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#ASAE09 Thoughts

I’ve had a couple of days now to reflect on what the 2009 ASAE Annual Meeting taught me. Learning is what it’s all about, no? Educational sessions, “Thought Leaders”, social media opportunities, vendor products and last but certainly not least, networking. Yes, each of these areas taught me one or more somethings, but not necessarily what I thought I would be learning.  So, in no particular order, here are some of the highlights for me of #asae09.

1. Realizing what a great divide there seems to be between associations who are unafraid to understand what it may take to move forward, what tools are needed now, what trends to watch– and those  who don’t appear to realize business is not “as usual” even if what they are doing is working today. “Today” is a short period of time if you think about it.

Social Media is a key indicator of this divide, as conversations with others showed me. Those who understand the potential and use it now;  those who know there’s an unknown element and risk involved, but who are willing to try; vs. those who are “leaving it to the younger crowd”- -for which I responded with the well publicized statistic that the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is women between the ages of 55-65.

2. Once again, learning much valuable information, whether from insightful people such as Gary Hamel, Li, Shirky, or Jeff De Cagna’s wonderful, thought provoking session looking toward the future (including his recent post about 2010), and other sessions of importance to me and what I needed to learn for my organization — to Fareed Zakaria’s closing session (once we finally got to him!). I agree with my fellow twitterer @bkmcae, who thought FZwas a brilliant writer but not the best of speakers. I bought his book and already can tell how much I will learn.

Were the sessions relevant to what associations needs are today/tomorrow? Only each attendee can answer that as we vary so. Don’t know if this is feasible for 2010 or beyond, but it would be great to indicate “for beginners” or “advanced”, etc, per each session description. Many of the social media sessions could have been tagged in that manner – so that those who needed the “how to” could get that info, while those looking for “ok you have it, now how do you maximize it, measure it, get ideas from it” could focus, exchange experiences, etc.

3. Really enjoyed the whole “twitter thing” (I am @christytj).  Not only learning from other’s tweets (found myself checking out #asae09 constantly for new info or insight), but discovering that there were so many folks who couldn’t attend the conference who were closely following our tweets and seemed to learn right along with us.  How useful this was too for staff who couldn’t attend, who passed along questions via tweets that were answered by some session speakers directly. How cool was that!

Maybe ASAE should get all 2010 session speakers into tweeting for increased communication before, during and after! Or Facebook, or podcasts, or whatever form of social media is hitting it’s peak next summer.

4. Also am seriously thinking about the questions that are being raised now via post #asae09 conversations. Do I think dues paying membership organizations are a thing of the past? Do I think social media is the only wave of the now & future? Do I think ASAE can change so much between now and 2010 (can any of us)? Will I find the answers in any of the books I bought during #asae09? In reviewing the sessions online? In the tweet exchanges? On Facebook or online articles? Probably not all of the answers, but certainly a lot of input that would never had occurred to me if I didn’t review any of these resources.

In case you missed it: content availability: ASAE’s the Hub has made it easy to find opinions, videos, Twitters, etc. I found I didn’t visit it as often as I should have as I was caught up in tweeting myself  but check it out if you haven’t. Also – just remembered, the book “Free” by Chris Anderson (of Wired mag) was mentioned over and over again – I’ll be getting that too.

And lastly as I sit and face piles of catch up work (yikes), I smile as I think of the numerous conversations I had (and am still having) with old/new friends from #asae09, whether in person, or via any form of Social Media. Can’t wait to continue these, I think of them as the “future is now” chats as I face forward to catch new ideas, new concepts, new things that worked for someone else and take advantage! Thanks.

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A beautiful day yesterday, now only in memory as the summertime starts up with humidity hitting the airwaves.  I’ve learned the trick of adjusting (somewhat) to the DC metro area. Make sure to spend a bit of time in the humidity and not just hide behind an AC somewhere. The more time you can spend outside, the more your body becomes adjusted and the next summer you find you can last a little longer before the “enough already” sets in and you run into the nearest building. If you are a tourist fortunately there are plenty of museums, free ones at that, which offer coolness and even refreshments to help you cool down.

But then there are those nights that you want to brave the humidity and get caught up in fun and rhythm and music to keep your toes tapping or even dancing. Not too far from DC, on the Maryland side is a town called Silver Spring that offers great music for free from June through August. A few examples of the types of live music being showcased this summer include: rock & roll, oldies – 50’s and 60’s, Celtic, jazz, blues from Spain, salsa, reggae, pop, funk, soul, bluegrass, West African, rock and zydeco. Phew, I am mopping my brow with a smile on my face already.

In addition to the wonderful music, the offerings include SilverDocs, “an eight day internationally recognized film festival that celebrates independent thinking and generates global media attention.”  The other thing about the SilverDocs movies (over 100) – you are inside in the cool AC, so if the heat or humidity is too high, and you want to see the unusual, this event is for you.

Downtown Silver Spring has a bunch of other activities, from books to booze (there is a relationship in there somewhere). I know most folks spend the majority of their time going to the beaches, driving hours in congested traffic, waiting in airports, in hotel lines, or even on the spare couch cushion at your cousins. But if you are in the DC Metro area or are just visiting, get away from the usual “spots” and go visit a fun place that’s only minutes away.  I know I will.

I’m one of those who answers “dog person” whenever the question comes up as to favorite pets. I’ve grown up with them and my latest, Sadie, was a combo Basset Hound – Australian Sheppard mix. I would get lots of comments about her appearance especially after she lost one eye to glaucoma. Once we even passed a gentleman who had an eye-patch and when he saw Sadie, lifted said patch and popped out his fake eye.  Not only was I speechless, but so too was the young woman on his arm, who I forever wondered if she stayed with him or not.

My soon to be sister-in-law brought two Alaskan Malamutes to the marriage and thus began my introduction to the wolf side of the dog species. These two, Havoc and Elke, were definitely hunters, Elke in particular was the silent but deadly type. With Sadie in tow, I remember the occasional evening barbecue that somehow included howling to the moon, a most impressive sound with wolves (in essence) and one basset hound. I’m sure the neighbors loved us.

All of those particular family pets have since passed on, but their memory lives on. When I ran across this little story in the paper this morning, I couldn’t resist sending it to my brother and sister-in-law and suggested they change their summer vacation plans of France to the possibility presented here. No, I haven’t heard back yet as to whether they will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity… 🙂

Washington Post Express: Nature   Join the Pack

 
A project involving conservationists and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists is looking for a few dozen people willing to howl like wolves in Maine’s North Woods. The Wolf Inquiry Project plans to conduct “howling surveys” in several areas this summer in hopes of discovering whether wolves are resettling in  Maine. The Bangor Daily News reported that coordinators are seeking individuals willing to spend a night howling in the woods and who won’t be scared off if they get a response from the wolves.

I spent an unexpected amount of time this weekend watching Drew and John use newly designed tools to fix a broken object. From that description, sounds like I was watching a weekly PBS or cable show on home repair with a couple of hardware handymen. Nope. I was watching Astronaut/Astrophysicst John Grunsfeld and Astronaut Drew Feustel up in space giving the Hubble Space Telescope a tune-up. And if you access this blog post this Monday morning (5/18), click here to also watch the folks in space walk around your world, it’s awesome!!

One of my twitters from Saturday:

@christytj Astronaut John with red strip on back designating “free floater, wiggling his toes, 350 miles above Queensland Australia #nasa.

And a twitter from Astronaut Mike Massimino just a few minutes ago (Monday morning 5/18).

@Astro_Mike From orbit: At the end of my spacewalk, I had time to just look at the Earth, the most awesome sight my eyes have seen, indescribable.

Don’t let us forget Astronaut Megan McArthur, the women the other men constantly refer to in their space conversations. Why? She is operating the robotic arm that either holds them, their equipment or other important objects. Competent and invaluable it appears.

Either by watching them work in space, following their twitters, reading stories in your local paper or via the regular tv shows, take a moment and follow what’s happening in space. It is amazing. One last point, an answer to that often unspoken question, “Ever wonder how astronauts pee in space?

The latest headlines, “Recession Hits Social Security Hard,” are just that, the latest headlines. We’ve all been reading for years of the trouble Social Security and Medicare are facing and that long term solutions should “start now”. I was in my twenty’s the first time I read about this – I only remember because I laughed, with a Murphy’s Law cynicism, the news predicted at that time it would run out the same year I turned 65.

I’m not laughing now. Since then I’ve learned that women only make 78 cents to the dollar a man makes and one of the biggest area that impacts women is their retirement years. It used to be thought (and still is depending upon whom you talk with), “that’s ok, a woman will live off her husband’s pension anyway.”  Given the current economy, one feels like asking, “what pension?” And if a woman is single, unless she started (or starts) financial planning early, well, let’s just say, YIKES!

So when years later, I hear that Social Security and its companion, Medicare, are in trouble, I hope that this time someone will listen. The fact that the recession has only added to its woes compounds the bigger issue of preparedness. And the impact on women extends to their families, for obvious reasons.

For decades, the government seems to have been ignoring its own warning signs. Just as equally, people haven’t been preparing enough. I hope the current government in Washington has the ability to not just put a band-aide on the wound, but to gather our community focus – government, corporations, small businesses, everyone of us – on solving the real issues now, for my future, for your future and for the next generations to come.

Switched at Birth

Isn’t that a headline that makes us all look back into our own families and wonder if it happened to us or at the very least to one of our siblings? It was only after years of rumors and a DNA test that Kay Rene Reed Qualls and DeeAnn Angell Shafer of Heppner Oregon found out they had been switched at birth by accident, back in 1953.

I had to agree with what Shafer reportedly said, “”I’m trying to move forward at look at the positive. You can’t look back. It just drives you crazy.” Can you imagine? Everything you thought about your family history has now changed when you are no longer a blood relative – and yet, not changed since your history is also their family history now too.

Over my lifetime, I’ve had many numerous discussions of being “switched at birth” with friends as we diagnosed various members of our respective families and thought there was no way we could be related. This at times led to interesting insight from friends who were adopted, however, they considered themselves the “chosen” one rather than the outsider. To find out you were switched at birth for real?! I did read the hospital in question, Pioneer Memorial in Eastern Oregon, offered to pay for counseling. I have to wonder if either or both ladies in question (or their families) will look for other means of retribution, but somehow doubt it.

Is it a blood connection that makes a family really? Genetics do come into play for medical reasons, more so as science and technology continue to advance and we can become more proactive (if we can afford to, but that’s another blog post).  But I can think of non-blood “relatives” who I consider just as close as my real family. Not just spouses or partners but friends who act more like family than family. It’s the connectivity people have, the caring for each other, the sense of community they build, the support they provide that make up a “family”.  It sounds like once the shock of discovery wore off, the “switched at birth” ladies now consider themselves “sisters.” And that’s not a bad thing.

Resilience

My family still teases me for getting a tear in my eye at some commercials (yes, guilty), and my niece still remembers how I cried when I took her to see the dinosaur flick, Land Before Time, years ago. So it was no wonder that it was a Kleenex moment when I watched the Elizabeth Edwards interview on the Today Show this morning as Matt Lauer talked with her about the publication of her new book Resilience.  

The book focuses on her continuing experience as a cancer survivor and of course, being the wife of former N.C. Senator & VP Candidate, John Edwards, most recently known for his admitted affair.  Others will talk about the “affair”, it was her own story that caught my eye. It was the story of the loss of her father, of her 16 year old son, of her battle with cancer, of the joys of her other children, that made me bring out the Kleenex brigade.

And it was the story of how she wants to take her youngest daughter on a trip with her (her daughter’s one wish). Knowing she can’t “handle luggage and an 11 year old” on her own now, Elizabeth said she was thinking of taking a tour. Hearing that, off popped the memory lightbulb as I remember my own sister in the same cancer battle, trying to set up a tour so that she might take her young daughter on a trip as well. 

The final “big” trip didn’t happen, but my sister did create many loving memories that will carry through the years and listening to the interview this morning, I applaud Elizabeth Edwards and all like her who are making the effort to do the same for their child. It’s off to the bookstore at lunch today to get Resilience and to get inspired — inspired with tissues in hand admittedly.

When I was in my twenty’s, I worked at a residential treatment center for juvenile delinquents. It was  one of the few programs at the time that housed both boys and girls, ages 12-18. Most just dealt with boys since “girls are just too much trouble.”  Having had counseling training and work experience with the Juvenile Court system during college,  I thought I knew what I would be facing. Wrong.

My years there taught me more about parenting than I ever would have realized. I went in thinking I would be helping a bunch of rebellious kids who had succumbed to peer pressure and gotten into trouble despite the best efforts of their parents. Naive? You bet!  The more parents I met, the more I realized that 95% of what later turned into delinquent behavior by the child, started with inappropriate, absentee or even abusive parenting. And it was not necessarily based on economic, cultural or other what was deemed “typical” demographics.

What started me on this train of thought today? I read Nicholas Kristof’s NYTimes Op-Ed column, “Girls on our Streets” of yesterday. I’m used to his descriptions of overseas prostitution, of trafficking in girls usually between the ages of 12-14, but this column discusses young girl prostitutes in the United States. Even social services call them “throw-aways”, young girls whose parents see “no good” in them or who can’t handle the behavior patterns developed as a result of the girl’s low-self esteem. Low-self esteem developed because of serious parenting issues. See a vicious cycle here?

My first instinct upon reading Kristof’s column was to jump, yet again, on the bandwagon for more resources, guidance, counseling, teaching, etc., etc., for those who are parents in trouble as well as for the child.  While I still believe in that, I decided instead I wanted to actually do a complete turn-about and celebrate parents who are great, who are taking wonderful care of their children, who are making a positive difference.

With Mother’s Day around the corner, when I learned of a delightful opportunity to create an easy online video award for the mother you want to honor as “Mother of the Year”, I couldn’t resist passing it along. From MomsRising’s Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner:

*See your name in lights on a prime time online newscast in this funny, inspirational and, yes, customizable video: http://news.cnnbcvideo.com/index2.html

You can also make this online video feature a friend, your mom, and anyone you know who could use a little lift for the hard work she does just being a mom every day.

TRY IT! It’s fun, and the mom who receives it will love it. And then maybe we can look at putting mom power behind those who could benefit from learning what it takes to be a loving parent. For their child.

Swine flu media blitz influencing the youngest generation?? I don’t know if the author this particular story, Little Pig is Missing,  was subliminally impacted by the recent massive media coverage of the swine flu… but I do know this story made me smile widely. Written and illustrated by Quinn, an intrepid five year old, I was given this as a gift and recognize it for the treasure it is. Couldn’t resist sharing your story and some of your illustrations – thanks Quinn!

Little Pig is Missing    Written and Illustrated by Quinn

pig-is-missing

Little Pig and Daddy Pig

Little Pig and Daddy Pig are swimming in the jungle water .

 

 

 

 

tiger-and-rhino1

Tiger and Rhino

The Tiger and the rhino came and they were talking to Daddy Pig. The rhino stepped on Tiger’s tail and he ROARED!

 

 

 

 

Little Pig got scared and ran away.   And then he was lost forever….but the parrot brought him home.

Parrot in Little Pig is Missing by Quinn

Parrot saving Little Pig

 

And Little Pig and Daddy Pig swam at slug-o-rama in the sluggy water.

 

                  THE END

 

 

copyright 2009 Quinn C

I pass the National Education Association (NEA) main office everyday going to work and today I happened to notice a big sign out front celebrating “National Teachers Day.” Of course it made me think of the numerous teachers in my life, both good and bad, and pay a mental tribute – again both good and bad.

I remember in third grade a certain Mrs. Kennedy (it was always Mrs. or Miss in those days, no Ms. to choose from). She was an African American women, strong in opinion but gentle in approach. There was no doubt that I liked her, but what made her memorable was the fact she was going to have a baby and actually talked about it. I think we all learned more about “sex ed” though her conversations on the subject than anything we received officially for years to come, whether in school or at home. It made us more aware of what was real vs. rumor as well,  helping down the road when the subject was of much more considerable interest.

Then there was Mr. Cook in the 9th grade, our Spanish teacher who refused to speak English to us from day one. I suppose he thought that was a good approach, “immersion” as it might be called now, but without any English explanation, I was lost from the beginning, and Spanish was my first language too – not from heritage but logistics as my dad was in the Army and we had been stationed in Columbia. An honor student, I actually flunked the class which was shocking to everyone but me, I felt relief the year of torture was over, until I discovered upon entering the 10th grade, that “Senior Cook” and I were paired once again.

There was Mr. Mason, a high school history teacher who made me realize the importance of learning from the past so as not to repeat the future. There were others who taught me lessons I only vaguely remember now but who’s impact I feel all of the time as they have become part of who I am. And there was that nameless substitute health teacher (coach of the football team), whose one-liner, “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are” has stuck with me always.

So here’s to you, the teachers of America, underpaid, overworked and unfortunately leaving the profession in droves as a result. You tend to be wonderful, compassionate people who really do care about our children. As we honor you today, may the halls of our leadership do something about recognizing your value to the future of this country and address your needs.

And if you are not a teacher but would like to show support, there is DonorsChoose.org, a wonderful organization that allows you to contribute in a meaningful way to the school of your choice. Of course, there is AAUW too, contribute so that a graduate study student can continue their higher education in today’s tough economy.

I remember the first Mother’s Day after my mom had passed away, I felt a bit lost and saddened when I realized I didn’t need to go looking for the usual Mother’s Day card. I didn’t have to go get groceries for the meal she chose, or get the present I thought she wanted. There was no Internet at the time, no last minute Amazon to overnight something, no 1-800 number to order Flowers. Either you planned ahead and mailed early or made sure you were going to be with her – otherwise, it was the dog house for sure.

I remember it was the gift giving that was especially hard. My dad – Old Spice, every year rain or shine. My mom, oh no, nothing that simple. In fact she made it harder by saying she wanted something from you that wasn’t “material”, but rather a promise that you would or wouldn’t do “x” this year. The X Factor I called it long before the term became popular for other reasons, always seemed to have some little guilt to it, which made it seemingly unbearable even in its “goodness.” I did find a web site  article on the art of giving memories, which I wish I had known when mom was still here. She would have loved it and I would have breathed a sigh of relief as it mixes love and memory without guilt.

There are other mothers I would honor, some in person, some in memory. You didn’t have to be my actual mom to act like the wise elder I thought mothers should be.  Political mothers are present more than ever, I make sure to read “PunditMom” often for example.  In browsing, I found Australians are focusing on government child care initiatives as we are here in the States, urging folks to  support paid sick days to keep families healthy by making sure to tell their Congresspeople to pass pending legislation. Global sentiment is also growing as I found the opportunities to buy a gift for mother available in many languages – commercialism vs. sentiment I fear.

Sentimental, political, or obligatory, Mother’s Day is coming — are you ready?!

I’m taking a break from headlines, horror stories, and other fears that are seemingly being blown out of proportion. I happened to receive an email this morning from a friend of mine, Anita Singh Soin. She and her husband have just posted a new website for their company, Ibex Expeditions,  highlighting the eco tours they provide in some of the most majestic places in the world.

Rated “amongst the best adventure travel companies on earth,”  by National Geographic Adventure, I just have to talk about them here. They are one of the most environmentally committed couples I’ve met (and working for a tourism association for fifteen years, I met many!). They truly care about this planet of ours and having heard how eco-conscious they are from people who went on their tours, I have to applaud their efforts.

Have I ever been on one of their tours you ask? No — time, distance and being out-of-shape my excuses. I have been to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and other parts of that world though and know the beauty, not only of the scenary, but of the people (check out my Travel, Travel, Travel blog).  I consider myself very lucky and expect to go back someday, maybe even start working out to get into better shape to take one of those treks…

Meanwhile, I’m not going to let fear be my decision maker, either for where I travel, or whom I meet. I’m a firm believer in taking precautions and  being pro-active to learn what I need to do/watch out for, but not in just refusing to try something, go somewhere, or shake someones hand because of headlines in the news.

Speaking of headlines, I can’t resist, here’s one that’s worth a read! Wage Gap Study arrives in time for Equal Pay Day.

“A state-by-state analysis of male and female earnings provides fresh fodder for today’s Equal Pay Day. Among women with college degrees the widest wage gap was in Nevada. The widest wage gap overall was in Wyoming.”

After you check out your state and realize how much less money a woman makes than a man, go check out the IbexExpeditions web site, there’s nothing like dreaming of how you would have spent that money you would have earned.  Besides, ecotourism is still a great thing and something we all should focus on a bit more when we can. Enjoy.

Blog for Fair Pay

Blog for Fair Pay

I’ve decided that every sibling remembers how their parents raised them as though they came from a different set of parents, so matter that their ages may be only a year or two apart. I’ve three, two sisters and a brother, and I tell you listening to our stories, you would have thought we were raised on different planets, let alone by the same two people.

Even on the issue of equality, the differences are striking. My brother, being the boy and the eldest, got a set of “you must do’s” on the grand scale, go to private schools, etc., etc., however seemed to be left alone on the day-to-day to do whatever he wanted, simply because, “oh you know, he’s the son”.  My two sisters also received a road map for their lives, much centered around the right social circles and both eventually rebelled in their different ways.

As the youngest and as a girl, I didn’t get spoiled but I did get left alone, which in my mind was just as good. I was the observer, watching the trials and tribulations of my siblings, thankful that I escaped a lot of their “must dos”, but dreaming of equality  none-the-less. Equality?? You bet, except I didn’t call it that. I called it freedom to do, for example, what my brother got to do simply because he was the son (working for above 25 cents an hour babysitting vs. $5 for his lawn mowing).

To be honest, I didn’t think again about equality in that sense until a lot later when I decided my years of reading mystery novels should help me when applying to the FBI. I wrote away for an application (no Internet in those days) and upon receipt was stunned to learn that I would not be an acceptable candidate  because I was under 5’7″! I was devastated, thinking my mind and its capabilities ought to stand for something, but no go.  In today’s language they would have called me “height challenged” I would imagine, I won’t repeat what I called it.

As I entered into the workforce, I realized time and again my male colleagues, some less able than I, often made two or three times the salary than I simply because they were men. That this form of discrimination still occurs in 2009 is what’s shocking today. I was telling a table of men and women at a conference recently of the fact that on average, women make only 78 cents to the dollar a man does, even less when you combine race with gender. A man replied, “well you all got the vote didn’t you.”  Yikes! I think he was looking for a laugh, but no one else, man or woman, even smiled.

Who knew that equality would still be an issue in the new millennium? Why is it just a dream? Although I guess one could call it a nightmare given the fact it is still prevalent not just in the United States, but throughout most of the world. What can we do? We can take action, we can spread the word, we can stop the need for Equal Pay Day. Will you?  And if you tweet, please raise your voices with us and include #fairpay and #aauw. Thanks!

Swine Flu Vs. ?

Ever increasing media coverage on the possible swine flu epidemic has caused most conversations at work today to start with, “have you heard…?”. As a quick reference, I found this  HealthandSurvival.com blog that lists symptoms and precautionary measures. I do have to wonder if the medical profession is ready this time around.

Now I’m like the next person, I’ll likely quickly turn my head at someone coughing, wash my hands and wash my hands, etc., but I also want to keep it in perspective. More people are killed by drunk drivers, by suicide, by other less spoken about illnesses than because of the swine flu. Just because it has reared it’s ugly head in Mexico, will we see discrimination against all things Mexican rise? Yes, I want everyone to be cautious and be proactive with their health, but no, I don’t want to see fear set in and reactions blown out of proportion.

Hopefully there will be  a rise of people going to the doctor’s early if they have any symptoms that match what is listed for the Swine Flu. According to a report I saw this morning, not going to the doctor or hospital early enough led to the deaths of some of the individuals.  That is a lesson we all can learn from, even as we send sympathy to the families.

Now if we could only get as much media coverage too about other issues that need attention and resources as well.  Let’s not make it swine flu vs. cancer or alcoholism, or other illnesses that don’t have such media impact. Keep it real, not hype.

A recent article as disseminated by @welovecrowds this morning on twitter, reports on a finding by LexisNexis that there is a distinct gap between the Boomers (44 – 60) and Generation X (29-43) and Gen Y (28 and younger). I liked this article because while it reports on the findings, it also questions the analysis done. Who did they interview, a bunch of stuffy “lawyers” (love that!)? How did they come up with the finding that Gen Y spends 22.9 hours a day on social media? Guess they forgot what that age group would rather be spending 22.9 hours doing.

Per their age definition, I fit in the Boomer category. Per their findings, I fit in the Gen X with leanings toward Gen Y. I’m an inveterate multi-tasker, on my desktop at any given moment you can find Word, Excel, my organization’s web site, Yahoo, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, CNN, Google as I explore new sites and yet even Internet Explorer. In the evenings or weekends, you will also find me, if I’m at my computer at all, in at least three or four of those sites, plus others and now in Second Life too, where speaking of reports, the fastest growing demographic is 50 + (as with FaceBook).

Yes, I think there is a gap between the ages (isn’t there always), in the tech area. But I don’t think it’s as great as the study portrays. Much of the gap stems from how experienced a user is with different platforms and the obvious is the younger you are, especially since schools use so much technology these days, the more time and varied experience you have with these things. And it’s not just the laptop of course, it’s the smartphone (where I not only talk or web surf, but have at any given time at least a half a dozen books to read in case I’m stuck anywhere), it’s the MP3 device, it’s even the vacuum that moves itself (I’ve yet to get one of those, sigh).

I may be older, but my sense of exploration, whether new worlds in real life or via technology, is as keen as my niece’s who at 25 believes life without IMing would be like a pub without beer. The difference? I believe in active conversation with full attention, she believes in active conversation with one eye and two fingers on her phone. I’m getting used to it as I recognize it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t listen any less to me — well, any less than someone 25 ever listens to someone older. It’s just a different “listen” and that’s ok by me. In fact, I know that I’ve been the one she’s been exchanging e-chat with while at dinner with others, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Exploring this old/new world of social media, I’m finding numerous points of view around the pros and cons of a newish tool like twitter. Maureen Dowd of the NYTimes wrote of an interview she had with the inventors of Twitter, one of them Biz Stone.  I found myself chuckling at her attempt to belittle this new medium and loving Biz’s answers, the last in particular when she asks,

ME: I would rather be tied up to stakes in the Kalahari Desert, have honey poured over me and red ants eat out my eyes than open a Twitter account. Is there anything you can say to change my mind?

BIZ: Well, when you do find yourself in that position, you’re gonna want Twitter. You might want to type out the message “Help.”

I learned of a new Twitter application (apparently there are thousands), Tweetmeme which shows you at any given time, which are the most popular tweets. Low and behold there was a tweet with a link to a response to Dowds NYTime article, from Bldg/Blog, an architectural based blogger who wrote, “In defense of how the other half writes, in defense of twitter.” So within a matter of hours of Dowd’s article, there was a full blown response from an unexpected audience (architects), that is making it’s way around the world via Tweetmeme.  Hmmm.. makes you get a sense of the power behind the tweet.

A tweeter (@real1) listed interesting links to news tweets that give news before it makes the headlines, including @cnnbrk, and @breakingnews. I like @fastcompany, @anncurry, @nytimeskristoff, and @greenbizdaily. As to other types of tweets, yes, I’m now following @oprah like millions of other people and also enjoy @aauw and @punditmom for information impacting women and girls; @cynthiadamour and @pinnovation for association leaders; @pattyhankins for great photography info; and @mashable for social media info. And these are just from being on twitter for a very short time.  There are thousands of twitterers  now and more to come, keeping up with them all is the real question.

Even in the short time I’ve been tweeting (@christytj) or following news or personal tweets, I find access to information I’m interested in but didn’t have to search for has multiplied exponentially. And that’s a good thing.

About this time every year, we hear stories of mankind destroying pieces of  the planet most of us live on. Very few species destroy their nests, why does it take what some consider the most intelligent of them all to negatively impact the living areas of every other living being? The latest news, how tons of released drugs taint U.S. waters, shows us how out-of-control we continue to be, no matter how many Earth Days we have, decade after decade after decade.

The good news? Earth Day actually does some good. It brings attention to the seriousness of the situation, on corporate, governmental, nonprofit and individual levels. It forces action, through legislation, guilt and positive guidance. And we are tuning in to the need for education, information and “things we can do” by the millions.

Recently I received notice from the virtual world,  Second Life  (SL). Launching today is EcoCommons, a virtual location “designed for environmental organizations in the 3D world of SL. Developed by TechSoup’s Nonprofit Commons team in partnership with OneWord.net and OneClimate island In SL, EcoCommons provides a network for environmentally focused nonprofits to promote awareness, community-building and environmental education efforts in the virtual world and beyond.”

Huh? An environmentally concious element in the virtual world? Isn’t that where young kids go to play games, chat or do whatever they do in there? Not really. If you haven’t read the news about SL recently, you won’t know that the fastest growing population in SL are 50+ with six figure salaries. The Nonprofit Commons group itself meets weekly and holds event after event to educate us on every type of cause you can imagine – all for the good.

To recognize the importance of the thousands of individuals SL reaches, the launch of the EcoCommons today features a keynote speech by Jacqueline Chenault, New Media Specialist, U.S. House Select Committe on Energy Independence and Global Warmingand will be broadcast live from SL. The event starts at 11am PST, and activities will continue throughout the day and week as part of Earth Week Second Life.

Real Life, Second Life, my life – where ever we live, we all need to take responsibility for our home, and in this case, not just our house but the planet we live on. Let’s make it last for beyond a week or two, beyond the “fad” of today and incorporate it into our lives and our expectations. We should hold businesses accountable, something totally out of whack as we’ve seen only too recently. We should let our voices be heard on the highest levels. And we should practice safe . . . environment every day 🙂

Social Media and Me

Having just come back from a fascinating Digita Now Conference, I’m all hyped up about using the Internet and its tools to communicate with family, friends, colleagues, members of my Association (AAUW), and even strangers – folks whom I don’t know but whom might enjoy reading something I’ve written.

Renewed energy finds me sitting down, getting comfy, fingers at the ready and then a giant pause as I realize if I do indeed use all those new communicating tools, I’ll be at my desk for hours before tackling my as they say in Second Life, my Real Life work.

Hmmm… Posting blogs, commenting on others blogs, twittering (at least 10-12 times a day to keep/get a following), Ninging (is there such a word?!), Evernoting (brand new), PageFlakes (new to me), setting up shop as part of the nonprofit community in SecondLife, Facebook, and of course what takes most of our online lives, email. How do you manage all of these?? As a writer, as a reader, as a professional?

By the time you realize that you have just started learning about social media, and the Digital Now conference taught me that with it’s #dn09 twitter code which found me turning into a twitterfiend, you realize that you need to figure out a way to manage all of these. And that’s just you the individual. Combine it with you the professional, you realize you need to know how to get the most out of these to help promote your mission, your product, your information.

Real life you ask? The family and friend stuff, , the chores, the phone calls and emails – the office, with its own phone calls, emails, and meetings that never end no matter how much you communicate via online tools. And sleep, we’re supposed to have at least seven hours of that somewhere in any given day.

One thing no one has yet figured out? How to make 48 hours a day worth of “to do’s” fit into 24 hours and still leave you sane. Please – any hints, let me know!

Free Roxana Saberi

An American journalist was sentenced to 8 years in jail for espionage in Iran.  Top story today in CNN . White House issues a “cautious” statement.

If you twitter (or if you just want to learn more) , go to http://twitter.com/FreeRoxana and show your support to Free Roxana. I learned from NYTimes Nicholas Kristof and Ann Curry of NBC.  NPR has an interview with her father.

Let’s use this viral social networking ability of ours and spread the word, let’s build a groundswell and get our voices heard on her behalf!

What a place to have a conference, Disney World, Fla. And what a conference, Digital Now, where fascinating information flows from sessions devoted to social media, improving communication and leading edge tools via the Internet.  It’s the end of the first day, and I’ve listed some of the neat tools mentioned by various speakers. I’ll let you explore what they can do for you and/or your organization:

I’ve been twittering (@christytj), and will be doing more tomorrow, if you are interested in other tidbits of info from the Conference. Fascinating stuff. But, too bad, can’t share with you the wonderful Disney service, you’ll have to come down here yourself!

greenbizdaily

I’ve been on the conservation bandwagon since I was in high school and was appointed as the the young rep for the “Mayor’s Conservation Committee”. Not ancient, but long enough ago that I can’t even remember the mayor’s name…oops. Meanwhile, just learned that the “greenbizdaily” twitter folks signed up to follow my little ol’ twitter log, and since I’ve just started tweeting, I have to wonder how they found me.

Suppose it’s like anything on the web these, the mention of any topic in your profile, in a blog post, etc., can be searched, found and in this case followed. Fortunately, I am glad they found me and now I them (yes, I’m now following greenbizdaily too). Looking at their tweets, I encourage you, if at all interested in things “green” to look them over and sign-up. Just in the few minutes of browsing, I found several good suggestions of things to do around the home to save energy, for example.

New to twittering? I did do an earlier blog post, Twitter, Tweet, Twit, that provides some good links to explanations and “how to’s”. I wonder, just as I get into tweeting, what media vehicle is coming up fast behind me, catching me unawares as folks switch from tweeting to ???

Susan Boyle?!

Who? Until this morning I had never heard of Susan Boyle and normally wouldn’t have paused on her story. But I happened to catch a YouTube performance of this 47 year old, “never been kissed” woman from a little village in England and it definitely made me not only pause, but smile and laugh and then left me with a heartwarming grin.  Of all things, she was a contestant on the UK version of “…Got Talent”.

Well worth the watch, turn the sound up when she gets going.

UPDATE: Since I linked to this YouTube video this morning, they have since removed all links, don’t know who “requested” it….can guess and hope Susan gets a bit of the profits. But you can still see, through this link Susan via YouTube  not the video below – go watch, listen!

Good luck to you Susan, may your 15 minutes of fame turn into something you want.

Monday, Monday

Remember that song by the Mamas and the Papas? Of course I had to go look it up, a 1966 number that topped the charts. A little more digging and I found this 5 star rated link to a YouTube of a performance, definitely good to see if you haven’t in a long while:

Of course my memory of the lyrics weren’t quite the same as what was originally written…! I was too young at the time to even know what they were talking about and have added my own lyrics to the meaning on Monday, Monday… morning….

As I watched Maria’s story on the Today Show this morning, I couldn’t help but remember other stories where bystanders did just that, stand by and watch someone get hurt without helping. In Maria’s case the “bystanders” were professionals, transit workers who did call whomever for help, but who did nothing else as she was grabbed and forced back down the NY subway steps to be raped on the platform.

Maria took the case to court and this week lost in trial. Yes, the transit workers did what was in the “manual”, but no, I have to agree with Maria, they didn’t do all they could have to help, at least from the description presented via her story. She wasn’t looking for the attendant in the booth to actually leave and help, but if they could have at least used the loud speaker  to let the guy known he was spotted and help was on the way!

It was heartbreaking to listen to her story. At one point she had made it to the top of the steps, saw the attendent and thought help and the end of her terror was in sight. Unless we’ve experienced this ourselves, how can we even imagine how it felt to have hope leave as quickly as it came, as you are once again dragged down and assaulted?

There was another show on recently (can’t remember which one) that did an experiment, showing an Hispanic man being “beaten” and as the camera’s rolled we watched who did or didn’t help. Most didn’t help, but a few did (including a petite woman!), so maybe there is a ray of hope in all that “can’t believe they didn’t help” reaction.

I wish I could expect that the NY Transit Authority takes another look at their procedures, even though they won this case. And not only NY, but any and all public entities throughout the country. We can at least attempt to improve that, everyone’s personal conscious as to what they would do is up to them. Thanks Maria, for sharing your story, it took guts and did indeed make an impact.

The Sound of Music was one of the first movies I remember seeing as a kid, in a real movie theater, not on TV (The Wizard of Oz getting that credit). I remember reading years later that Julie Andrews liked to take a nip or two to keep her warm and laughed at the image that portrayed versus what she showed on screen.

I realized of course, any information told about a celebrity usually couldn’t be believed and that most actually were “Urban Legends“, stories told often enough that people came to believe them. Well, I’ve received the following story via email recently by numerous folks and couldn’t resist putting it up.  While it has the appearance of being true, I have a sense that it is indeed another Urban Legend and did some checking. Yep and apparently it has been circulated via the internet off and on for quite some time — still fun to read even if it didn’t occur:

 

To commemorate her birthday , actress/vocalist, Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan ‘s Radio City Music Hallfor the benefit of the AARP. One of the musical numbers she performed was ‘My Favorite Things’ from the legendary movie ‘Sound Of Music’. Here are the lyrics she used: (Sing It!)


Botox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Cadillacs and cataracts, hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
When the pipes leak,
When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,

I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.
Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Back pain, confused brains and no need for sinnin’,
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin’,
And we won’t mention our short shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.
When the joints ache, When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I’ve had,
And then I don’t feel so bad.

I grew up with mom spending lots of time in the various gardens she created in whatever house we were living in at the time, Army family that we were. I remember lovely smells, bright colors and her pride. I also remember weeding in the hot sun and pushing an un-motorized contraption called a lawn mower, mainly because my dad and sister had allergies and my other, older siblings were never home.

Many years have passed since those days and living in apartments or city houses, I had the luxury of either watching others do the work or didn’t have the need except to trim the occasional hedge. Now that I’m a home owner watching my third summer looming, I suspect that “gardening” is not really a term for “being one with nature”, but rather a description nurtured by companies who cultivated suburbia long ago, ensuring homeowners give up the good fight and contract with a weekly service.

I had this lightbulb “conspiracy theory” moment as I waited in an incredibly long HomeDepot line this weekend, cart filled with a small amount  (if the loads being pushed by others were any indication) of top soil, weed and feed and  two types of seeds (shade and direct sun). Getting home, I needed to recover from the shopping, so it was late morning by the time I got to the yard.

My plan? To churn up the three feet of soil around my dogwood tree in the front yard as it usually becomes mostly dirt patches with a few green weeds as the season progresses. I tried organic last year, leaving nature to do it’s work… and the only thing that I saw happen was a takeover by the few weeds, not in the dirt patches but throughout the rest of the yard. Churn I did, the goal – once around to break up the soil, once around again to mix in new top soil, seeds, another thin layer of top soil, water and be back inside to be ready for my House Manager role at the one o’clock performance of the SkyDancer Sunday matinee performance.

Well, half way round the first circle of the tree, the rake broke, the prong part just coming right off. I looked at it, at the handle in my hand, sighed, but popped it back on and went back to work. Three passes later, the rake popped off again. So every fourth action, I had to stop, put the rake back on and continue at an odd angle for maximun usage before pop-off again. At one point, I event tried one of those three-prong things you use in your hand – however even broken, the rake worked better.

Sweat pouring down, 3/4’s done, a friend came by, took pity and helped me finish. Of course, I had also miscalculated the amount of top soil needed (no wonder those folks used pallets back at HD) and “spread thinly” became about as sparse as those chocolate chips found in today’s cookies. I finally ran inside, covered in dirt, with only minutes to spare to help set folks up for the show (more on that later).

Later that afternoon, I returned to the task master called lawn, struggled with the bag of weed and seed and poured an undetermined amount into the green thing that spreads it around as you wheel it about. Of course there is some algebraic formula you are supposed to use to calculate how much gets spread at a time. I tried, but of course the bag I got didn’t match the name-brand of the spreader so, no hope. I simply guessed, started pushing and off I went. We won’t talk ab0ut that one corner I took too fast and dumped a whole pile of the stuff…

All of this effort to grow some decent grass. I don’t even need it even like the commercials, I just want it green and somewhat plentiful. Barely able to move my arms or back today, I look anxiously at the sky and hope for that rain they promised us. Another task now added. Flowers you ask? To be continued….

A story making the headlines (“From jobless to topless” ) the other day focused on women who were turning to stripping as a profession, making as much as a six figure salary. The example in the story I heard indicated the woman had her MBA and just couldn’t find a job that paid her on that same scale in the “real world”.

We got to talking about it at work and we actually talked about the short shelf life of a stripper. What if they were treated like a pro in the sports world who also tend to have short shelf lives? What about contract negotiations, health care, investment planning, retirement coverage, etc. As I read more about it, I ran across a very interesting blog post by Christinathestripper, entitled, “Rich Stripper, Poor Stripper“.  She talks about stripping from a job perspective and details the four major “types” of strippers – and no, she doesn’t focus on methodology, but rather from the financial goals of the women. The range goes from the Investment Stripper who pays taxes and makes investments toward fiscal responsibility and security, to the Subsistence Stripper who tends to blow any salary on immediate gratification.

After our conversation, a friend sent the following link to a blog post talking about the possible benefits of making pole dancing an official Olympic sport.  The blogger, Samhita, brings up a good point, “I guess my question would be, would making pole-dancing an Olympic sport bring to light some of the horrible treatment of exotic dancers and give them a standard wage with some worker rights?”

Of course the difference between stripping and pole dancing and other professions or sports is the seamy side, the abuse by “customers”, the abuse by the participants themselves. There are also ethical questions by some, legal issues by others.  I tend to think that as it has for centuries, so too will these professions continue forward, so let’s think about protection. Just as regular professions and sports are regulated to protect the employee or player, so too should we look at doing the same for the stripper or pole dancer, or at least strengthening any regs that may be in place.

As to the question, “doesn’t this always lead to prostitution?”, I think Christinathestripper gave an interesting perspective when she described the financial choices that can be made among the different areas of her profession:

“Of course, in any club there is always the possibility for exchanging contact info and meeting a customer outside the club. You’re right that a Subsistence Stripper is most likely to end up performing “extras” as we call activities that are outside club norms, often when she comes in needing to make a certain amount of money and isn’t making it doing normal, “clean” dances. Investment Strippers never face this problem because we always have money put away. However, the biggest reason you won’t find Investment Strippers offering outcall or extras is because if they’re open to prostitution they’ll leave stripping and escort. Classy, clean escorts have significantly higher earning potential than strippers for a lot less work. The amounts I’ve been offered for sex by club customers is ridiculously low – never more than a good day’s take. If I wanted to prostitute I would go to a legal Nevada brothel and make more than I do stripping in a safe environment. But I don’t choose to do it for more money legally, so I’m certainly not going to do it for less money illegally.”

For those who can make it a business, who are strong enough to take care of themselves, more power to you.   But no matter the financial gain of some, we need to focus on the victims here, the individuals whose backgrounds led to such low self-esteem that they consider their life  in these circles as “survival” not “investment”.  Just as bailout money is being given those who took advantage of others, let’s put more resources toward helping those in need now, to those who young lives may lead them down this path in the future if they don’t receive intervention. I think that type of “bailout” may be one of the best investments yet.

–that is the question:

 

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The trials and tribulations of outrageous recipes

Or to take spatulas against this sea of confusion

And by opposing never use them. To chop, to dice–

No more–and by an abstinence to say we end

The scorching, and the thousand natural “oh no’s!”

That cooking is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To steam, to microwave–

To eat out–perchance at 4 star restaurants: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that splurge of money what food may come

When we have refused the use of the stove,

Must give us pause.

 

With apologies to Shakespeare, I couldn’t resist the above when I happened across Kalyn Denny’s blog post, “Where Do You Look When You Are Searching for Recipes Online?” Her information looked very useful, thus my linking to it here, but as a non-cook it led my mind to the even bigger dilemma- “To Cook or Not to Cook”! 

 

 Fortunately there are more and more very speedy and actually healthy items in the grocery stores these days for us minimalists. Steaming veggies, which for most is not hard anyway but for us non-cooks can bring a terror of its own, is now the easiest ever. Many varieties, including my favorite, Edmame, now come in easy, pop in the microwave bags.

 

Combine that with a already hot, roasted chicken, Uncle Ben’s 90 second brown and wild rice, and presto – a meal good enough to serve anyone. Of course adding seasonings and spices to taste – and “to taste” means asking someone what would be good to use here, only enhances the meal.

 

 With having to watch pennies more than ever, maybe even I will use the kitchen more than in the past. But don’t count me out of those restaurants, although maybe not the luxury of a 4 star any time soon.

 

 

Tragedy in Montana

I couldn’t help but feel for Louis Pullen who lost nine members of his family in the recent Butte Montana plane crash, from a total of 14 who died. Watching the Today Show this morning and learning of the family’s loss made me realize I couldn’t even imagine the extent of the pain they must be feeling.

During the story this morning, they spoke of the close knit bond between the families who were on their way to take a vacation. Most of us can relate to having a group of friends, whether as family from childhood, or friends from school or work. To be together, to have fun together is the way it is supposed to be, not to die in a horrible tragedy as this.

I know the authorities are looking for “causes” right now and I hope others will learn from the mistakes made here. But for right now, I’d like to pay tribute to those families and wish the best for those who are bearing the pain of loss. 

In tribute:

Erin and Amy Jacobson of St. Helena, Calif., and their children Taylor, 4; Ava, 3; Jude, 1, 

Michael and Vanessa Pullen of Lodi, Calif. and their children Sydney, 9, and Christopher, 7.

Brent and Kristen Ching, of Durham, Calif., and their children, Heyley, 5 and Caleb, 4.

I know we hear of continual street violence taking life after life; large accidents taking the lives of many; or even acts of war which ultimately take thousands. Evening after evening of such news, you almost become deaf to tragedy unless it’s your own. This time the idea of so much loss in one family made this story stand out, but doesn’t negate the others who don’t get such press time. I feel it important to also give tribute to those families impacted by such tragedy but who never make the news, are never interviewed, written about or even recognized.  While the words are inadequate, the feeling is there – I’m so sorry for your loss.

The temperature in and around Washington this morning is a crisp 35 degrees, colder than usual for this time of year. We had a late snow not too long ago and clouds have hidden the sun for most of the days recently.

And yet, and yet! Spring has managed to find it’s way to our shores and I could feel the smile on my face even as I could see my breath.  On the way to work, I exchanged an unexpected smile with another driver as we waited for the light to change and both of us were looking at a few early tulips in bloom. Exchange a smile with another commuter on a Monday morning? A miracle indeed.

Here’s  what made us smile – as taken with a cell phone, leaning out of my car window:

Spring Tulips

Spring Tulips

Obama with Jay Leno

Well did you see it? If you didn’t the Huffington Post has the full transcript and the video– even before any was posted on YouTube!

I thought the President did ok, although his comment about his poor bowling skills being on par with the Special Olympics is bringing a bit of flack on the news shows this morning. He talked about the hot news of his day, which in this case happens to impact all of us.

People have commented upon his even appearing on The Tonight Show. I think more folks watch the show – or will watch the repeat via the Internet – then read the papers, watch C-Span, or listen to any radio addresses. What better way to reach those folks than this, especially addressing concerns such as AIG bonuses that are fanning the flames of our indignation.

You have to wonder if he realizes that what goes around for him, comes around for all of us. I know  he is a smart man, but for anyone, is just a few months of being responsible for an entire country, with major spill-over throughout the world…well, has it really sunk in?

I did love his comment that being in the Beltway is like facing all Simon Cowel’s of American Idol. But then Simon, arrogant though he is, usually tells it like it is for his public world, and I rarely get the impression that most of the Beltway folks rarely tell it like it really is, albeit doing so arrogantly.

As the day progresses, we’ll hear more and more about Obama’s performance. Wonder if he’ll be asked back 😉

And the flu wins!

What’s a “common cold” any way? Is it the sneezing, the coughing, the dry throat, the sore throat, the ears plugged, the higher temperature, the lack of energy, or simply put – all of the above?

Ask a doctor and for lots of money later and a negative throat culture, they will tell you to drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest, wash your hands lots and stay low on the stress level. Hmmm, you have to wonder if they realize what they are actually saying.

“Lots of fluids”: ask anyone and they’ll tell you it means clear liquids. Vodka? Gin? They certainly would help you get plenty of rest.  Water? Have you checked the lead levels lately. Chicken soup? What about those hormone levels?

“Plenty of rest”: of a parent, don’t think so; of someone who is employed, don’t think so; unemployed, forget it. Retired? Maybe, unless you read the latest studies showing people have to work a lot longer than 62 or 65 to be able to afford retirement these days.

“Wash your hands”: only if you remember to sing two full rounds of “Happy Birthday” to yourself while soaping, otherwise it does nothing.

And “stay low on the stress level”: maybe it’s time to revisit that “drink clear liquids” and choose the 1st or second listed, since everything else, combined with watching or reading the news, will rise your stress levels considerably.

What’s common about the “common cold”? Just that everyone gets it at some point or the other and good luck when you do – since if you are like me, it’ll take you out for the count for at least a week!

Watching the news, I have noticed commentators using the word “Depression” in their descriptions of the current economic crises far more frequently than even a few months ago. Most of us have only heard that word as it relates to state of mind when met with seemingly unbearable obstacles:  loss of family member or friend, health issues, relationship problems, or whatever may make you frown instead of smile.

On second thought, many issues today are depression makers, whether economically or emotionally. Loss of job, of home, of ability to put food on the table – those certainly lead to depression or “Depression”.  Since there seems to be a variety of pills ready to cure a person’s depression, it does makes you wonder if people think of having a “quick fix” for the Depression, a few bailouts and everything will be rosy? I have a feeling the term “bitter pill” is more likely to be the case here given the greed, lack of oversight, and prevalence amongst governments, industries, banks,and people.

I recently read Gena Haskett’s blog post, Comparing Facts About 1929 Great Depression and 2009 Part 1, interesting enough to have me checking her blog for Part 2. Another perspective is highlighted in the blog post, Explaining these Chaotic times to a thirteen year old, an earlier reflective piece that helps remind us to make sure all around us are aware of the facts, not just the rumors or headlines.

My grandparents lived through the Great Depression, one set on a farm where they had food and kept working throughout, the other in the military. They talked about the era their entire lives, thinking they were the lucky ones, but always cautious  about what may be just around the corner.

I think there’s been many years now of high consumership, easy access, expectations that make the fall in our economuy harder to realize or deal with, even if it not as severe as in the 1930’s. Friends in their twenty’s are realizing they are not being courted for jobs as they had been led to expect. Older friends on the verge of buying a home are glad they can buy at lower costs than a lot of us who bought just a few years ago, but are shocked to find they can’t get mortgage approval. And many others who have lost their jobs or are afraid of losing their job, for whom the term depression now resonnates closer to home then “Depression”.

With the rest of the world, I’ll be glad to be looking back at these times, when balance has been restored and hopefully improved, when we can once again look forward without fear.

When I got up to go to work this morning, here in the Washington D.C. metro area, the temperature was a cold 17 degrees, but was -5 if you took wind chill into account. My mind on the weather, I thought to write a post on global warming, not only to remind us to be careful, but to be totally honest, I felt the need to focus on spring !

When I checked into WordPress to write, I took a quick look at sites that are receiving high “hits”, as in number of visitors checking them out. One of the most consistantly popular is Anthony Watts, Watts up with that?, where he provides “commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology and recent news.” 

Now, I have followed Al Gore with the  whole global warming trend movement, have practiced energy conservation from a pedestrian level (aware but not as vigilant as I should be) and have tried to be conscious about taking personal action whenever I can. So here I’m reading Watts and immediately discover a post by guest author, Stephen Goddard that points to an actual cooling trend!

A key statement in the post, “It appears that global cooling recognition may be starting to make headway in the scientific community. ” If you scroll down you will see a variety of posts, some more in “science speak” than others, but all of interest and with such a different image of the weather than portrayed in the regular news.

Hmmm. What to believe? As a” non-scientific, trying to practice good conservation” environmentalist, it seems to me that there is truth in both viewpoints, and that there is a lot of scientific “proof” that may not be yet understood. Is mankind impacting the environment with poor practices of high carbon emissions, chemicals in the ground and water, waste of natural resources? You bet and we as a community of global peoples need to step up doing something about it.

Do we see everything melting in fewer years than previous history? Maybe not, according to the posts on Watts. Maybe that can give us hope that we haven’t destroyed everything as much as we think it has – but hopefully not lull us into a sense of “well, we can fix it tomorrow”.

Snow, snow, snow

I am a sucker for that old movie, White Christmas, and when I woke up this morning for the first true snow storm of this season, I couldn’t help smile and hum the Irving Berlin’s “Snow, snow, snow” tune (I would have put a link here, but all the onesI found had so much commercial junk attached, I’ll let you find a simple mp3 version if you want). 

Of course the fact that it’s March 2nd is also worth a smile, in like a lion out like a lamb, as the old saying goes. The temperature has just reached 21, with the windchill making it 6 degrees according to the weather-person. Although I have to chuckle, the local news shows are all talking about Obama and since he comes from Chicago, he must be wondering what all the D.C. bru-ha-ha is about a few inches of snow. And here the Federal Government is two hour delay opening, with “Unscheduled Leave”” policy in effect – and lots of business here follow their lead. Hope the President doesn’t drive today, he’ll really be in a shock when he sees how folks around here can’t…in the snow at least….

So for the moment I’m watching out my windows, the beauty wonderful since I haven’t had to venture out yet, with frequent white outs due to swirling powder. I live on one of those “never get plowed” side streets and am thankful I’m not a emergency responder, unlike my neighbor, a nurse, who seems to go out no matter what. Applause to that.

Winter wonderland, or view from my back porch today

Winter wonderland, or view from back porch 6:30am today

And yes, those are Christmas lights that are still up, the new led ones, though! I thought they might be fun to keep up for those spring, summer, fall evenings of sitting outside with friends, whether in person or when I sit and chat via phone or web. Meanwhile, a good four more inches later, it’s still snow, snow, snowing 🙂

Phoebe Snow Rising

Have you ever wondered “what-ever-happened” to someone you didn’t know, usually a famous person? I ran into that this morning as I sipped my Chai and watched CBS  Sunday Morning. They had a piece on Phoebe Snow and it dawned on me, she is definitely one of those singers I love and yet never really paid attention to the fact she basically disappeared from view.
 
The story has to do with the fact she is starting to sing in public again. What I didn’t know was that she had a severely brain damaged daughter, Valarie Rose,  who was supposed to live for a  year or so and died at 31 on March 19, 2007. Married for only a short time, Phoebe decided not to institutionalize her daughter but cared for her singlehandedly for all those years, doing the occasional song, commercial or background music for TV shows. They said that it “negatively” impacted her life.
 
She didn’t say that though. She dedicates all shows to her daughter and you could see her depth of feeling when telling her daughter’s story. Even Wikipedia used the term “negative”. I guess if you think of it as someone who didn’t promote the most, tour the most, make money the most, or even create the most, then yeah, I guess “negative” can be used. But if you think of how Phoebe feels about her life, her daughter, then I think “positive” has to be used. Sure it was difficult beyond imagining to the rest of us, sure she probably had lots of thoughts of “what if”, for heavens sake, I do in my world and it’s not fraught with fame or a disabled daughter. But there is no doubt, per the story I watched, that she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
 
Think I’ll get her latest CD, Phoebe Snow Live from a concert she gave last Oct. I’m glad she’s singing in public, her tone is beautiful and we’re the lucky ones to be able to hear it once again.

The Proposal

Several folks passed this along via email this week. Don’t know who the original writer was, nor how accurate the numbers may be. But certainly loved the premise!

“The Proposal”

When a company falls on difficult times, one of the things that seems to happen is they reduce their staff and workers.  The remaining workers need to find ways to continue to do a good job or risk that their job would be eliminated as well.  Wall street, and the media normally congratulate the CEO for asking this type of “tough decision”, and his board of directors gives him a big bonus.

Our government should not be immune from similar risks.  

Therefore: Reduce the House of Representatives from the current 435 members to 218 members and Senate members from 100 to 50 (one per State). Also reduce remaining staff by 25%.

Accomplish this over the next 8 years. (two steps / two elections) and  of course this would require some redistricting.

Some Yearly Monetary Gains Include:

$44,108,400  for elimination of base pay for congress. (267 members X  $165,200 pay / member / yr.)

$97,175,000 for elimination of the above people’s staff. (estimate

 

$1.3 Million in staff per each member of the House, and $3 Million in staff per each member of the Senate every year)

$240,294  for the reduction in remaining staff by 25%.

$7,500,000,000 reduction in pork barrel ear-marks each year (those members whose jobs are gone). Current estimates for total government  pork earmarks are at $15 Billion / yr.

The remaining representatives would need to work smarter and would  need to improve efficiencies. It might even be in their best interests to work together for the good of our country?

We may also expect that smaller committees might lead to a more efficient resolution of issues as well. It might even be easier to keep track of what your representative is doing.

Congress has more tools available to do their jobs than it had back in 1911 when the current number of representatives was established  (telephone, computers, cell phones just to name a few).

Summary of opportunity:

$44,108,400 reduction of congress members.

$282,100,000 for elimination of the reduced house member staff.

$150,000,000 for elimination of reduced senate member staff.

$59,675,000 for 25% reduction of staff for remaining house members.
  
$37,500,000 for 25% reduction of staff for remaining senate members.

$7,500,000,000 reduction in pork added to bills by the reduction of congress members.

$8,073,383,400 per year, estimated total savings (that’s 8-BILLION just to start!).

Big business does these types of cuts all the time.

If Congress persons were required to serve 20, 25 or 30 years (like everyone else) in order to collect retirement benefits, there is no telling how much we would save. Now they get full retirement after serving only ONE term. Now ask yourself, where could you find a job with those types of benefits? You CAN’T!

Dawn

I watched the sun rise this morning, a beautiful shimmer in the distance, growing ever brighter in the chilly air. Not one to get up that early usually, it was a rare treat to see dark transform to light by simply sitting, sipping tea and enjoying the peace of the moment.
 
Of course symbolism couldn’t escape thoughts as I reflected on the idea that dawn brings forth a new day, a chance to start “all over again”, of remembering the “I am going to” promises of previous days. My own do-overs came to mind, not new but not accomplished, things that impact state of mind, health, future goals. If only I could carry the contemplative charge of energy throughout the day rather than watch it dissipate as those “same old, same old” issues come into play, things that zap the will to do better. I realize they are excuses and ask why do I let them win?!
 
I know I’m not alone, many friends talk of this cycle, different issues but same impact – distractions letting the intended road detour. I wonder if that’s a human condition, somehow our genes causing a pause in change so that we don’t jump into uncharted and potentially unsafe waters too quickly. Or is it something that happened while we were children that put fear onto a path that actually is not so scary after-all. Is  it our subconscious putting down stumbling blocks because it’s not really what we want for the future, no matter what we think in the now?
 
I look out and see the sun has risen, the fog is lifting, my eyes are finally open. The mundane filters in — gulp breakfast, get dressed, take out the trash, wondering if there is enough gas in the car… wait – the peace of the dawn is spilling over, making me pause and smile and lift my head to capture the warmth before chaos has a chance to resume control.

Travel, Travel, Travel

I’ve been called a “Goddess”  while an entire town bowed to me, offering the gift of a shrunken head. I’ve eaten unknown “delicacies” from tops of monkey skulls, inside snake skins or wrapped in what was later termed, “dried dung”. I’ve traveled by plane, train, automobile, balloon, ship, ferry,  tugboat, canoe, rowboat, bicycle, unicycle – as well as camel, elephant, horse and donkey.

I’ve hiked mountains, forded streams, crossed channels, through cities and into many a pub at the end of a long day. I’ve biked up hills, through valleys, in rush hour, all with 60 pounds of equipment. I’ve even been at the back end of a dog sled, with wobbly knees, desperately trying to stay on.

I’ve refused to hang glide, gotten sick in a small plane, dived too far down for my own good and watched as a flight attendent duct-tapped the passenger door of a 747 shut before take-off. I’ve been stopped by Tamil soldiers, held at gunpoint (nothing taken), watched two tribes fighting it out with bow and arrow, and was robbed in one of the finest hotels in Asia.

I’ve traveled by myself, with family, friends, colleagues, and with many a stranger – sharing a close moment for a few minutes, hours or even days. I’ve had a nun promise to pray for me after I accidentally rescued her, a monk stop and whisper prayers on my behalf and a Baptist minister tell me I’m going to “hell”. 

I’ve read many a travel book, parused online travel guides, had a few travel articles published and even found a new one, “10 links a day” that wets my appetite for more. I’ll have to tell the men in my life about their latest post, “Man Spas” talking of new treats.

That’s only in real life – I’m now beginning to add on new adventures via the virtual world! And no, I don’t represent your typical world traveller type, my physique doesn’t match, my luggage isn’t name brand and my wallet is actually pretty small. So for those adventurers out there who may be hesitating — go for it!

I wrote earlier about women who buy large ticket items and instruct the sales person to put them in white bags so as not to overtly flaunt the money they spent. Now a recent Time magazine article, “How Consumers Shop Differently Today,” actually delves into the habits of real shoppers and describes the changing face of shopping today.

Basically, you have three types of shoppers: those with consumer needs vs. wants, who in essence have “slammed their wallets shut”; those who haven’t lost their job but know somebody who has so are cautious and slammed their wallets from “choice” rather than need; and the last third who still has plenty of money but are not spending to not show off in front of others or are one of those white bag shoppers. Either way, as the article states, “the era of ‘bling’ is over”.

I’m certainly not in the last group but find myself fluctuating between focusing more and more on needs vs wants and looking at all the sale items thinking “if I don’t get it now, I’ll never get it at that price”. Caution still wins and that HDtv that I’ve wanted for several years still finds itself on the store shelf instead of my living room wall.

This weekend I heard reports from “expert economists” indicating that most think 2009 will continue to be bad, but that 2010 will find us starting to get out of the current “slump”. Firstly, who are these expert economists and why didn’t they tell us to watch out from the beginning, when we started heading down the path that led us to the recession/depression. What do they define as “slump” anyway? I think those experts are all still employed for folks not working or who lost their homes or are on the edge of foreclosure would use a different descriptive.

My “ok” today could be my “loss of everything” tomorrow and I know many people feel the same way. Spare change is going into nest eggs vs “shopping” for nonessentials, no matter the sale. Discretion is one thing, reality is another and more of us are facing the latter vs. being worried about the former. It does appear that sales of lotto tickets are rising. I guess investing in possibilities is considered a reality, so I’ll give it a dollar.

In my earlier blog post about the fires in Australia, I posted pictures of the fire that were symbols of both the vastness of the fire with its resulting devastation and the kindness of man to animal (including that wonderful picture of the fireman giving water to a Koala).

Today I received an update, a slide show of photographs of Bruno’s Art and Sculpture Garden. In the small Victorian village of Marysville, Australia, Bruno Torfs created an enchanted world of wood carvings that a visitor could wonder through and experience while in the forest. Bruno and his family are safe, but apparently many of his woodcarvings were damaged or destroyed. Take the “tour” and see what was that can be again.

Again, if you are interested in helping to the victims of the fire in general, you can also contribute through:

Wildlife Victoria

Red Cross Emergency Services – Victorian Bushfires Appeal

 

Twitter, Tweet, Twit

Not the same meaning as in back in the day, well, except maybe “twit”, Twitter and Tweet refer to yet another social networking tool. From the Twitter site itself:

“Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages.  People write short updates, often called “tweets”  of 140 characters or fewer.  These messages are posted to your profile or your blog, sent to your followers, and are searchable on Twitter search.”

Hmmm… have you ever watched someone twittering, or even using text messaging while driving? I have, and believe me, I hesitate to drive with them again. I’ve watched cars cross traffic lanes, not stop, even come at me and saw them typing away with one or two fingers while occasionally glancing at the road.

Safety aside, do you think people, other than those or should I say some of those who love you, really want to hear what you are doing every minute? I’ve seen women in restrooms twittering as they told their waiting friend that they were, while, let’s just say, while they were using the facilities.

The most interesting twittering experience was during a recent conference, Fem2.0,  where we followed the twitter link, shown in real time on a big screen behind the speakers. We (the audience)  read the approvals, the questions or even the “get on with it” comments being sent throughout. As a speaker, that would really keep you in tune with your audience and if you were savvy enough, be able to respond immediately. That’s cool.

Twitter, Tweet, Twit. Wonder what the next new communication method to take over the world will be – or maybe already is?! I’ve seen a variety, but not heard any of front runner as of yet. Do you?

Had several interesting discussions about taking care of parents this weekend, from the perspective of boomers who are now the care givers. The “sandwich” generation, a lot of women – and men – are finding themselves raising their own families while worrying about their parents.

I know of those who are taking the full financial burden of  nursing home bills while their otherwise healthy parent suffers from Alzheimers, but who didn’t expect to be a “burden” and didn’t plan ahead. Or those whose parents, one or both, are now living with them and are finding their adulthood in jeopardy as mom tries to give instructions in the same manner she did when you were 15 – yikes!

And by happenstance, another friend and I compared stories of taking care of our mothers, both now gone, and the trials, tribulations and guilt we went through as little we did or said made any difference in the downward spiral these ladies put themselves through, in one fashion or another. It became apparent that our own mother’s parenting skills left much to be desired (although no one ever owned up to it at the time) and that their perceived role as “mother” made them not listen to what the “kids” suggested anyway.

And then I stumbled on this blog posting by Rita Arens, “Replacing Ourselves: Do We Owe Future Generations our Reproduction Today?” She gives a different spin on the issue, pointing out statistics of dwindling birthrates today and presented a side of the “who will take care of us” perspective. I particularly liked her humorous comment, “I do think it’s a good idea for anyone with fewer than nine kids to purchase long-term care insurance”, serious but with tongue-in-cheek.

Women do make less than men in general and the stress of taking care of the parents often lies with the daughter.  If nothing else, focusing on pay equity for every individual would start easing the “burden” factor for the future. 

Will the parents of today learn from their own experiences and set up a different scenario for the next generation – or is it already too late for the Boomers and it will take yet another generation to know how to prepare so that neither side will be dependent upon the other when adults and seniors, leaving more time to enjoy each other instead.

Have a Heart Bob Cowls

The last time I heard the expression, “have a heart”, one of my friends was telling the story about asking her boss for a day off and had received a “no” answer. Her plea of “have a heart” apparently went on deaf ears and off to work she went. This morning I heard the term again, but in an entirely different manner.

On Valentine’s Day a year ago, Bob Cowls apparently fell, a torn aorta to blame. As the main artery to the heart, it apparently was an iffy proposition as to whether he survived or not. He lost so much blood that it took 59 separate donors to supply the pints needed (there are only 69 pints in the body) and the good news, a year later he was able to celebrate Valentine’s Day again.

What made this story different than the usual? They put together a reunion of the 59 donors and Bob. As I watched on Good Morning America’s, “The Gift of Blood” as he shook hands with his “saviors” and how almost to a person they shared a joke.

“If you have a craving for olive oil and lots of garlic, that’s me”, said an older gentleman. “How are your piano playing skills now?”, asks a laughing woman. Bob indicated he hadn’t had a chance to play but will now make a point of giving it a try. On and on the handshakes continued, each one giving a trait that Bob may have “inherited”.

In the shadow of this year’s Valentine’s Day, I too celebrate the acting of donating blood. Imagine if you could meet the recipient of your donation, or the donor if you were in Bob’s shoes. Would that make a difference in getting us to donate? Wonder it adding that the opportunity to meet the donor or recipient (can’t you just see the “check this box” on the form?!) would increase the number of donations?

As I watched, the short story ended with Bob encouraging  others to donate. Well, Bob, I haven’t in a long time, thanks for the reminder. And if you too are interested, check out the Red Cross and find where and when you can donate.  Meanwhile, how about that “check box”, Red Cross?

There have been an increasing number of articles written over the years of the commercialism of Feb 14th, otherwise entitled, Valentine’s Day. How the florist industry hypes it for the obvious reasons, in partnership with the chocolate industry. Men in particular seem to gripe the hardest, protesting as to the “why focus on one day” when love can be expressed all year long.

In my usual unofficial, unscientific survey mode I asked both men and women friends about Valentine’s Day. All agreed it was too commercial, however almost to a tee, most of the women laughed and responded with if only men showed love all year long, they wouldn’t have to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

The conversation then shifted to how men seemed oblivious to the simple showing of affection, that a simple flower at an unexpected moment, a small token depending upon interest (a book, a movie, a cd) brightens any day not so designated (i.e VD or birthday). I asked the men if being on the receiving end of such things was as important to them as it appeared to be to the women and almost all said no initially, but then yes in reflection. However, their desired token was more of recognition of a chore completed without having to be asked, of a kiss received unexpectedly, of a (always described humorously) reward of a “romp in the hay”.

I found the longer a couple had been together, the less they focused on the individual gift, but more the gift of need, for the house, their family, the vacation. The economic environment was reflected even amongst the humor of the responses; saving for that feared rainy day also included in answers.

Appreciation seems to be the key here in and amongst the “sure we love each other” quick answer. Appreciation for the simple “putting up with who I am”, for the small, everyday tasks that often get unrecognized, and for the big issues handled together. Imagine if partners did that for each other daily and expanded it beyond themselves, family, friends to others we all interact with sometimes only for minutes in our busy worlds.

So, here’s  to those in my life who I may not appreciate as much as I should. To my family, friends, colleagues, and those who impact my life in ways I don’t even realize. And today, a special moment of appreciation to those of you who take the time to contribute to a cause, helping others even when money is tight. Thank you and Happy Valentine’s Day.

Fire in Australia

One of my favorite countries to visit and home to my Goddaughter, Australia is under the flames of one of its worst fires ever. A former boss lives Downunder and sent these pictures, which say more than words could (photographers unknown to me). Updates on the Koalas are being provided in U.S. media, if not worldwide.

I’ve asked him for a reliable donation web site for those of us interested in helping with the recovery efforts and I will post as soon as I receive information.

Update:  There are two on-line sources if you are interested in donating – one for animals, one for folks. Thanks Graham!

Wildlife Victoria

Red Cross Emergency Services – Victorian Bushfires Appeal

The first is a 737 passenger airline shortly after take-off in Melbourne.

737-airline-shortly-after-takeoff-from-melbourne1

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kola

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Women & Facebook

A new dating service? A mother’s resource? A way to find old and new friends? According to a recent article on Online Media Daily, women over 55 are finding all of the above in ever increasing numbers, in fact, they are the highest demographic growing on Facebook.

Who knew?! Although not yet of that age group, I am finding more and more people sending me “friend” requests, the linking mechanism of Facebook. An old college friend, a former roommate, work colleague and others, both men and women, I had over twenty such requests last week alone. It’s like an explosion of “just started a Facebook page” has hit the Internet airways.

I’m one of those who’s a bit leery about security so tend to keep my comments generic in nature.  On one of those “what are you doing today” posts, Sandy Kirkpatrick provided a great link to an article, 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know“, read it if you haven’t figured out already.

Have you Facebooked lately?

I was writing a blog post about using the Internet and all of it’s varied avenues of communication (blogs, Twitter, RSS Feeds, Facebook, My space, SecondLife, etc., etc) and I ran across a great BlogHer post by Maria Niles, How We Live, The Decline of Shelter Magazines and the Rise of Blogs.

It made me stop and think about how many magazines and newspapers I have stopped subscribing to in recent years because I can go online and get not only the same information, but much more on as many topics as I can think to type into any Search Engine.  Many print magazines are shutting down as a result of declining readership as more go online for information, and it often includes shutting down their corresponding web site. The question that Maria brought to the table (at least in my mind) – have we given up the ability to browse through the written word in print in non-computer locations because we have gone to the web?

So I did a random unscientific survey amongst friends and family and chose that most obvious spot where almost every one of us reads something on occasion, the bathroom. Leaving the cleanliness issue aside… I simply asked, “What do you read in the Bathroom”?

The answers:

  • I used to read Reader’s Digest, but now it’s my kid’s homework.
  • I take in various parts of the Sunday NY Times (or Washington Post) all week long.
  • I keep catalogues in there and “shop”
  • National Geographic
  • My BlackBerry (3 resp)
  • My iPhone (2 resp)
  • I don’t read, I listen to my iPod
  • Nothing
  • and one person actually said the last thing they had brought into the bathroom to read was their laptop…

Demographically you ask? Well, the electronic items ranged across all ages, surprisingly enough, however the print mags and newspapers definitely skewed higher in age. 

Hmmm… funny and poignant at the same time. As someone who hates to be bored, my Palm carries not only an Internet connection accessible in most places, but a half dozen novels at any given time. And yet, there’s nothing like holding a book or seeing a glossy photo up close and in person. Hopefully the interest in both mediums will continue so that we don’t have to make a final decision on either one.

Taking a bit of a blog pause from all the excitement of the Inauguration, I felt the juices start to flow again watching Obama and Congress interact since then. I heard a great line at a conference I went to recently, “Don’t let the losers win”. The reference being to the Republicans who are stalling legislation by their tactics vs. really being collaborative on behalf of the American public.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know there are politicians from both sides who could use more scrutiny on such things as who “pays” for their vote – pay in this case being favors, contracts, riders on bills and the like. But, please, after eight years of allowing the greedy to take control, of making words like “justice” out-dated and of watching out for their folk instead of all of us, can’t the Republicans realize enough already?! Can’t the Democrats finally get their act together and really start using their power for the good of the people?

That Obama has and will make mistakes is inherent in the job, that he owns up to his mistakes, “I screwed up”, is something we haven’t seen in many a year. When I listened to his plans to cap bonuses – calling the delinquent Wall Street CEO’s “shameful”, I had to cheer. And then shake my head at the Republicans who said he was just hitting on easy targets… Well, I hope he continues.

Hopefully that is. The last time the name Blagojevichwas mentioned here, it actually had to do with an MSNBC piece on the Today Show about his wife. There was another story about Daren Baird on the same day and I felt compelled to compare the two women, no doubt Ms. Baird won hands down.

Well, appears Gov Rod Blagojevich, for all of his “I did nothing wrong” was summarily removed from office after a 59-0 vote by the Illinois Senate. I had caught some of his media blitz prior to the vote and shook my head over his, well it’s hard to describe… comments before and after, examples in a recent NY Times article.

I laughed when I heard he was thinking of nominating Oprah for Obama’s old spot, she apparently did too, claiming (or so I heard) that she would have had to decline even if offered as, tongue in cheek, she’s “just too busy”. And the late night shows have been having a field day!

What made me mad this morning had to do with how he compared himself to the rest of those in America who were unemployed, implying he was “just like them”. Good grief. The majority of the currently unemployed are not facing federal charges, they are not rude, crude and nor try to put a spin on possible criminal actions. I have friends out there, good, honest, hardworking individuals who are now looking for work through no fault of their own.

Grow up, Blagojevich, face the music and stop comparing yourself to those folks who are truly facing tough times. Oh yeah, keep off the TV too, please, I’m tired of looking at your face.

would we have seen more news coverage? In and among sports updates, weather reports and other usual news on any given day, was 15 seconds (or so it seemed) enough for what appeared to be a pretty sophisticated bomb found in a backpack along a Martin Luther King parade route in Spokane Washington? I almost didn’t catch it and waited for further information, but none appeared during that particular news hour.

Searching the internet, I found several stories including this brief on Reuters.  I wondered at the seemingly lack of news coverage. Was it because it was in Spokane and not New York city? Was it the fact it was found along a parade route honoring Martin Luther King and not, dare I say, Ronald Reagan or the allegedly soon to be sainted Pope?

This morning I found I wasn’t alone in my questioning. The Maddox Blog had a post, “The mystery of the Spokane bomb.” I was glad to see it, but honestly, it made me angrier that my unease of “lack of coverage” seemed to be validated.  As one of the commenters to a news story said (and quoted in the Maddox blog post), ” I personally think that to be just a LITTLE more newsworthy than Sarah Palin trying to paint herself as the true victim of Tucson.”

Could you find an act more of hatred and racism than placing a bomb along a Martin Luther King parade route on a day honoring his work and philosophy? Could you not have paid this domestic act of terrorism the same attention as you did the football games? Oh wait, maybe if the bomb had gone off…

I have to admit, more often than not I am critical of our government system, of the political infighting, of the motive for power or money that seems to drive those within the Beltway, of the inflammatory rhetoric you often hear in politicians’ rants. Every so often something makes me stop and realize how proud I am to be a part of this nation and tonight was one of those moments.

President Obama has just finished his memorial speech in Tucson. I found myself applauding and rising to give him a standing ovation along with all of the others in the audience. I found tears in my eyes at his descriptions of those that died, of those that were injured, of those that rose above themselves to be heroes.

I wrote an earlier blog, “Reactions to Tucson” for AAUW covering my initial reactions to the events in Tucson that found Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot along with 19 others, six who died. Now I find myself compelled to write again — not about the violence of the action, of the issue of gun control or politicians finding themselves needing to blame whomever, but of our President whose speech I think I will print and post somewhere to keep me reminded that a positive attitude, an inspirational message is better than all the excuses or anger put together.

The New York Times has posted the entire text of the speech, take a moment to read it or see a YouTube version once it’s up. Think I’ll just list some of those comments that hit home with me.  Thank you, Mr.  President:

“Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned – as it was on Saturday morning.”

“But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions – that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires.”

“I want us to live up to her (Christina Green) expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

It’s not often that I go from cheers to jeers within minutes as I did this morning reading two separate news reports. The first was a post from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz “Give women every chance 2 fight off a killer.” She pointed out that 1 in 8 women in America has a chance of developing invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. She goes on to describe her own story, telling of those seven surgeries as she fought her own cancer. She then describes her disappointment in the “FDA’s decision last month to pull the metastatic breast cancer indication from the Avastin (bevacizumab) label” and why.

My sister fought for eight years against breast cancer and tried every kind of treatment she felt would work for her, whether through advice of her doctors, other cancer survivors or those into natural remedies. She lived far longer than was originally expected and attributed that to her choices. That’s why when I read Wasserman-Schultz’s post, I felt hope — hope that a representative in Congress “got it” and that maybe women would be allowed the right to choose, in this case medications that have a proven track record for some. Guess that gives “pro-choice” a broader meaning!

A few minutes later, I ran across this headline, “Scalia: women Don’t Have Constitutional Protection Against Discrimination.” What the hell?! And I quote: “The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not protect against discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation, according to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.” This, coming from a U.S. Supreme Court Justice whose work impacts everything we do in this country, more than, I would suggest, any other “job” in America.

Fortunately the article does refer to the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, “any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,”and commented,  “that would seem to include protection against exactly the kind of discrimination to which Scalia referred.”

Others will argue for or against the FDA ruling and for or against Scalia’s opinion. I, for one, am once again strongly reminded of the impact of those individuals we elect to represent us. Whether they take action themselves or appoint others to take action for us, the fact they make decisions that impact my life, my family, friends, all of us in this country should make each and every one realize the importance of voting. And then of holding our representatives accountable. I’d rather be cheering then jeering any day.

Point Setters

We just received an email from the front desk offering anyone free “point setters” if they pick one up by 11am. I love spelling/grammar mistakes that make me laugh, especially first thing on a Monday morning. You don’t see that many any more with spell check being everywhere, but those words that while spelled correctly mean something entirely different still sneak through.

I had an awful experience once, with a simple misplaced *. I was doing the Annual Report and back-in-the-day for that association, an * next to a name meant the person was deceased. All was quiet for months until at the next board meeting, a gentleman stood up and said, “Contrary to what has been published, I am alive and well.” OMG.  Not knowing who was alive or dead,  I had had our senior exec staffer proof the report and felt safe…until that moment. The gentleman in question was truly gracious but my boss yelled at me forever over that one. Obviously I’ve never forgotten!

Back to those “Point Setters,” no they don’t chase after dead things falling from the sky. They are lovely poinsettia’s left over from the holidays and our Exec kindly offered them to any staff. I didn’t take advantage of the offer, I do better with either the silk or dog variety 🙂

“In the Beltway”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase “…in the Beltway” when someone is describing their love/hate relationship with those in Washington DC, especially politicians. Usually, these days, it’s said with mixed feelings or unadulterated (is that a word?) hatred.

I’m definitely an “outsider” as I’m not a politician and my thoughts of Congress, especially with the “new Congress” about to begin, is not so much centered around hatred as it is disappointment, fear and sometimes a faint sense of hope when certain bills get passed that may actually help the American people.

And yet I am a Washingtonian, one of the few born there and although I have lived far and wide since my birth, I have returned like a homing pigeon to my roots. I returned when Bush 2 controlled the Beltway and I couldn’t figure out why people weren’t truly frightened of him and what he represented to the common folk in our country. I still don’t understand to be honest, especially as the repercussions of his actions on behalf of big corporations and his own ego (militarily) are never more evident than they are now. And yet the current head of the “Beltway”, President Obama, appears to be getting the blame for actions taken long before he was on the ballot.

Now it’s my turn to watch with bated breath as Obama faces the second half of his first term. He made amazing gains and some incredible mistakes during his first two years, but I truly believe he does have the American people (as in all the people, not just the wealthy) in mind as he decides his course of action. He faces a strong opponent (as in the Republican party) and will probably make compromises that will hurt those of us with equality in our hearts. Here’s hoping he receives timely and wise advice when needed.

Meanwhile, my focus “in the Beltway” will be in trying to determine what the truth actually is. Factcheck.org helps, especially when any politician of any party quotes statistics or says something is “proven”. Reading blog posts, such as Nicholas Kristof’s recent “Equality, a True Soul Food”  http://nyti.ms/dLr8HU will help keep me focused and yes, I’ll even try to be open-minded to the new Congress…