says the following:I would argue that faith and science are in some ways more complementary than contradictory. But it's telling that where they do conflict, as in the question of human origin, it's always people of faith who beg for validation. I mean, when has any scientist ever sued for equal time in the pulpit? There is an unbecoming neediness about these constant schemes to dress religion up as science. Why are some people of faith so desperate for approval from a discipline they reject?


Pushy people who want to impose their view of the world on us...that's who those people of "faith" are.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Time to leave Kansas...

I know I'm not the only one, but here's the reason why: The Kansas Board of Ed just picked a lawyer--a lobbyist--who is for the most part, against public education to be the state education commissioner. Here's a link to the latest misstep on the part of the Kansas Board of Education.
As if denigrating evolution isn't enough--

A colleague and I discussed this and in the light of corporate policy it makes perfect sense. You know what I'm talking about--it's when a corporation--whether publicly or privately funded perhaps deliberately, mismanages its operations so it can shut down and file for bankruptcy or claim other tax relief. Because its operations are not profitable or don't meet the corporate standards...I could go on.

The Kansas Board of Ed has a conservative majority--although the word conservative does not do this board's actions justice.
They are radical in imposing their misinformed views on the public.

We discussed if they succeed in infusing religion (=Fundamental Christianity) into the public schools, we wondered how they would do it?
Assuming they'd be fair and include all religions, the school year would have to be a full year to accomodate all the holidays and observances. School lunches would have to have separate meat & dairy kitchens with kosher food for Jewish students and provide halal meat for Muslim students. Think how long the day would be with all those times for prayer. Jews pray 3 times a day and Muslims, 5.

And let's not forget the competing sects of Christianity...whose version of the liturgy would they include--or have to include all? Would Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc students be excused from various Saints days observances? Or would that be considered exclusion...

But you know--they don't want to be fair. They want their version of what they think a deity said. They think that deity's name is Jesus--who happened to be a nice Jewish boy. And they think you're going to hell if you don't believe the way they do.

Damn. You know, I'm Jewish, proud of it and even though I don't think this Jesus guy is god, my guess, since he was a co-religionist, he'd probably be as upset as I am that there are people trying to impose their idolatrous religion on the public.

Monday, September 26, 2005

On the radio, part one


I meant to write some stuff going on with Osc. We got him a small karaoke machine for his birthday (many months ago) and lately he's been using it to pretend he's a DJ. He announces :"This is AKUL [we've told him that in the US, west of the Mississippi radio station call letters begin with K, but he's marching to his own beat] in Kansas City, Missouri: the greatest hits of the '80s." (we have a couple of CD labeled 1980's New Wave Hits).

He announces what songs have been played, tells us what's up next and then makes up some kind of commercial announcement like,"This program was brought to you with the help of Price Chopper, the best place to shop for groceries!"

Sometimes he'll use a promo from one of my old air (cable) checks. I did some radio programming for an all-volunteer campus/community alternative cable radio station in Bloomington, Indiana, WQAX. And indeed, that was back in the 80s and I had tons of fun doing it. And some angst.

Much of the angst was because I was not your grunge/punk new music scene follower in Bloomington. Nor was I into "college" radio (Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, Meat Puppets, Butthole Surfers...etc). I got to know the music gradually, but also immersed myself in jazz, blues, folk, world...and quirky music. If there was an interesting cover of a standard rock song, I'd play it and I collected disco versions of stuff like "Stairway to Heaven," and "In A Gadda Da Vida." I kid you not. They do exist. Wonder if they've got digital editions now...

Anyway, it's lovely to see Oscar being a chip off the old block, doing radio shows.

I really love radio. If I weren't a librarian, I'd be in radio. I think. Maybe.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ahoy me hearties! 'Tis Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Ahoy, mateys!
It be talk like a pirate day, so grab yer parrots, screw on yer peg-leg and find yer pirate name here. (aye, there be lots of choices for the findin' o'yer name, matey).

Arrrrrrr! I be the
Quote:
Dread Pirate Bonney:
Like the famous Dread Pirate Roberts, you have a keen head for how to make a profit. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well
Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Me food was a bit rich yesterday. Cravin' theobromides I was and therefore partook of some bits of high-cocoa content chocolates. As well as almonds & pecans. Crunchy they were, and right tasty.

Me first mate an' I, well we had it all out and things be a bit better 'twixt us (we both ha' been depressed over stuff, it turns out an' had been actin' like roommates more than first mates, if ye catch me drift). We went so far as to leave ship and stroll on land a bit, on the pretext of runnin' an errand.

Arrrrrr, me hearties! I've had me morning grub: eggs, salsa, cheese & avocado and feel fit as a fiddle.

All is shipshape an' me mood would have me visitin' all ye this mornin, as much as I can ere business takes a hold of me.

Smooth sailing o'er the briny deep, me hearties!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Lunch

My son has been doing well with his new found latchkey responsibilities.

I am so proud of him. I remember what it was like being given the key to our apartment when I was 10 or so. We lived catty-corner from our elementary school and my brother and I went home for lunch. I remember waiting for him and walking across the streets (for Brooklynites: the intersection of Albemarle Road and McDonald Avenue, the Kensington neighborhood. It was PS 230). We crossed McDonald and then, Albemarle.

Inside the apartment, we checked the fridge: Mom had left us a lunch-- a sandwich each and we could drink milk or water and have fruit or cookies or whatever. Sometime between getting home and finishing eating, my mom would call and talk to us. One time she didn't call right when I expected her and I dialed her at work...and this was the first time I experienced connecting without a ring...she'd been trying to call us at the exact same time!

I remember one time when she didn't have time to leave something prepared, so I made us cream cheese & jelly sandwiches, my brother's favorite.

Before that year, my grandmother, who lived across the street took us in for lunch, but I think that arrangement made us all unhappy. I also tried eating a school lunch a few times. They put stuff in the egg salad that made me want to puke (green peppers and onions). And celery in the tuna salad. And they cut the oranges in quarters--but not sliced.

Yuck. Sometimes I took my lunch. But it was still not as much fun as coming home for lunch and being grown-up.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The evacuees are coming...maybe

My neighborhood school was closed in May of 2003 and out little city bought it from the school district. I've hear from a neighbor (and later the TV news, which I never watch), that it will be home to 150 to 180 people who have left the Gulf area.

I'm excited, actually, hoping there are opportunities to be helpful. I think in general my neighbors and I feel positive about this, but there are a couple of things to consider:

If it's a FEMA-run site, there may be such tight controls, we might not come into contact with any of the folks being housed there at all. We might not be able to be helpful. I've read a blog in which the author describes having her donations of fresh food get turned away, because there wasn't enough, it wouldn't be fair and people might riot. Sorry, I don't have the link.

Don't know if there will be kids. Will they go to school in the district? I hope so. We have a good district.

Wonder how I can help.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Autism and my son

A history of my son, Oscar: Born in 1991 to parents who wanted him from before he was a gleam in either of our eyes, his early childhood was fairly normal except for the fact that he seemed unusually quiet, he didn’t make eye contact and there were a few “milestones” he seemed to have passed on. He didn’t chortle at 4 months although he smiled and smiled. He didn’t hug. If he was frightened, he clutched, but he never just hugged. He didn’t wave “bye bye” at 10 months or whenever that was supposed to happen.

He didn’t walk without support until he was 17 months old—to the day, I think. He had developed a very efficient 1-knee scoot that had enabled him to get around the world, holding onto stuff. He never crawled.

At age one, Oscar started to say lots of words, then abruptly stopped and began babbling. His babbling seemed to imitate sentence structure and conversation.

At age 2, he began to make a whining drone while sitting at the table. He would push a fork or other utensil on his plate as if it were a vacuum cleaner.

He was fascinated by fans: box fans, ceiling fans.

In retrospect, we should have had him evaluated by a specialist earlier, but it wasn’t until we moved to the Kansas City area that his delays in speech, motor and social abilities became pronounced. A parent educator did the Denver Developmental screening on him: he was behind by a year or more in some areas.

I realize there's a lot of "he didn't," in the above paragraphs. Here's a small list of what he does:
plays trumpet, makes tapes of music he likes, pretends he's a radio announcer, draws pictures of houses in Kansas City, Missouri, sings beautifully.

He never ceases to amaze me or his father. We'll struggle to get him to do something, like learn to read for fun and then one day we see him reading the newspaper because he's caught the headline about a tornado or something.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On Disney Movies

On the hypnotic power of watching Disney movies over and over again--I start to analyze them as if they were a literary phenomenon and I'm writing a paper to impress my instructor...
It started with watching The Lion King over and over (first in theaters, then when the video came out...hoo boy!). Because my son wanted to watch it over and over again.

When I was a little over 2 and my mom was nearly done being pregnant with my little brother, we went to see Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty. That movie was a major influence in my thoughts and dreams from then on. Maleficent, the witch became my arch-nemesis. I modeled all my fantasies about the fight between good and evil as if it were Me vs. Maleficent.

I love the colors in that movie, the music and the story. So in some ways, that's my favorite.

(another major influence in my childhood fantasy life was the musical Peter Pan, shown on TV a few times in the late 50s/very early 60s--but since it's not Disney, I'll go into it some other time.)

But in recent times I've enjoyed Monsters, Inc. There are very few false notes in it to me. It's got tension between friends, a way to differentiate between good monsters and bad monsters. It's got cool music, too. The opening graphics are very lively.

Of course, the deliberate scaring of children in their bedrooms might be seen as creepy, harkening to child abuse. The solution to the monsters' energy problem, though is wonderful!

I'm deliberately being vague in case anyone reading hasn't seen Monsters, Inc. and intends to.