2009/09/28

Better, Cheaper, Fairer (and mostly, fairer!)

The most good sense I have heard from anyone talking about the health care issue has come from T. R. Reid, in a program called "Can We Really Fix U.S. Health Care?" We recently saw this program on the LINK television network.

Reid's most recent book (which I will be buying, just so I can vote with my 20 bucks in support of what he is saying) is called The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care.

This is an excerpt from an article he wrote for The Washington Post.

As Americans search for the cure to what ails our health-care system, we've overlooked an invaluable source of ideas and solutions: the rest of the world. All the other industrialized democracies have faced problems like ours, yet they've found ways to cover everybody -- and still spend far less than we do.

I've traveled the world from Oslo to Osaka to see how other developed democracies provide health care. Instead of dismissing these models as "socialist," we could adapt their solutions to fix our problems. To do that, we first have to dispel a few myths about health care abroad:

1. It's all socialized medicine out there.

2. Overseas, care is rationed through limited choices or long lines.

3. Foreign health-care systems are inefficient, bloated bureaucracies.

4. Cost controls stifle innovation.

5. Health insurance has to be cruel.

2009/09/25

Spider Love

This is from Martha Beck's new book, Steering by Starlight, beginning on page 196. I wish there were a way to teach this to people looking for love - I really do.

If you went into your garden, recruited a spider, and asked it, "What do you love most?" the spider might answer, "I love flies." This is true: Spiders enjoy a tasty fly the way I enjoy ice cream. And how does this love cause a spider to behave? Well, it makes a sticky web, catches flies alive, wraps them up to keep them from escaping, and keeps them there, conscious, but helpless. Then, whenever the spider needs a snack, it scurries over to the fly, injects it with venom to dissolve some of its insides, and slurps up some of its life force.

This is the way many people think of "love." They will say, in all honesty, that they love their children, their partners, their friends more than anything in the world. But their love is consumptive, not giving. They need their "loved ones" to feed them emotionally, so they imprison people, trap them in webs of obligation or guilt, paralyze them to keep them from going away. They love other people the way spiders love flies.

Before you set out to lead a relationship where conflict is occurring, remember this: The goal of real love is to set the beloved free. If someone else's "love" requires that you abandon your own soul, it's spider love. If you find yourself trying to control a loved one, you're in the spider's role. Spider love really isn't love at all but a version of fear that creates a perceived need to control.

There are two red flags that will start to wave when real love disappears and spider behavior begins. The first is the deception, by which I mean saying or doing anything at all that is not honest for you. The second is the word make. When you do something even slightly dishonest because you're trying to make someone do or feel something, love is no longer running the show. This is just as true when you're trying to make people feel good and loving as it is when you're trying make them follow your orders. People-pleasing and guilt-inducing are as much control strategies as domination.

If you're on the giving end of spider love, you'll feel grasping, desperate, angry, wounded, or all of the above. If you're on the receiving end, you'll feel a desperate desire to escape, often muted by your own rationalizations. "Mom's just trying to make me happy," you might think. "That's why she's offered me a house if I get gastric bypass surgery." Or "Coach only screams at me because he's trying to make me achieve my potential." Or "Jesse just needs to make sure I deserve his trust; that's why he's tied me to this chair."

If you find yourself repeatedly convincing yourself someone loves you, check yourself for spider glue. If your body and your mood darkens when you think of the person who's trying to "make you happy," listen to it. If you feel wretched and panicky with the need to control someone else, realize you may be playing the spider yourself. Either way, leave the web behind. Detach. Whatever your role in the drama, drop it and begin focusing on real love, the sort that always frees the beloved. You can think of it as Stargazer love, because at the level where you are truly steering by starlight, you'll do it naturally.

Alive, here, now

“To feel today what one felt yesterday isn't to feel -
it's to remember today what was felt yesterday,
to be today's living corpse of what yesterday was lived and lost.”
Fernando Pessoa

2009/09/24

Pensive

The season is back. The season of pensiveness is back. How contrary and odd to love it so much. Harry Potter used the Pensieve in Dumbledore's office as a way to go into the memories of others -- a sieve for memories -- an admission that what we each see is only what we ourselves can see -- and that each of us has sifted the reality through the sieve of our own vantage point, our own beliefs and perspectives and place in the room at the time of the event. None of us has the whole thing. And if we can enter a collection of these memories, emptied one at a time into the bowl, and revisited each in turn, compiled with all the others we've gathered, we can see a story put together. We can find the threads of the narrative and weave them.

That's what happens to me in the fall of the year. Everything shifts again. Or, rather, there are some more things to pack into the trunks up in my attic. I bring the year's memories and the changes and chances of this mortal life, and I set them in a pile beside the old trunk, and I kneel down and caress the lid. I click the lock open. I lift the lid.

The smell of all the memories of all the other years comes wafting out, and I can't help it - the smell makes my vision blur a bit. I begin to lift out all the old things, to decide what goes and what stays. I begin to notice that I've brought yet one more of those, and how many do I need anyway? And I notice that I've never had one of those other things before. I should keep that.

And so it goes. I caress each piece, and laugh or cry a bit as I remember where it came from and why I have it. Anything confusing goes into the trunk. Sometimes these things make sense next year - or ten years from now - or thirty. Stuff that's started to rot has to be thrown out. And stuff I never thought to have in my hands is carefully wrapped in tissue and stowed where it cannot be hurt or wrinkled much.

That is what the autumn feels like to me. I must perform these rituals. I must clear the year's acquired piles and items, and visit the attic, and open the trunks, and then when I am done, I lower the lid, click the lock closed again for another year, pick up the pile of things I must dispose of, and go back downstairs. Ordinary life must be dusted and vacuumed. I light candles in the evenings during the dark seasons in ordinary life, and I cook inventive meals. I go to work and come home and put wood pellets in the stove. I study and meet deadlines. Along the way, a memento is kept - in a drawer, on a shelf, in a pocket ... on top of the piano.

It's nearing the end of September, and it's time to gather my little armful and go up to the attic.

2009/09/23

Perspective

While we talk about who gets health care and from whom and at what cost ... while we harvest our bounty in the autumn of the year, and educate our children in schools, homes, and co-ops where we can depend on clean water, clean food, and adequate light and heat ... while we figure out how to consume our bounty in more healthful ways and wonder what to do with the huge natural gas deposits in our own shale ... I offer this perspective corrector. You may click on the picture to find out more, if you want. Or maybe it is enough for you - today, maybe it is enough - to look around and notice what you see - and say thank you. The woman with no hands holds an empty bowl and hopes that someone might put some food into it. At the very least, maybe we can say thank you for our "problems."

2009/09/22

International Babywearing Week

Oh, the problems that could be solved if babies everywhere could have this! And oh, the irony in the "first world's" wealth that separates us from the children.

Click on the picture to go to the site. There's some very happy-making stuff there.

2009/09/21

(sniff!)

Yesterday, while we were at church, two siblings took one sibling back to college. The one sibling now back at college was home all summer, and on some of his work days, he would come roaring back up the driveway in his car at about this time. On those days, he happened to be working closer to home, so he came home to grab lunch.

I just heard a car go by out on the road, and realized in a moment that it was not him. He is not here. It's not like I didn't know this. The empty bedroom is a pretty big clue, after all. I even got all his clothes washed and folded for him a couple of days ago. But still. That car? It wasn't him.

Newest MBP*

(*MBP = "must be purchased")

Yep. Gotta have this one.

By cognitive scientist and mother Alison Gopnik, one of the authors of another favorite sitting on my Parents/Kids/Human Development shelf, The Scientist in the Crib, here is a new book on development and what it teaches us about being human. This is going to be my next book purchase.

On that bookshelf, I have the above mentioned Scientist, the series about education and childhood written by Charlotte Mason in the late 1800's, The Continuum Concept, and a few homeschooling books that also have a lot of good perspectives on children and the way they grow. (Homeschooling for Excellence, Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum, Honey for a Child's Heart, and Real Learning, to name a few).

Now that I type that all out, it looks a bit ... um ... broad? Gopnik: cognitive scientist; Mason: Anglican school teacher; Liedloff: student expedition member turned author; Colfaxes: former public school teachers turned pioneers; Berquist: classically educated Roman Catholic mother; Hunt: evangelical author and book lover; Foss: Roman Catholic school teacher turned author and homeschooler. I suppose the one thing they all have in common is a stubborn determination to figure things out regardless of how things are being done or presented, yet taking "the past" in all its fullness into consideration. All of these people accept a long view.

Gopnik's newest book is an engaging and fascinating read, full of up to the minute research presented in an easily grasped manner, and best of all ... she actually likes children. They're not the other or the enemy or the subject for her. She is a passionate scientist. This is a good book.

Next week at this time, I'll be finishing up the last touches of my pre-assignment for my first class of the new quarter - HMS 481: Human Studies - Relationship with the Self. We're supposed to bring one to two pages of our perspective on "the human self" and what it is. If we want to, we can cite outside sources - and Philosophical Baby would be one of them if I started in with a list. But I think that if I begin citing my shelf full of sources, my paper would end up being five or six pages instead of one or two, and it would be hard to stop. So many books, so little time ...

And school starts next week!

Yay!

2009/09/17

THANK you for answering my QUESTION!

Remember the scene in Moonstruck? Olympia Dukakis is talking to Danny Aiello - she's Rose, talking to the impossibly putzy Johnny Cammareri. She wants to know, "Why would a man need more than one woman?"

Johnny answers her, "I don't know. Maybe because he fears death."

In this family here - in my family, Rose Castorini's inflections, gestures, and manner are all employed whenever one of us says, "Thank you! Thank you for answering my question!"

This morning, First Sip has answered my question. Why are people so easily attached to sadness and pain, and so stubbornly unwilling to be happy? I have posited the question here, Is Happy Stupid? I don't think it is. I think it's one completely legitimate perspective, and that it's one we can choose if we want to. But why not choose it? What is the investment in staying worried, full of loss and pain, grasping, anxious, critical? Why is that easier??? (Now I hear SNL's Church Lady in my head. "Could it beeee .... Satan?")

Well, I want to say to First Sip, Thank you! Thank you for answering my question!

It seems easier to be in pain because the person in pain, loss, grief, anxiety, worry, covetousness, strife, (hmm.... list looking familiar ...) is a person doing something! It feels like control! It feels like power! At the very least, it feels like a connection and a purpose in life. But happiness? That's entirely different. You can touch it. You can enter it. You can let it bathe you with healing or light or peace. But you cannot own it. Happiness floats. This is Naomi Shihab Nye's poem.

~ So Much Happiness ~


It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of dust and noise
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records...

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

2009/09/15

Afghanistan Reality


Capt. Benjamin Tupper has some stories to tell about his work with new Afghan soldiers in his new book, Welcome to Afghanistan: Send More Ammo. Click on the picture or on his name to go to the interview at Morning Edition.

Fine to charge fines? Participate in my Poll - please

Readers - I have a question for you. Feel free to email your comments, or to comment on this post. I'd really like to know how you react to library fines. If you know that your late books are not going to cost you any money, are you more likely to bring them back? More likely to use the library again or often?

Fines feel to me like a slap on the palm with the teacher's ruler -- yeah, it can be motivating, but lots of other things are more so and it causes its own issues and ignores an awful lot. But maybe I'm just weird. How do YOU feel about library fines? Fort Vancouver Regional Library is making a policy decision on this issue. As an employee, I'd like to know what my readers from across the country think about this.

Dissatisfaction

Choreographer Agnes de Mille wrote a book called The Life and Work of Martha Graham, which I had never heard of until I read the quotation from it in today's post at the blog, First Sip. If Wikipedia is to be believed on this, de Mille "confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be. Martha said to me, very quietly, ...

'There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.

And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.'"


That is exactly what it feels like. The "divine dissatisfaction" is, I think, what keeps people from going further - artistically or even as people creating lives for themselves. To get away from the tension, people look for a thousand answers and gather up habits, or things, or distractions so that staying still will feel better. To live unresolved - to be willing to be dissatisfied - it is not easy or even enjoyable most of the time. It is simultaneously glorious and wretched to be on the right track, always hearing the call to come further - never getting to the source of the sound. Never really being There. The longing never goes away if you are in pursuit; yet it stops if you stop. Rotten, holy, amazing, sublime dilemma! Satisfaction might blow across the track sometimes, but in order to be satisfied, we have to stop moving.

2009/09/14

Usually, envy's not my thing

(grooooaannnn)

It's not just his voice.

It's not just his violin.

Listen to the boy speak! This sort of stuff is almost a near occasion of sin for me. It's rather an old interview - but I just heard about him. (Thanks a bunch, Doug.) Is there an educated Englishwoman who'd like to marry one of my sons and raise my grandchildren to talk like this?

Raw ingredient Monday

In great affairs men show themselves as they wish to be seen; in small things they show themselves as they are.
Nicholas Chamfort

Today I post the ingredients to the thought coalescing in my head. I haven't drawn the connections - my connector has been in the shop for repairs and it's being very slow about re-booting. So ... here are the ingredients.

That quote from Chamfort first. It is indeed the small things that show character. It's easy to ignore other people's small things. "It's no big deal," we tell ourselves when we saw the glance of pure malice from the bully who didn't get his way. But it is a big deal. It's not what he didn't get. It's that he didn't get it, and that his response was not humble or fluid or sanguine or disappointed. If someone near you is frustrated in his desires and you see the glance of malice, you have seen the small thing that should sound as a warning bell for you. Don't ignore that.

Then there's this ingredient. I've a kid whose new favorite song is this.

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.
C. S. Lewis

The fall of the year is here. That's the bowl for all the ingredients. The connections are being made within the season's increasing coziness and increasing pressure. At this time of the year, part of me wants to turn into a hyperactive squirrel, canning, organizing, putting away, painting, filing, cleaning out, getting ready to hunker down ... and part of me just wants to stand and breathe it in because the fall of the year suits me down to my toes. I long to soak it in all the way to my spine and let it stain my cuticles and scent my hair. In the fall I want to be totally still - pure feeling - all perception.

And what I want to perceive has everything to do with the approaching Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. I think that maybe the ingredients go into the bowl which is the fall of the year, and they are stirred by angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven. At this time of the year, the angels stir the world, and every once in awhile I can hear it happening.

2009/09/10


This is a "stink bug."

I hate stink bugs.

I just looked for a picture of the stupid, nasty, rotten, invasive, pesky, wretched stink bug, and found this.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Wanted, dead or alive: the brown-marmorated stink bug.

"We are asking homeowners in the Pacific Northwest to be on the lookout for these bugs, and if they think they have found any, to collect them and send to me or to take a digital image to e-mail to me," says E. Richard Hoebeke, a Cornell University senior extension associate in entomology.

This invasive pest (Pentatomidae: Halyomorpha halys) -- also known as the East Asian stink bug or yellow-brown stink bug -- has been infesting urban areas in four mid-Atlantic states. It poses a threat to apples, pears, peaches, figs, mulberries, citrus, persimmon and soy beans.

I see. So ... this is dated 2004. Should I still collect and send them? Should I buy stock in the delivery company first? We have a lot of these things. About five so far today in this room. I hate them.

Required ... just in case

Great picture, isn't it? I found it at "How Stuff Works." The caption cracked me up. It says, "You'll be required to wear a life jacket while white-water rafting -- just in case."

Uh-huh.

Orbiting my life right now are several things that could be superimposed on that picture - several things that require life jackets - just in case.
The whitewater moments in life are the ones that might get you wet, or they might injure you in a serious way, or they might even kill you. That's the thing about the whitewater moments - you never know what new reality will be yours once the moment has passed.

It is not possible to avoid whitewater if you want a real life. The river gets you from one part of your life to the next, and sometimes it's rocky. Sometimes it's dangerous - or painful - or it takes all of your concentration and you can't pay attention to anyone else for a few seconds. Sometimes you're 21, getting ready to go back to school, concerned about paying your rent, and you suddenly need all four of your wisdom teeth removed at once. That's when the life jacket is made of a mom and some homeopathic remedies and a place to sleep where you don't have to worry about anything ... but the life jacket doesn't do any of your work for you. You still have to keep your head and concentrate and pay attention and move on down the river.

Lots of things are like that. When life brings you whitewater, it's good to be wearing a life jacket - just in case. It won't keep you dry, but if you're wearing one, you probably won't drown.

2009/09/09

Happy jammies

When our now bearded, now giant, now adult son was a very tiny boy, he used to have this problem getting to sleep at night sometimes. His problem was very specific. He either said, popping out of bed yet again, "Cubbah nah wigh," or he said, "Dammies nah wigh." That is, it was either his covers or his jammies that were not right. Nothing to do but straighten everything out again. And again. So that's what we did.

This morning, I thought of his calm and informative persistence - especially about his jammies. I wore new jammies last night, and I slept all night long. All in one go! Yay!

Okay, okay, before last night I have had two acupuncture appointments in as many weeks, and yes, those two sessions were intense and pretty amazingly helpful. And okay, I've been working a bit more than usual and that always helps because it's the right kind of exercise for keeping my shoulder loosened up. Yes, yes, the weather has cooled off and the air coming through the window all night is fresh and scented with early autumn. And I've got a good right-before-sleep book going.

But still.

Last night my jammies were right, and I slept very well. I think it was the jammies that did it.

2009/09/07

Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

C. S. Lewis

2009/09/05

I can admit it

It's mid-morning on a Saturday in early September. I am upstairs. Downstairs, in the living room, the dad, the uncle, and the bearded young giant are "watching" the news the way other families watch the football game. There is a lot of sarcasm, laughing, yelling, and debating going on.

The bearded young giant goes back to school in a couple of weeks.

I'll miss him.

Keeping it Real

I've been thinking.

I've been thinking about food - and Ideas - about education and eating habits - about health care as a social justice issue and health care as an individual responsibility.

I've been thinking about the way my own tastes have morphed from Kraft Singles on white bread spread with Miracle Whip (what a name! "miracle" "whip"!) to crumbs in the bed and stinky cheese. (Do you think that blond child with the red ribbon pigtails looks slightly manic?)

I'm not that far removed from American culture at large. My morphing has been within the context of the culture's morphing, I think. In the 70's, I packed lunches for me and my two brothers on school mornings, and we ate Kraft Singles on white bread. That was the decade that also included Spiced Tea Mix (chemically invented Tang, metallic tasting instant tea, and spices that never really dissolve) in the mom's club cookbook and for sale in cute containers in the fundraisers at our Christian school. Tang tea and Kraft singles are things my children wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.

This past week I heard my 23 year old son telling his father about his very regrettable decision to eat the kind of Kraft microwavable Mac-n-cheese that only needs water added to it. He was at school, and it was the only thing in the "pod" to eat, so he made some - and threw most of it out. He preferred semi-starvation to the fake food. This is the same kid, by the way, who used to eat the boxed Kraft macaroni and cheese with a lot of delight. It's not like I fed him leaves and twigs when he was little.

Also during the 70's, along with the "cheese food" and white bread, my mother also had an Adele Davis phase, and apparently that was the one that stuck with me. Let's Have Healthy Children sat on the kitchen counter, and all the talk about getting enough protein started during those years. We ate some weird food - but mostly, we started to eat more natural foods. It must have happened during an impressionable moment for me. I need things to be real - things like food.

You can still get Kraft singles, and that microwavable mac-n-cheese (which even has a fake-word name) is not only available, it's a newly invented "food" we didn't have in the days of Five Can Casserole recipes. Obviously, the fake, invented, "convenient," and heavily marketed fads du jour are not gone from our national Gotta Have It lists.

But along the way, with Julia Child breaking barriers for cooks at home (really, she started the ball rolling in a lot of ways), we have gathered up such notions as the 100 Mile Diet, the Slow Food ideas and methods, and most recently, authors writing philosophically and practically about Real Food and the reason the planet and we the people need to pay attention to the dilemma we've gotten ourselves into.

I think our country's tastes in food has paralleled our metamorphosis in education as well. In the 80's, most states in the union not only frowned on home schooling, for instance, they would actually declare a child not in the mainstream as "truant," and proceed according to the law. It took a lot of overt, conscious, and sustained effort for the country to wake up to the idea that real education could happen in real homes for real families -- and then for most of the population to realize that you didn't have to be a denim jumper wearing hippy freak or a religious zealot to school your kids in an unconventional way. Now colleges recruit homeschooled kids. It has turned out that kids who aren't constantly interrupted while they are trying to think become young adults who can think - and who enjoy doing just that.

But it's not just home schooling - it's magnet schools and alternative schools and satellite schools. The once exotic notion of the correspondence school - Calvert is the firstborn of this creation - has become just one more option for people who opt out of the mainstream of pre-packaged, plastic-wrapped, cheesy brain "food" that nourishes nearly no one while giving the impression of being part of a healthy meal.

And what has happened? In food and in school? The breaking out and liveliness of the various options have had the backwash effect of contaminating the sterile main stream of stuff and thereby reviving it. In schools we have more and more organic, real, and sensible ideas about children and the information they gather; in grocery store chains we have store brand organic options. The medical world is going through a similar integration (there is a Monday cancer patient shift for Classical Chinese Medicine at the naturopathic college - complementary medicine for the conventional and unconventional health seekers), and even in the worlds of print publishing and music, the genre blend is making it more and more difficult to tell the difference between disparate things that used to seem as if they were worlds apart. (This also makes it more difficult to shelve books at the library, by the way. I'm not saying it's all good.)

So here's what I think.

I think that it is rarely a good idea to follow the loony fringe. The compelling and consuming agenda blinds people to reality. But we'd also better never shut them up. I think the ideas at the edge work like wild yeast. Sure, it can lead to rot. But it can also make it possible to ferment things all the way to yum. As a culture, we are learning how to make and use the cultures. We're learning to "eat food that spoils, and eat it before it does." We're learning to keep it real.

And speaking of 100 Mile Diet ...

Yesterday I went to Dickey's and bought fresh green onions, fresh pesticide-free heirloom variety tomatoes, and some really high quality feta, which I added to this "corn bread salad" recipe from Smitten Kitchen. The guy delivering locally raised, hormone and antibiotic free meats was at Dickey's while we were there, so I got his card. But the fresh pies they make at Dickey's were all sold out, so I did not get one of those. (And behold, there was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.)

I used Uncle Dan's powdered ranch dressing mix for the dressing and a pre-washed package of butter lettuce for the base (not 100-mile foods). I made the cornbread with yogurt and a bit of half and half (which is what I had on hand) instead of buttermilk. This was also the first time I've made cornbread with stone ground cornmeal (pretty sure this was a Bob's Red Mill cornmeal, but it was in an unlabeled container in my cupboard) and no flour at all, and it was really really good. "Local," but in the Washington/Oregon sense - not in the 100-mile sense.

All in all, what we ate tasted like taco salad without the icky taco taste. Very refreshing - the slightly nutty taste of the toasted cornbread that fell apart in the salad was a perfect blend with the creaminess of the cheese and dressing and the sharp sweetness of the tomatoes. I could easily add some of the Trader Joe's marinated chicken meat into this. Or rinsed, canned beans. It was quite satisfying and yummy on its own, though.

And then for dessert, we had root beer floats made with root beer brewed locally at a quirky brew pub in Hood River. The place is called The Big Horse. We ate lunch there - in a booth near the sacks of brewing grains and we saw a sign on the wall advertising for the group called SNOB - "Supporters of Native Oregon Beer."

During this foray, which started out being "let's go get some lunch," I realized (again!) just how much abundance is right here. I haven't even bothered to look into the Gorge Grown Food Network's various listings for a long time. I do not even have to garden so much as radish in order to eat in a sustainable, flavorful, gorgeous way - all I have to do is wake up to the possibilities. Again. Somehow (forehead slap!) I have slipped into thinking that there was a lot I'd have to do myself if I wanted all these options - all this possibility. I've been succumbing (again) to Supermarket Syndrome. I shop the outer edges and stay out of the aisles all right, but seriously. I don't have to go in there much at all if I'd just pay attention!

2009/09/03

Greatly good

A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poet

Idea for health care reform

It's a two-parter:

1. Abandon "fee for service" and its "perverse incentive" to see patients as units of income, making it lucrative to see more people instead of taking enough time with each one;

2. Get creative, look to other models, think about where the incentives go.

And this is a very interesting experiment!

Were Gaul being paid by the number of patients he sees, as most doctors are, it might not have been worthwhile for him to sit and listen at length to his patient. But Gaul and all the other doctors at the Eagan clinic are now on salaries and feel more at liberty to consult with each other about patients.

Good ad campaign idea

After reading books like Dr. Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block (and knowing from experience that "his" 5 S's are simply the oldest and most tried and true soothing methods), and after reading Liedloff's The Continuum Concept and piles and piles of Mothering magazines over the years ... and then knowing that the Blessed Mother wrapped the Baby of all babies in "swaddling clothes" ... well, it's not hard to figure out that it's supportable through history, experience, research, and simple observation that wearing the baby and keeping him swaddled is good for the baby.

That was always kind of my gold standard anyway - did they do this for thousands of years or just recently, once everyone could afford things like cribs? That's how I made decisions about where people slept, or when, or with whom. And that's also how I decided where and when to nurse my babies, or where and when and how to expect their attention and/or obedience. Some stuff isn't philosophical. Some stuff is as practical as the earth itself.

But this! Now, this is an ad campaign nobody's figured out yet. According to Joseph Bruchac's Sacagawea, one reason Lewis and Clark had a peaceful journey across the territories of so many native tribes was because they had a mom wearing a baby in their group. (That statue is the one I knew as a Portland child.) Who goes to war with babies in the army? Nobody does. So it was obvious that these were peaceful people. Now, that's an ad campaign for the baby-wearers! We come in peace - we're wearing our children.

2009/09/02

Soon soon soon

School starts in less than four weeks. For me. School starts for me. Somewhere in my life, the cooling of September nights, and the reddening of the leaves, and the changing of the light began to work together and sound like the tuning of the orchestra. Here it comes, here it comes. The lights blink a bit. The people find their seats. The music is about to begin. Where's your program? Did you get a program? And I am eight years old - or twelve - or forty-nine. Apparently it's all the same in my sternum and in my dancing brain where the orchestra is tuning up. The new school year is about to begin.

Yesterday in the library, I worked on the summer reading book response sheets from the teen program. Although I was not meant to be reading them - the task was to make the records consistent so that we could gather statistics - I glanced at them from time to time, and all at once I began writing lesson plans in my head. I could think of three - five - ten things to do right off the bat that would encourage and help these young adults-in-the-making. Practicing with this skill or that ... putting the parts together ... tune and practice with each instrument, and then add them all together for a symphony of interaction with the wide world of Ideas and Notions and Dreams and Ambition. At this time of the year, I always think about getting a teaching credential at last, and getting my butt back into the classroom as a teacher. (But I know it passes. That classroom exists in a context, and the context is political, and this knowledge wakes me up in a hurry every time. I simply cannot attend faculty meetings. Period.)

As an aside ... I was not going to post this picture, but I guess I want to. Lesson plans come into my head in the fall, and so do bulletin boards and colored pencils and filing folders and all manner of creative organization. This year I got a very fun day at the library. I got to do the display for the teen writing contest. See what I did in the display cabinet? This was fun!Got a bit of my autumnal classroom urges out of my system this way.

But this is not the year I teach. Not in a school, and not in my living room. This is another year for my own learning. This year - yay! - I am a student again. Big plans, too. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies (3 credits), my first Human Studies core course, called Relationship to the Self (4 credits), and a bunch more PLA writing (2 credits for instruction, writing for 12-16 credits, depending on what I can get done). At least one CLEP test - maybe all three (9, 18, or 27 credits to transfer into my transcript). Classes on campus - yay! - and not just at home on the computer. Deeply investigative, questioning, life-changing classes and writing - yay! Oh, man. Find a seat. Quick! The music is about to start!

2009/09/01

I think it's like an arch

An arch is a structure that spans a space while supporting weight (e.g. a doorway in a stone wall). Arches appeared as early as the 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamian brick architecture, but their systematic use started with the Ancient Romans who were the first to apply the technique to a wide range of structures.[1]
So saith Wikipedia.

And that, I think, is a good visual for the problem(s) faced by a free and principled democracy whenever it comes to questions of social justice. We have oppositional values, and we need them if we wish both to span space and to support weight. We need justice and kindness. We need generosity and everyone working. We need profit and philanthropy - not just as individuals, but as a people.

We wish to be fair, not preferring wealth and privilege over poverty or a bad start in life; but we also want each man to pull his own weight and earn what he has. We do not believe that law enforcement has a moral right to bully, intimidate, or coerce - no, not even to behave that way toward the criminal. Or maybe we do.

Maybe we do think the good guys have immunity from moral obligation.

I saw the movie Public Enemies this summer. It's not a movie to make the cogitator comfortable or happy in any way. It's also not for the squeamish (lots of brutality) or for anyone who has a problem with motion sickness. (Could we pulleaze stop all the jerky camera work and just get into the scene? Seriously. There are some fatuous film students who need to study the greats or stop studying altogether because jerking the camera around does not make the viewer enter the scene, but step back instead, trying to stand still in order to see what's going on because the story is compelling but someone keeps jiggling the floor. Geeeez Louise, that was frustrating!)

I really liked this movie - despite the jumpy camera man. It is about the famous bank robber, John Dillinger. I went to see it on the strength of Ebert's review. I agree with Ebert about most of the movie - especially this bit.
This is very disciplined film. You might not think it was possible to make a film about the most famous outlaw of the 1930s without clich├ęs and "star chemistry" and a film class screenplay structure, but Mann does it. He is particular about the way he presents Dillinger and Billie. He sees him and her. Not them. They are never a couple. They are their needs.
But I do not agree with his conclusion that
I'm trying to understand why it is not quite a great film. I think it may be because it deprives me of some stubborn need for closure. His name was John Dillinger, and he robbed banks. But there had to be more to it than that, right?
I don't agree with that bit because I think the movie was asking a much, much larger question. Closure or the answers to how Dillinger ticked ... those aren't the point. I think this movie asked the question Charles Dickens asked. He too wanted people to notice that the underclass of criminals was joined at the hip to the law enforcement policing them. Nice people in nice houses want neither criminal nor cop in the living room - and thus it has always been. (This, I discovered during my 19th Century Lit course, is a very clear theme in Oliver Twist. But it's just as obvious in the stories of Jeeves & Wooster.)

I think this movie, and Charles Dickens, and every police corruption case and every horrifying truth of what Americans have done in the name of acquiring information for the sake of a safer citizenry - these have all asked the same question. The question is this.

At what point does the cop become a criminal? Where is the line crossed? When is it valid to do harm in order to do good? Who are the good guys when the power is used for evil?

This isn't a blog post about torture or the questionable information it obtains. And it isn't a blog post about nationally funded health care or whether or not all the things it would pay for are moral or good or healthy. This is a blog post about the need for opposing values.

If you try to build an archway with more weight on one side than the other, it collapses. If you try to build an archway without joining the sides at the top, it collapses. If you try to build an archway without 1. Keystone 2. Voussoir 3. Extrados 4. Impost 5. Intrados 6. Rise 7. Clear span and 8. Abutment, it will not stand.

And if you try to build a strong, functioning, healthy, prosperous society without kindness for the less fortunate, or without a moral sense that says, "I will not do that - not because I cannot, but because I should not," it will not stand. Not everything can be for expediency or for profit.

In the movie Public Enemies, there is a moment when the agent goes too far. He is determined to bully information out of Dillinger's girlfriend. The others in the office are horrified at his behavior ... but no one stops him. The Lucifer Effect has the right name. It masquerades as light when the moral "good" outweighs morality. When we try to pass through the archway made that way, we all get crushed in the collapse.

Oh, no I won't!


Okay, listen. I'm all for social justice and a responsible use of the resources we have in this world. I am. I think we have an order from God himself. We're supposed to govern wisely. Be good stewards. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. But give up my incandescent lights??? Oh, c'MON!!!

Starting Tuesday of this week, the manufacture and import of the standard 100 watt and the frosted light bulb, which is deemed the most wasteful, will be banned in the EU countries. And over the next three years, all incandescent bulbs will be phased out completely. A similar ban is set to begin in the United States in 2012. Eleanor Beardsley quotes the EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs who has tried to reassure Europeans in his blog by telling them, "Much like the car and telephone took time to catch on, you will one day appreciate the new era of lighting."

Oh, no I won't!

I'll use the newfangled things, but I will not like them. There is a time of day that begins to come again in the autumn of the year. It's the time when there is still dinner to put on the table, but it becomes necessary to turn on the lights. It's the time of day when I light candles. And it's the time of day when incandescent light bulbs (that, admittedly, do indeed produce more heat than light) remind me of every late afternoon, waiting for the household Dad to come home. Dinner smells go with that kind of light. Taking your school mess to your room, or setting the table, or putting music on the stereo ... it's that time of day, and I have never seen any alternative to incandescent lighting that can illuminate it properly. I am not happy about this. I must have a drop or two of German blood in my veins.
Consumers in some countries, like Germany, are said to be stockpiling Thomas Edison's old-style bulbs for cost reasons, or even out of nostalgia.
I'm thinking of doing the same thing. It's like finding out that a favorite book is now gone from the library shelves - discarded - sold at a book sale, and no way to track the treasure so that I can buy it myself. Or visiting the old neighborhood only to find out that your grandpa's house has been flattened to make room for something really depressing ("like a Baby GAP" - name that movie). Sometimes progress really stinks. Especially if it's not lit properly.