Gum and Dog Fur

June 12, 2008

I could rain down invective on whomever chucked their used Juicyfruit into the woods, or wherever it was that my big white pointer lay down on it and got it stuck to his bony, yet fur-covered elbow. We live where there are lots of white pines, so naturally I thought the dark sticky-looking blot was just old sap. But a sniff revealed it was not piney in the least; it was distinctly Juicyfruit.

But that is a waste of good umbrage. There are more important things. The only reason I’m bothering to write about it is that, after an evening of fruitlessly picking at it, and pitying his contortions to lick it, I turned to the trusty Web.

I want to give props to an Italian Greyhound website where I found the remedy. I wasn’t authorized to post a thank-you on the message board itself, because I don’t have an Italian Greyhound. Well, they don’t know that, but I don’t have an account or access or the time or inclination to go about getting that. So I’ll just give ‘em a link and a thank-you.

What did the trick? Peanut butter. (Kirkland brand creamy organic from Costco, to be specific.) Just a teaspoon or so massaged in. And boy, did the doggie like that! Really wanted to help. Apparently any oil will do to break up the gum (and this would work in human hair too), but the grittiness of peanut butter and its semi-solid state probably help make it break up the gum and keep it from running all over the place. So noted!


I have always respected and vocally admired Hilary Rodham Clinton for her intelligence and energy. I was first and most impressed by her acuity back when they were trying to promote a new health care system for the country in 1994, or whenever that was. Props too for surviving the brutally public life of politics generally. But, I can’t vote for her now and I would urge others not to either. It’s not that I’m anti-Clinton per se; I’m anti-dynasty.

Let others keep democracy limited to a few families. The Perons, the Duvaliers, the Ghandis, the Bhuttos. (There are more.) It’s bad enough as it is here today, where you need money more than intelligence, more campaign backing than compassion, and thick skin more than thinking to run for and become leader of the United States. Perhaps it was always thus: We did have the Adamses (John and John Quincy) and the Harrisons (Benjamin and William Henry) before we had the Bushes to set us down the path of dynasty-making. The Kennedys were nipped in the bud. I’m allowing the Roosevelts as they were not-close cousins. But today, when education and opportunity are supposed to be available to every American, where technology and enlightened thinking should make us more able to avail ourselves of the talents of 250 million people…. it’s an embarrassment to stick to candidates and leaders from the same-same families, like some teetering banana republic.

It looks terrible.

So, much as I hope Mrs. Clinton stays in public life as a self-proclaimed public servant, she shouldn’t be president. Nor should Chelsea Clinton. Nor Jeb Bush.

Leaving the White House as president and coming back as first spouse is a little too reminiscent of leaving the Kremlin as president and coming back the next week as prime minister. Maybe not that bald. But why go down that route at all?

I will vote for Obama on Super Tuesday. I would have considered Edwards too, had he not withdrawn. I like ‘am both. Now the decision is easy. When asked whether I would vote for McCain in November (if it came to that) to take my stand against dynasty making, I have to confess my principles only go so far on this. But still. Make it be Obama. Much more fun to vote FOR something than to merely cast a vote against the other side.

Vote against family dynasties. Thank you. This message was approved by me. Only.


Goodbye, Devoted Friend

November 29, 2007

We love her still. Satie, 1997-2007.

Pachelbel Bedtime

November 27, 2007

My friend Sara wrote:
“I am not a particular fan of youtube or cute parental tirades generally, but I rather enjoyed this and thought you people might too.”

I have a bit of a weakness for You Tube myself, in the same vein as some kind of food you think you don’t care for so much, easy enough to resist, but if someone happens to hand you an open package of it and you happen to taste one, you pretty much finish the whole lot of whatever it is—gummi bears or Cheez-its or Girl Scout Thin Mints—in spite of saying with each bite, This is the LAST one.

Anyhow, this song is really quite clever and likeable, the musician talented, and I think it’s about time for more on the rhapsodic end for this blog.

Lorraine Cosgrove Ware

October 29, 2007

The following are comments I was honored to have the opportunity to share on the very sad occasion of the memorial service for my friend Lorraine. (Photo here by her friend Ronnie.)

Just a brief disclaimer, in words from the poet John Donne:
Language thou art too narrow, and too weak
To ease us now; great sorrow cannot speak.

So we may not speak of our sorrow today, though we feel it. We’ll speak instead of our gratitude for having known Lorraine.

Lorraine was impeccable.

In her dress, her manners, her taste and how she kept her home (and her boat), in the work she produced and her professionalism… also in her treatment of friends and loved ones. Everything about her was polished and crisp and sharp.

If you didn’t know Lorraine and heard that description, you might picture someone prim or fussy or stuck-in-the-muddish.

I had the really good fortune to share an office with Lorraine for six years at her most recent workplace. I have to admit: That first day when she came in with her impeccable self to the office, I was intimidated. And when, day after day, she was so perfectly put together and coiffed, so professional, so clearly accomplished and ambitious…I, feeling like a lumbering ragamuffin by contrast, wondered, gee, will we have anything in common? Will we even get along?

As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for me to be delighted by her friendliness and surprised by her sort-of sly and very sharp and even subversive wit. That’s not what appearances had led me to expect. She was definitely not prim or fussy or stuck-in-the-muddish. She was a total blessing to my work life, and we became real friends in and beyond the office.

We solved many of the world’s problems, we liked to say, up there in the pod on the third floor on Old Connecticut Path. And we wondered indignantly why the Nobel Committee was not calling. Lorraine had mock outrage down to an ironic science. And she could portray a satiric buying-in to the absurdities in life, with a subtlety and pointedness that would put Stephen Colbert to shame. Her sense of humor was, indeed, impeccable. Perhaps most uniquely, she told incredibly comic stories without malice.

Lorraine was smart. She made good decisions. She made an especially good one, downright impeccable, in choosing her spouse. Andy was a great match for many reasons—besides just being a good guy. She loved him like crazy. They shared a lot of adventures, had common interests, and were both keenly funny. Most memorable just now, though, is how Andy accompanied Lorraine through the experience of cancer with sensitivity and strength and humor. And those of us who love Lorraine are so grateful to you Andy for being there every day and taking such good care of her.

So, Lorraine had cancer. But she did not become a cancer victim. She was an impeccable model of how to handle, even fight an illness and yet remain fully engaged in the rest of life. And doing that, she paved a way down a difficult road that we will all inevitably travel.

There are some lessons I aim to remember from how she lived. (I’ve distilled them to bullet points with examples in the spirit of research, her professional specialty…)

Go broad.
Make all you’ve done a part of you.
Live in the South Pacific. Sell cosmetics. Meditate. Learn the songs of cowboys, hired hands, and other wanderers. Get an MBA and Big Papi’s autograph.

Go deep.
Do things thoroughly.
Don’t just get a boat, take electronic instrumentation classes with the Power Squadron. Don’t just go to the doctor, explore every modality in pursuit of your health.

Be daring.
You’re tougher than you look.
Sail in the dark. Eat haggis. Ski black diamonds first thing in the morning.
Be caring.
Share your strength.
Mentor colleagues. Send gifts to nieces and nephews. Keep things beautiful.

Laugh often.
And help others laugh.
Stop the battle of Gettysburg. Collide with Jimmy Connors in a doorway. Be one of the “chicks” in the house. [You may have to ask some of her friends for explanations here.]

Stay open.
Embrace what the world offers.
Read The House of Seven Gables. Be an exceptional hostess. Go to a fife & drum muster.

Go broad. Go deep. Be daring. Be caring. Laugh often. Stay open.

And, mostly, let’s remember—and thank—Lorraine, for being an impeccable teacher.

What happened to all my posts?

Since May? Huh? Oh, right, now I remember; they never did make it out of my head. But they were boiling away in there and I e-mailed myself many reminders and enticing ideas. I’ll try to revisit them and see if any had value that survived the moment.

(New job recently and other schedule-altering things. Transitions eat up time. (What’ll be my excuse in another five months?))

But one thing continually plaguing my mind and bringing on fits of sputtering invective these days is how we are poisoning our world. Not in a dramatic Exxon Valdez kind of way; in an incremental, dull, nonphotogenic kind of way.

Dry cleaning. Paint for toys. Plastic water bottles. Antibiotics (and antibacterials, don’t get me started) and hormones in strange places. Cellular phones and towers. Agriculture. New and improved products of every stripe.

It’s not stuff you can get high-minded about avoiding. Everybody should now know that smoking is very bad for your health. If you persist in doing it, you’re a dum-dum. Likewise, eating a Supersize Me diet or working in asbestos remediation without a respirator are bad ideas. Most people have a choice in these things.

And, sure, they have a choice about dry cleaning, buying toys, walking down the street, or drinking water. But it’s an uninformed choice since they don’t know these things are potentially hazardous in the long term. And have no logical reason to suspect them. Products and services are offered up without concern and consumed without question. Despite complaints to the contrary from free market champions, there’s too little regulation about what we put on or in our bodies, let alone in the water or earth or air. How can we be so stupid?

More to the point, why does the government, which historically loves to invoke the defense of the citizenry to back up all kinds of bold and improbable acts (overseas particularly), not step up defend us once shadowy killers have been identified near at hand? (This is an analogy that bears exploring and would bring a new twist to a war on “terror.”) How do we ourselves contribute to the flood of poison? When will the connection be obvious enough to force action?

Maybe it’s not fair to ask how we can be so stupid. Maybe we are intrinsically hopeful and optimistic and trusting people and until presented with irrefutable evidence to the contrary, we prefer to go blithely about like Candide, all’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds (wasn’t that it?). But whether we (and I’m applying that collective pronoun back a generation or so) were trusting or wilfully ignorant, I think better living through chemistry has come around to bite us in the butt.

The reason I’m particularly pissed off about all this is that my close circle of friends (to say nothing of acquaintances or people at one degree of separation) now includes too many widow[er]s who are not yet at or past middle age. Bone, ovarian, pancreatic, and breast cancer killed their spouses. We do not live in Love Canal. We do not live in Hannaford, Washington, or Chernobyl, Ukraine. These friends who died took care of themselves, lived healthy, active, and athletic lives. Did not work in factories, mines, or incinerators. Did all they could to fight the disease. But where did it come from?

I know, thankfully, just as many survivors of cancer as people who have died from it. They too are young: in their 20s, 30s, 40s. Breast, brain, testicular, uterine…. And their survival would lead a lot of people to cheer: Hooray for treatment and advances in medicine. Send more money for cancer research! I’m glad they are still alive and grateful for what made that happen. So yes, keep the treatments coming. But what I still want to know is, where did the cancer come from?

Pharmaceutical companies enthusiastically pursue research into treatments, because they can sell these expensive life-saving tortures to people and doctors desperate to save lives. Where’s the profit in finding out the cause of these illnesses? Especially if the cause turns out to be within some other arm of your diversified business. (Check out The New Cigarette, reviewed in Where’s the money to find and fight the genesis of this scourge instead of just swatting it back? (Yes, I know, in the same place as the money for finding and fighting the genesis for terrorism, but I digress.) Cynically, the return on the investment just isn’t as good.

I have a friend who takes this thinking a step further, with a so-far only privately expressed, completely heretical notion: Down with the Jimmy Fund!

That campaign platform would be a hard sell, even for me in my riled-up snit. But behind the memorably shocking slogan, his idea is serious. Spend at least as much on stopping the disease from occurring in the first place as on developing new ways to fight it once it strikes.

Somewhere there must be organizations or people researching exactly what we are putting in our environment that is killing us. (Let alone the fishes and frogs.) Anyone out there know? That way when next I’m asked to sponsor riders in the Pan Mass Challenge, a very fine event (money goes to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute), I can split my contribution between those riders and someone investigating further upstream.

Where does it come from? What unknown dangers wait in my cupboards? Where is the Upton Sinclair of our times?

Without saying a word about the resounding empty echoes of this blog from the last three months… My friend Lynda, who works for Visible Path and keeps a professional blog called Centrality Journal, has e-mailed an invitation to link to the blog of her friend “Gatsby” to see what happens to his Technorati rating. When she linked from hers, his rating went up 500,000. I have a scientific streak, so I am willing to do an experiment….

And so must be the aforementioned Gatsby, whose blog is entitled Archimedes’ Hot Tub. Or he merely has a penchant for classical references. I don’t know him, this writer Michael Fitzgerald, though perhaps I should. I notice that my boss is on his list of friends! The world closes in around us. Or just the social network.

Years ago, I observed that my boyfriend’s Hungarian immigrant parents seemed to know every other Hungarian immigrant in the state, if not the nation. They said, oh yes, of course they did and it wasn’t all that different from back in the old country. At least within their educational strata. And now, I guess, the same is probably true beyond the bounds of Magyar.

If sheer numbers of links will help Gatsby, then perhaps this modest link will push him along, but “authority”? Toothless Invective is an unlikely source, I think.

And with that I’ll say, I miss this stuff!

Not Even the Silly Season

February 26, 2007

Oh my, this (below) made me laugh. It’s from Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words, a website worth visiting and a newsletter worth subscribing to. It’s weekly, so sometimes hard to keep up with, but almost always full of gems. He looks at new words coming into use in English (both British and American (and other variations too)), the odd history of words, and funny misuses of words.

The following is from his most recent newsletter from the section called “Recently Noted,” about words coming to prominence.

E FOR EVERYTHING So many words in the public prints now come with the “e-” (for “electronic”) prefix that I’ve long since given up mentioning them here, or in most cases even reporting them to the Oxford English Dictionary. But a big row in the UK last week led to the terms “e-petition” and “e-petitioner” becoming widely known. It all started with some bright young person in the Prime Minister’s office—some papers have fingered the in-house Web guru, Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, surely an escapee from a Wodehouse novel. He had the idea that the Number 10 Web site should allow electronic petitions to be submitted. Some spectacularly silly ones have been organised, one of them demanding that mice be allowed to travel free on public transport and another one—which has gained a surprising level of informal support—arguing that Spandau Ballet’s “Gold” should become the new national anthem. The row, however, was over very tentative proposals to introduce road-pricing—charging road users by the distance they travel. At the last count, 1.8 million signatures had been added to an e-petition demanding the scheme be scrapped, even though trials are several years away and full run-out could not happen for a decade. Douglas Alexander, the Transport Secretary, was understandably displeased with the whole idea of electronic petitions. “Whoever came up with this idea must be a prat,” he said. (Prat: an incompetent or stupid person, from an old term for a person’s buttocks that also appears in “pratfall”.)

Don’t miss Gold on YouTube—priceless.

$10 Million an Hour

February 23, 2007

That’s what we’re spending in Iraq. Regardless of whether you think the war is justified philosophically or politically, it’s really hard to imagine it is justifiable economically.

Think of all we could do with that money. Years and years of $10 million an hour. My god, it boggles the mind.

We could have paid the salary every military person who’s been deployed, then kept them home to grease the wheels of the economy or sent them off as peacekeepers to Darfur. Could have rebuilt New Orleans and environs, set some smartypants types to work on alternative fuels, and sent enough humanitarian aid to disgruntled teenagers in desperate places that we might have urged them toward hope rather than hate. But I digress.

The $10 million figure came from an interview I heard with Stephen Flynn, who has been all over the FM dial this week with the release of his book The Edge of Disaster. He appeared in short bits on consecutive days on Morning Edition. On Tuesday night, driving home from basketball, I caught a longer interview with him on the Diane Rehm Show—really interesting and inspiring, if you can stand listening to the Diane Rehm Show. (You have to be in a certain mood to bear with her slow and creaky delivery that sounds like she will probably expire at the end of every sentence.)

I like what Flynn has to say: We don’t need so much emphasis on the prevention of every twisted terrorist possibility, but rather need more resiliency. A greater ability to respond and to bounce back from whatever it is—acts of terrorists, acts of god, accidents. By removing known dangers (his example was unnecessarily hazardous chemicals for such things as oil refining stored near population centers) and preparing for reactions to any crisis, we are much safer than with each new restriction on airplane carry-ons or state police orders to look for illegal aliens. (Here’s where the $10 million figure came in: Retrofitting an oil refinery from some particularly lethal chemical to the undeniably-yucky-but-not-so-deadly sulphuric acid would cost about $20-30 million. A tolerable sum in light of oil companies’ recent record profits, and, literally, three hours of government spending.)

Especially by giving people, citizens, and communities the information and the resources to rally and rebuild, Flynn argues, we make the “homeland” stronger. These are often “unsexy” and even simple things that occur at a local level (he refers to the the placing of luminescent strips and handrails on the fire stairs at the World Trade Center towers after the 1993 attack, which helped save so many lives in 2001). He makes really great analogies, all of which I’ve conveniently forgotten just now, but which make me want to read the book.

He’s also critical in the right places, about the lack of national leadership for example, without being emotional or apparently partisan. He was an old Coast Guard guy himself.

And there’s something comforting in his theory, despite his examples involving Bhopal-like terrorist acts. Comforting because, for one thing, he reiterates that natural disasters are much more likely than terrorism to lay us low. The results may be as devastating but to me the absence of evil makes it seem less like the world is rotting from the inside out. The other thing is that, by being resilient we make terrorism less effective.

Stephen Flynn for president!

Dizzying plains.

by sjareb

(Random Flickr Blogging explained.)