Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sugar



When I have read too much about the current President and his reign of incompetence, malice, and terror, I comfort myself with animal pictures and videos.

My favorite video I have shared twice with my friends, and still find as soothing as a Xanax. It is a scene from a Japanese garden that has been created to match the scenes of water lilies painted by Monet. There is a real pond stocked with water lilies, framed by trees, and with green plants on the floor of the pond, all in the same colors used by Monet.

The pond is stocked with two large koi who swim majestically into and out of the picture. The first one is orange and white, with accents in black. It starts off alone, and is later joined by a smaller, midnight-blue fish. Finally, the blue fish swims serenely across the screen, as sure and self-contained as a cruise ship. Watching it lowers my blood pressure and gives me peace.

I also really enjoy pictures of baby animals. This morning I viewed one that included exotica such as an axolotl, a dumbo squid, baby fawns, white bats, and other small furry creatures whose names I can't recall. Some of the critters had a tiny horn sticking up above their mouths.

I'm a lifelong fan of miniature objects, like small houses and tiny carvings, but I'm even more drawn to small living beings. Since I'm not quite five feet tall, I'm immediately comfortable with short people. And baby animals just turn me into a warm, fuzzy puddle. I theorize that nature makes babies intensely cute to keep them from being eaten, until they grow into the defenses that teeth, claws, and hooves will provide when they grow up. Soft, small, cuddly or adorably weird, baby animals radiate beauty, harmlessness, and hope. And I love feasting my eyes and emotions on their loveliness, as an antidote to the ugly in the world.

A Review



Last Sunday in Kensington, Mother Nature produced a weather concert of great power and scope. The sunshine was pure, bright, and clean. The sprinkling rain was delicate and only slightly annoying. Fortunately, we were mostly indoors when the downpour began, darkening the skies and pounding all over the church building with a volume that was as impressive as it was well-timed. After gray skies replaced the downpour, I asked myself, "Sun, sprinkle, downpour, clouds. What's next, hail?"

Then I saw many of my fellow musicians looking out the windows, and I joined them. Imagine my surprise; the ground was covered in marble-sized hail! The "rain" had been so loud because it was mostly hail.

Brava, Mother Nature! This was a tour de force that nearly upstaged the recorder orchestra concert we had come to the church to present.

Teachable Moment



How would I go about learning a new skill? Using every possible modality, one after another. Except for hearing about it. That's my least effective input modality. Listening would be useful only if the audible version included something the others didn't, such as extra information, a different perspective, or humor.

I'd start with watching someone do the skill, to see what I would be aiming at. Then I'd want to try it myself, to see where I'm starting. Then I'd want to either read about it or get someone to show me the correct way to do whatever I'm doing wrong. But I could handle learning about only one or two mistakes at a time, because my feelings are easily hurt.

Then I'd want to start the cycle again -- observe, try, read, try, observe. And if there were a way to record my attempts to I could see and hear them myself, a little bit of that would also be helpful. But not too much.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes



I hate changes. Twice during my childhood, i was plucked from one family in one city with one group of friends and sent into a completely different situation. This left me with an aversion to imposed changes, and may help explain why I find it hard to change myself.

I was once asked, "What is your theory of personal change?" My answer, "I don't." I've made countless attempts to quit a bad habit or form a good one, without lasting success. I can cling to a change for a few days or weeks, but one slip and it's gone.

I have a committee inside my head that controls my decisions. Among its members are a diligent do-gooder and a sedentary sloth who tend to be deadlocked when I try to change myself.

That said, I have some techniques that help me make some changes for limited periods of time.

Making a commitment to do something at a set time and place with friends is the most effective one. We all see each other doing this thing--hopefully enjoying it, profiting from it, or both--and these experiences reinforce my commitment to keep on doing it.

Other techniques I've tried are less effective. For example, I am pretty good at writing things down. So I write down my weight once a week and every day I record the number of steps registered by my pedometer. But I don't make much effort to keep above a certain number of steps each day, or below any particular weight. That would be too much like work.

Anyway, if I had to make a significant change, I would probably try to do it all at once, because a great deal of back-sliding can be foreseen. If I had to, say, give up sugar, I would have a grand clear-out of my home and try to stock the yummiest types of everything I am allowed to eat. I would try to limit my lapses to meals I eat out with friends, hoping that they could help keep my in check. And I would make every effort to be kind to myself about those lapses, take them in stride, give myself partial credit where it is due, and carry on.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Actions and Reactions

The Trump administration seeks to undo the last eight years of progress by wrecking the economy and environment, and throwing millions off health insurance, to favor the interests of the rich. They also threaten to impose their own Christian religious principles by ending marriage equality and banning abortion.

Our President communicates mostly by spewing crass insults about Muslims, Mexicans, women, and reporters. His election has empowered bigots and haters who now openly credit Trump with their new freedom to vent their hate in word and deed.

The real threat to our democracy, though, is the rise of a new American fascism. There is evidence in a Trump divorce proceeding that he studied the speeches of Hitler. His own speeches strike similar notes about the frightening state of the world, the need to blame somebody for that, and that he is the only person who can save America from the looming disaster.

His authoritarian administration rails against any checks on its power. Even though a free press is essential to a democracy, he labels the press as the opposition, and any negative reporting as fake news. The judiciary should not presume to identify any of his actions as unconstitutional. When the Deputy Attorney General concluded that his Muslim Ban was indefensible in court, he saw it as personal betrayal and fired her.

My hope is that the resistance movement, the courts, the rule of law, and simple human decency will protect us.

Resistance groups are blossoming in America like wildflowers after rain. The organizations that have long supported civil rights and the environment are experiencing surges in donations and activism: the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Move On, and so on.

The new kid on the block is Indivisible. In the Indivisible Guide, former Congressional staffers explain how to resist the Trump agenda by influencing their own Members of Congress (MoC). The authors first posted the guide online around the time of the Inauguration. As of this writing, people who downloaded the guide (many of whom were never politically active before) have formed some 7,000 Indivisible groups all over the country, with at least two groups in each Congressional district. Members of these groups and other similar organizations bombard their MoCs with phone calls, emails, personal visits with their staff, and demonstrations outside their offices. During recesses, they demand and attend town halls (with or without their MoCs) to express their resistance to the Trump agenda.

And the resistance is working. The administration and Congress have been delayed, enjoined, or forced to backtrack on efforts against Congressional ethics oversight, immigrants and refugees, and the Affordable Care Act. The Senate has taken historically close votes on Cabinet nominees, and the Cabinet and other administration posts are being filled at historically slow rates.

It remains to be seen whether this administration will be undone by Russian interference in the presidential election, the many ties between Russian institutions and the Trump family and associates, and the massive profits the Trump Organization is reaping from the campaign and presidency. In the meantime, the majority of Americans who did not vote for the Republican President will continue to make our voices heard to protect the democratic freedoms that so many have fought and died to bring to this country that we love.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Political Rant

This is Not Normal – people keep saying and writing, and it’s on a T-shirt I acquired last week at a Litquake reading by writers against Trump. I am not the only one who noticed back in July, or earlier, the authoritarian and fascistic tone of Trump’s campaign. It’s only getting worse.
Every other word out of his mouth is a lie and now his executive orders forbid federal agencies from sharing information with the public, and his press secretary spouts clear untruths while advising the public to reject all sources other than Trump for news and information.
And it’s starting to harm our country. Not only with the wave of misogynist assaults, racist violence, swastikas and bomb threats against Jews, and general open bigotry. But Trump’s mixture of careless, thoughtless, defiantly ignorant words and tweets is offending foreign countries that have been reliable trading partners of ours, and is destabilizing already shaky structures that keep the planet from stumbling into World War III.

And don’t get me started on his disregard for national security. Orange Twitler uses an unsecured phone to spew his babblings onto the world stage. He chats with world leaders with his family (business partners) in the room. He refuses to release his tax returns, which would reveal the extent of his business relationships with foreign powers and which business would profit from his role as President, or to divest from his businesses, making it perfectly clear that the presidency is already being used to increase the profits of the Trump Organization. That’s not just a whopping great conflict of interest, that’s treason.

Technically, treason is actions taken to help a foreign government to seriously injure our nation, and his careless tweets that damage America’s standing among nations arguably qualify. And then there’s the Emoluments Clause, which bars federal office holders from being paid by foreign governments. Well, foreign diplomats stay at Trump hotels all the time, putting money directly into Trump’s coffers. As it happens, the fee to join the Mar-a-Lago resort has just been doubled because the prospect of access to Trump raises its value to citizens and foreigners alike. The president is supposed to be a public servant, not a public plunderer.

Trump’s continued bullying braggadocio about making Mexico pay for a border wall has already caused the Mexican president to cancel a planned visit to America. Any self-respecting nation will decide to ignore America until we get a sane adult for a leader.

And why do news organizations keep reporting on his middle-of-the-night tweets? They need to pare down that coverage to the absolute minimum, and focus on his actions. Such as the pile of executive orders that’s on pace to outstrip the (so-called by Republicans) executive over-reach of President Obama in no time flat, orders against the Affordable Care Act, sanctuary cities, and government scientists.

And how about the henchmen and women he’s chosen to run the government? How about Rex Tillerson for our Secretary of State? His entire career working for the oil giant Exxon, and he’s been so helpful to Russia than they gave him the “Order of Friendship.” The role of Russia in the election and its treatment by the Trump administration raise many more questions than answers.

And he’s bestowing cabinet posts on half a dozen Wall Street Goldman Sachs alumni instead of keeping his promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington insiders in power. And, apparently to get an African-American on board, he appoints Dr. Ben Carson, who first declined a cabinet post because of his lack of experience, to be in charge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for which he is totally unqualified. Among the very few female nominees is Betsy deVos, a billionaire campaign donor who’s never attended or taught in a public school, to head the Education Department. She’s a big fan of unregulated charter schools, and would funnel money there instead of to the public schools where some 90% of our children are educated.

I guess my fears fall into three main piles. One pile would apply to any Republican administration, which would do its best to undo the last eight years of progress: to wreck the economy, throw millions off health insurance, deport millions of undocumented immigrants, end marriage equality, and ban abortion. Their goal would be to take the country back 50-100 years.

Pile two is the special threat posed by having for President a narcissistic, megalomaniacal, dictatorial ignoramus who is surrounded by yes-men and sycophants, who spews crass, bigoted, self-obsessed, demonstrably false garbage instead of learning about his job and America and the world. He’ll cut us off from the rest of the world or trigger a nuclear holocaust with complete unawareness of the consequences of his actions.

Pile three is the trouble that could be caused by the power he is giving to bigots and haters who now feel free to assault, disparage, and disregard folks who are different from them. More to the point, I fear the rise of a new American fascism. There is evidence in a Trump divorce proceeding that he studied the speeches of Hitler. And his own speeches strike similar notes and are eerily effective at calling on peoples’ worst natures, getting them to vote against their own self-interest and to act badly. And he has managed to convince millions of people to believe propositions that are demonstrably not true. Or, worse, to convince them that the actual facts are not knowable or are unimportant. Just believe what Trump says (or what he’s saying today), and all will be well. Because he is the strongest, smartest, bestest person in the room, and thus is the only person who can save America from the horrible, disastrous state it is in. Pay no attention to the facts—that the economy is vastly improved from eight years ago, that American auto-makers are thriving, that the hemorrhaging of jobs stopped, and that private sector jobs have grown every month for a historically long period of time. That the stock market is blooming and even wages are starting to rise.

Republicans refuse to acknowledge any of this progress, but nevertheless want to reverse it, in the name of “small government,” and deficit reduction. Problem is, at the same time, the GOP is extending ever more government power into bedrooms, bathrooms, doctors’ offices, and women’s bodies (no men’s bodies, of course). They want to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in order to buy excessive military weapons, a border fence, and millions of deportations, that will, at the very least, make America less safe from terrorism. What happened to all the promised spending on roads, bridges, airports, and other infrastructure?

Many purported Christians voted for him because they thought he was one. They thought he would enforce their values, and resist the spread of tolerance for diversity. The First Amendment comes first for good reasons. Everyone has the right to exercise their own religion in this country, as long as they don’t harm others or prevent others from exercising theirs. Congress must not pass any laws establishing one religion over another. You are free to uphold your own morals only upon your co-religionists. If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. You have no right to deny me the right to have one. You don’t believe in same-sex marriage? Don’t have one; don’t officiate when your own members seek one. But if you conduct a public business, you must serve all customers: black, brown, straight, or gay. And doctors do not have a right to refuse to treat patients they consider unworthy. Free exercise of religion does not include a right to discriminate against other religions. And if you run a business, you must provide health insurance to your employees under the same rules that apply to all employers. And pay women and men the same wages for the same work, and so on.

And let’s consider the Second Amendment, shall we? Although it explicitly concerns militias, a Republican-dominated Supreme Court has found a constitutional right for individuals to own guns. The most powerful lobby in our nation, the National Rifle Association, has blocked any and all legislation that could keep guns away from people who should not have them. And the NRA blocks research into how to address our epidemic of handgun deaths. Hell, we can’t even keep guns out of the hands of toddlers, who shoot somebody every week in this country, often fatally. And the NRA protects arms manufacturers from even trying out safety measures that could keep a gun from being fired by anyone other than its owner. During the last decade or so, gun ownership in America has doubled from two weapons for every man, woman, and child to four weapons for every man, woman, and child. Nobody needs that many ways to cause injury and death. Is it not clear by now that the NRA does not serve citizens? Its obvious goal is to maximize the profits of gun-makers. This is underlined by the fact that not even the slaughter of school children could get past its influence to institute the mildest rules on background checks or assault weapons.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Diminishing Returns

I feel compelled to report that my memories and orgasms grow weaker with repetition.

My most precious memories lose detail and strength every time I review them. Soon they become as blurry and featureless as a photocopy of a photocopy, of a photocopy, down to the tenth generation. Every time there is less emotion, less strength, less everything. Until I put the memory away on a shelf and hope that it regains some strength with rest.

The same thing happens to me with orgasms, whether solo or duo. Each succeeding time, it is harder to achieve and less powerful, until it won't come at all and i give up. Experience tells me that my orgasmic capacity does regenerate with time, thank heavens, but I'm not a fan of this law of diminishing returns.