Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year - and Just Keep Going

Here is a story we sent out in 2005 at Christmastime. It was a year we had to often remind ourselves to 'just keep going'.

With the economic turmoil spreading and deepening as we enter the New Year, we offer this parable of innocents just going about their business while those-who-should-know-better put the blame on them for getting attacked. Although those-who-were-in-charge for the past eight years may send out unfunny parodies that imply 'things just happened', we know who removed the safeguards from the stock market, we know who looked the other way while their friends looted our country, and we will know soon where all the money went. After that - watch out! I'm reminded of King Louis XV who is famously to have said "Apres moi, le deluge." His descendants died in the ensuing revolution. We don't seek anyone's head in a sack, but it surely is time to hold malefactors responsible.

Meanwhile, we all may need to practice how to 'just keep going' in what is forecast to be a time of widespread difficulties.

When Goldibear was about five years old, he went to the corner grocery store for his mother, to get some bread. A neighbor had a little dog that came out and barked ferociously at him, so he turned back home. His mother told him to go back and “Just keep going.” He went back to the store, and on the way, the dog came out and barked. Goldibear just kept going. The dog followed him, barking and nipping at his heels, and my favorite bear just kept going. Finally, the dog bit him, but being so small, it could only sink its teeth into his pants and the heel of his shoe. Goldibear just kept going, trying to ignore the occasional sharp pains from his heel. He arrived at the store and went up the three steep cement steps, the dog holding on, yipping loudly as he was jerked up each step. A lady came up the sidewalk yelling, “What are you doing to my dog?” (Remember he was only five years old) he responded, “Your doggie is biting me, but my Mommy told me to keep going.” When the Store Owner opened the door to see what the commotion was about, the lady was forced to disengage her pooch from Goldibear’s pant leg and shoe, and depart. Feeling very grateful to be free of the ‘bitey dog’, the little bear went into the store and bought the bread and took it home. He never forgot what his mother told him - “Just keep going.”

Monday, December 29, 2008

HUGE - a Rant

Huge - 22 times in 374 pages. Aargh! That is an average of huge once every 17 pages. It was a huge man's shirt; huge towering man; huge ... mansion; huge room; huge eyes; huge room (again!); huge ebony bed; huge headboard; huge desk; huge tension; huge engorged (umm - you know); huge fist; London was huge; huge eyes (again!); huge buildings; huge ... house; huge brick stable; huge salon - and finally! a" huge understatement" (bit of irony there).

Oh I itched to take a red pen to every huge in that otherwise entertaining historical romance. The writer created passages of descriptive prose smoother than ice cream and lovelier than a rose. Her characters grew in depth and maturity. Her plot twisted nicely without flagging. Her settings contrasted beautifully, and one of them was interesting enough to be almost another character.

But. Huge. Yikes - please add "huge" to "teeming" on your list of words that are inappropriate or overused, and avoid it like the proverbial and hackneyed plague.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snowed In

More snow is predicted.

How to travel when the Max rail, bus station and airports are all shut down?

Dogsled. Cross-country skiing. Snow shoes. Maybe horse-drawn sleigh.

Or we could just put studded tires and chains on our car.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A bit of Christmas Cheer

You Are Eggnog

Your holiday personality is indulgent.

The holidays are when you enjoy your favorite treats without abandon.

And while you're a bit greedy for your favorite goodies, you aren't selfish.

You're the type who makes a whole bunch of holiday treats and gives them to everyone you know.

Yes! I'm my favorite winter drink!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The bears excellent adventure

So yesterday Pandababy and Goldibear set out to get studded tires on their bear car. Simple, yes? Not.

The tires were not here, they were still in the storage unit from when the bears moved. First challenge: the car without studded tires would not go up the icy incline to storage.

Enter bears, bundled up against 18 degree weather, carrying four tires down hill, across intersection in freezing bear-town. Look, mama bear, look. See the funny bears carrying their tires? Where is the rest of their car, do you know? How could it possibly be, that tires is all they have left of their car? Oooh, see the lady bear fall down. I think she bounced at least three times. My, is it slippery out there, or what?

Once the tires were in the car, challenge number two - how to drive from storage to tire store and arrive un-dented. Oh My! See the pretty red pickup spinning through the intersection! Go, red pickup go! Just don't hit us bears, please. Whew! that was too close for comfort.

The bears shared a pot of honey at the local Smack-Donalds, celebrating the successful installation of four studded tires. All's well that ends well, or so they say.

So this evening, a storm bigger than the one we just experienced is due to visit us, big time. I think Pandababy willl just turn on the electric fireplace and wait this one out.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunset and Snow Fall

We've seen entire winters go by with no snow here in western Oregon, but this year is looking white already, with more snow on the way. What a difference a day makes to the view from our windows.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Moving Your Aging Parents - EARLY REVIEW

Moving Your Aging Parents - fulfilling their needs and yours before, during and after the move
by Nancy Daniel Wesson, Loving Healing Press, Sept. 2008
ISBN: 978-1-932690-54-5

We are the aging parents who needed to move! We sold our house, every corner and crevice overflowing with forty years of our family's life, and moved to an apartment. The overflow filled two storage garages and a storage room (and that was after we gave away some large items).

Author Nancy Wesson covers practical, soulful, and medical needs in a variety of thoughtful settings. She makes a compelling case for being sensitive to the emotions of someone who is downsizing, as well as looking out for the physical requirements. She includes a section on how to meet the special needs of elders who have low vision or hearing, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease with specific details known to experienced caretakers.

As I read Nancy's admonishments for caretakers to remember to be kind to themselves too, I was amused to realize that I needed that advice. I had been rather hard on me, demanding too much of myself at times during our move.

This guide goes so far beyond downsizing or even helping elders downsize, that it surprises me that I also found it easy to read, and easy to implement her ideas. I'm so glad to have received this particular book as part of my participation in the LibraryThing Early Review program, because I have made room in our new place, in my new life, in my heart, for things I would have put aside without Nancy's wisdom.

Retirement, it has been often noted, is not undiluted joy, but can also be a time of facing new limitations, whether they be physical, financial, social, or all three. Nancy shows how to put the joy back into the Golden Years.

I dusted off my portable sewing machine, and discovered it can fit under and on top of a desk, making the area dual-use, then added my laptop for a triple-play. I brought my hand-loom out of retirement, and have been inspired to combine weaving, beading, crochet and sewing, making unique designs. It is fun to give myself permission to ignore "the rules" and make something just for the pleasure of it.

I cannot recommend this handy collection of practical wisdom and nurturing encouragement too strongly. Even people who are not moving could benefit from reading Nancy's book, as many of us could benefit by sorting out our lives, belongings and activities to get a fresh start on the tangle of possessions and frenetic scheduling we call home.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Dangers of Being Too Lovable

Modern pandas have had to cope with the dangers of being crowded out of their natural habitat, and of being hunted for their pelts to be stuffed and mounted in museums, but a new danger has been rising in the one place pandas should feel most safe: their own enclosures in zoos.

Pandas are just TOO cute! Some humans can't resist the impulse to touch, hug and kiss them. Now I ask you, if a perfect stranger jumped into your car or house, and put their arms around you, even grabbing a hug when you are just trying sleep - wouldn't you bite too?

The trials and tribulations of being a panda (with picture).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hope Wins

Excerpts from Barack Obama's Speech as President-Elect:

"...the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope."

"... there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century;...what change will they see? What progress will we have made?"

"This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment."

" reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope."

President Obama will face challenges greater than any president in generations, but he will not face them alone. He will have the help of a Democratic majority in Congress.

He will have the help of the majority of Americans with him - people like us who gave small amounts of money from small budgets, who joined in doing what they could for his campaign (phone-bank calling in my case), who put Barack widgets on their blogs, Obama stickers on their cars, watched all the debates, talked to their friends and family, and voted. So many little things, so many people, adding up to an historic victory.

As Barack said at the beginning of his speech:

"Change has come to America."

And as I said aloud watching and listening to him:


Monday, October 20, 2008

Purple Nerf Football Knee

I never knew a knee could look like purple nerf football, but now I have personal proof on my right leg. We had been fortunate in our house renovation and relocation - no accidents or injuries - until last week.

(Note to self: do NOT try to move a large bag of garbage over rough ground when exhausted and holding something in the other hand.)

They say that most accidents happen in the home. Well, duh! Isn't that where most people are, most of the time? Still, one does feel safe in such a familiar setting. How could anything bad happen at daily, mundane tasks? Why didn't I just let go of the bag and save myself? Why was I trying to throw one more useless piece of jetsam overboard when I was too tired to string a sentence together? Stubborn old cow, that's why! (Simple reason but too true.)

So instead I took a header into the ground, broke my glasses, got a bloody cheek and chin, sprained my right hand, added insult to injury with dirt all over my favorite jeans and fleece, and for the grand finale, nearly gave my husband a heart attack coming out of the shower that night.

No, not that kind of heart attack (tch tch). I didn't realize my knee was injured until he screamed. I have fibromyalgia, and random muscles and joints hurt every day. So yes, it sounds a little retarded, but I ignored my aching knee the way I ignore my other aches.

Funny, it hurt a lot more once I looked down and saw a purple nerf football where my knee usually fit. Which just about sums up my philosophy of life - if it's going to hurt, don't look.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Selling R-Ranch

Five thousand, one-hundred and nineteen acres located just south of the Oregon/California border, with the Klamath river running through it, R-Ranch has been in our family nearly since it opened. Not a time-share or a 'plan', R-Ranch is only available to the 2,200 owners and their guests. Our fee simple title gives us ownership in common with the other owners - rights to the entire ranch: private salmon fishing, a fine string of western horses, two swimming pools, bunkhouse, campgrounds, tennis courts, lounge with pool tables and tennis tables, trap shoot range, hunting (in season), and so much more.

We have good memories of the ranch: BBQ's; rafting down the Klamath, horseback rides, swimming, camping, times with friends. Now it is time to let someone else enjoy the ranch. We can no longer make the drive down I-5, and it is time to say good-by, not to the happy memories, but to holding on to something we can no longer enjoy.

Every year some shares of the ranch are sold through the ranch sales offices, and this year they are priced at $2,500. - (reflecting an overall drop in vacation property since gas prices have spiked). We are putting an ad in the paper to sell for $2,000. and will include the 17 foot Road Ranger travel trailer we have stored at the ranch (free storage of your recreational vehicle is part of the amenities). If we could still use the ranch, we'd find a way to keep it, but as I've mentioned in other posts, health problems are influencing changes in our lives.

We'll always have the family pictures, which look much like those posted on the ranch website, here.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Whoosh - that is the sound of stuff going out of our lives at a rapid pace.

As Silvergull so rightly observed last month, "stuff and clutter blocks your energy flow. You should feel a lift as you declutter your life."

Last night I was invited to my niece's house for dinner. She has five adorable children, and what fun it was to listen to a few of them play the piano. She plays very well herself, and is teaching them, too. My sister was there, and played a duet with her youngest, who is only thirteen. A joyful evening to cap off a day of doing nothing (Sundays are wonderful for doing nothing!)

The youngest there was only two, and I thought to have a bit of fun with him, so while he was sitting in his daddy's lap, I played the old trick of 'stole your nose'. Ooops. Maybe a bit too young for that trick to come out the blue at him. His face screwed up with a seriously worried expression, and then he carefully raised his fingers to touch his nose -- just checking to see if was there -- or not! It was hard not laugh, he was so cute.

Today we are back to putting away things in the apartment. I started the morning by tossing out two large trash bags full of stuff. Feeling lighter and more energetic already.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Almost There!

Almost unpacked in our new apartment; almost finished with the renovations in our old house. The following contractors have been of immense help and provided excellent quality service in our efforts to upgrade our house prior to selling it.

Priestley & Sons Moving and Storage, Inc. (503) 661-7920

NW Sundance Services (plumbing) (503) 888-6881

Ponderosa Garage Doors (503) 730-0444

Floors with Flair (vinyl and carpet) (503) 356-6771

Vista Flooring (Pergo flooring and installation) (503) 330-6049

Bach Custom Coatings (cleaning and acrylic sealer for aggregate) (503) 956-7703

Li Hua Cabinets & Granite LLC (granite counters, faucets) (503) 771-3871

Granite Portland (installation of granite) (503) 919-8541

Ryan Parsons (painting and finishing) (503) 866-0609

In particular, Robert Hooper (Granite Portland), Christian Nahr (Vista Flooring), Mark Bach and Ryan Parsons have been incredibly helpful and given us valuable suggestions for improving our planned renovation. We highly recommend them for their excellent work, honest dealing and courteous service.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hawkspar by Holly Lisle

Hawkspar is not a sequel to Talyn, but follows it in the same rich world of the Tonk and their enemies. Talyn hit me like a ton of bricks - I've read it three times already, and each time I discovered new layers. I'm on page 408 of 480 in Hawkspar, and so far, it has had the impact of a ton of feathers. Yes, I'm enjoying it, but no I'm not entranced and immersed as in Talyn.

I don't write critiques, I write reviews. I don't approach books objectively, analytically - I experience them subjectively, as a reader. I don't know if the difference in my experiences between Talyn and Hawkspar are because of differences in me, the reader, or in the writing. Maybe both.

Maybe I'm distracted by getting rid of forty years of accumulated *stuff* while scheduling contractors to give our twenty-five year-old house a make-over before putting it on the market. Going through some major life changes myself, I am less involved in fictional crisis. Goldibear's MCS has worsened steadily for the past year, and the slow torture of watching a loved one suffer overwhelms me at times.

So if you read Talyn and loved it, I think you will enjoy Hawkspar. If you like fantasy in general, you may enjoy Hawkspar. If you expect another novel like Talyn, as I did, you may be disappointed - not in the story, but in the comparison. So don't compare, just read and enjoy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Omega Games by S. L. Viehl

I'm reading Omega Games, the latest addition to S. L. Viehl's fabulous StarDoc series. PBW never disappoints. I love not only her StarDoc series, and more recent Darkyn novels, but all of her back list that I've been able to find.

I've been packing for so long that when I look at the stack of boxes I have deja-vu. I'm convinced it won't all fit in the new apartment, even minus the things we're giving away. Do we own things or do they own us? Freedom from the tyranny of taking care of stuff lends glamor to a simpler life. What to do with all that time not dusting, washing, polishing? There's a private gym at our new apartment complex, and a media room with a giant wall screen. Exercise or entertainment? Eenie, meenie, minie - both!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Romance Genre, Characters and Motivation

Romance genre encompasses a vast range of style and content, from the light and witty dialog of Julia Quinn's historical novels, to the edgy banter in S. L. Viehl's "blade" trilogy; from the ingenuous maundering of Georgette Heyer to the explicit rapture of Elizabeth Hoyt. I'm fascinated with the endless variety of characters and motivation represented in the romance genre. Although I occasionally dip into settings other than English or Scottish history, the majority of my romance library is drawn from the Georgian or Regency period.

The social strictures on women and men in those times offer wonderful opportunity for creating characters with complex layers of motivation, endless opportunity for peril and tension, and devious plot twists that showcase clever, desperate, determined heroines and heroes. The rules of the genre generally prevent the main character from indulging in mindless and promiscuous sex, but the motivations of the characters can be shown (within the bounds of their society) to be similar to psychological needs such as those stripped bare in the memoir featured in my last post (usually within 'coming of age' plots).

Romance genre plus 'coming of age' plots may begin with the main character at an immature point and use adversity to demonstrate the character gaining wisdom with experience and moving from a needy self-involved personality to a mature, loving heroine. Other 'coming of age' plots begin with a mature and loving heroine whose coming of age revolves around the main character's sexual awakenings and how they (eventually) successfully integrate their physical needs within their social and psychological needs. What a challenge for a writer to demonstrate, within the historical context of a society that denied 'decent' woman had any sexual needs, and indeed insisted on quite the opposite.

"Married happily ever after" is the usual ending for romance novels, a defining point of the genre, even. I enjoy those endings, and even more, enjoy the creative and unusual paths that my favorite romance authors employ to arrive at an ending that is pretty much known from the beginning. I also like reading the historical details, especially when they include information new to me, and sometimes I have to look up a reference to an obscure event or item. I admire writers who combine excellent historical research with original plots and characters, and who seamlessly include authentic historical details in their setting. One such writer who I previously mentioned is Jo Beverley, and Madeline Hunter is another.

Well, back to packing today. Happy reading, all.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Final Frontier

Space. The final frontier, where no man has gone before.

No... not quite. The final frontier is surely the mind, the inner complexity of our thoughts, fears and desires, the root of our actions and obsessions. Does one ever sort it all out? Surely it helps to adopt a philosophy, a point of view, a rational construct of the world and what it all means? But lately I have pondered my life like a mysterious painting, which appears one way from a certain viewpoint, and then reveals an entirely different story from a different perspective.

In high school, I knew a young woman who was determined to become a psychologist. She had a generous nature and a desire to help other people, but she was also motivated by a need to understand herself and her own life better. If I had thought her chosen subject would reveal the answers she sought, I would have joined her quest. Even then I was more of a skeptic, with a sense of humor colored with some dark threads.

This morning I picked up Loose Girl, a Memoir of Promiscuity, by Kerry Cohen, published June 3rd. Kerry is a practicing psychotherapist specializing in treating teen girls addicted to sex. She's also a wife, mother and successful author, and someone who found her way to making a beautiful picture out of what first appears to be a sad and challenging life. I'm still in the midst of reading her book, but recommend it for anyone who wants to understand the underpinnings of our loose sexual culture, or who seeks answers for themselves or their loved ones.

Not everyone will find themselves in Kerry's memoir, but it is good for everyone to understand those who do.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dream Team; Hooks and Starts

Dream Team:
Sports fans fantasize about putting their favorite players on a dream team and watching them work.

My dream team would be a a team of writers. What would result from bringing together my favorite science fiction authors? S.L. Viehl, Sandra McDonald, C.J. Cherryh, Elizabeth Moon, Karen Traviss writing in collaboration on a new SF series - it would either be a nuclear meltdown or a #1 NYT best seller.

Hooks and Starts:
Marina, writing at Pecked by Ducks, ponders writing starts and hooks. How to start a novel, what to write in that first sentence, first paragraph, that will ensorcell the casual browser and hook them into reading the rest of the book? I offer the following starts that hooked me into books I enjoyed:

"I didn't realize he was a werewolf at first. My nose isn't at its best when surrounded by axle grease and burnt oil - and it's not like there were a lot of stray werewolves running around."
From Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (paranormal, romance).

"Recycling won't save the earth, and neither will prayer. The Eqbas are coming."
From Matriarch by Karen Traviss, (science fiction).

"There were no hints of what was to come on that perfect summer morning, no sign that in a few hours, her life would be forever changed. But then, Iseabal was later to realize, momentous events are often heralded not by a thunderclap, but by a sigh."
From When the Laird Returns by Karen Ranney, (historical romance).

"The combination of a horse galloping far too fast, a muddy lane with a curve, and a lady pedestrian is never a good one."
From The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt, (sensual historical romance with humor)

So many books, so little time. Of course, not all books I've come to treasure have had strong hooks in the first line, or even in the first paragraph. I read them because I had learned to value the author, and was confident of good things to come. One such writer is Jo Beverley, whose historical romance novels are peppered with witty observations of the human condition - a sort of modern Jane Austin, if you will.

"I think the reason that we don't give women guns is that they are dangerous enough without them." From Something Wicked.

"We are what we are because of what we've been." From Lady Beware.

"But Diana's mind wouldn't stop at curious exploration. In the mind, it never did." From Devilish.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Favorite authors and their Backlists

One of the best things about discovering a new favorite author is tracking down their previous novels to savor. As a bonus, since I read them all at once, I get a picture of how the writer develops her craft.

I'm encouraged to discover the ways prose improves, characterizations deepen, settings come into sharper focus and plots twist unexpectedly as I read their earliest works and progress through to the most recent. Here is a short list (in no particular order) with genres, of some authors whose backlist has proved rewarding reading for me. I have added a few hints of their style of writing so you may select your personal favorites.

Holly Lisle - fantasy (intense and with a dark flavor)
S.L. Viehl - science fiction, romance (original, action-filled with unique and lovable characters)
Gaelen Foley - historical romance (I've only read her backlist from The Duke to Her Only Desire, not her latest or earliest books; her research and prose improved markedly in 2004)
Karen Traviss - science fiction, military science fiction (the most alien aliens ever, and blow-you-away plots by a former journalist, also formerly in the military)
Elizabeth Moon - science fiction (deep characters, unusual plots, military sf from a former member of the military - genuine)
Linnea Sinclair - science fiction (original heroine, fun reading, light and smooth)
Madeline Hunter - historical romance (sensual and well-done)
C. J. Cherryh - science fiction (my personal favorite sf writer; incredibly creative stories)
Lisa Kleypas - historical romance (unforgettable characters)
Mary Balogh - historical romance (sweet and light with exceptional settings and characters)
David Brin - science fiction (brilliant professor of science writes heavy but fascinating sf)

I hope you may enjoy exploring these links and find many happy hours of reading from among them. Many of my books are in ebook, that is, digital, format. One of the advantages is being able to add comments in the form of 'bookmarks', without defacing a book. It gives me the opportunity to note my observations on exceptionally good (or occasionally, bad) examples of the writer's craft.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Alarming Adverbs and other writerly errors - a rant

In Writing 101, we learned words may be strong, weak, weaselly, working, lazy, etc. and that adverbs are best used sparingly if at all.

What is an adverb? "A word used to modify a verb, adjective or another adverb, expressing time, place, manner, degree, etc." (page 10 of Webster's New World Dictionary)

Learning a few of the basic rules and tools of writing has caused me to know some reasons why I like a novel - or not. Previously, I might have felt disinterested and distant from a book I read, but now I see some of the reasons I favor certain writers over others.

I like plots that surprise me and remain believable, and novels full of action but with evocative descriptions of place, time, manner and degree. I like writers who convey ideas with some subtlety. Repetition is allowed, but I don't want things spelled out for me, nor to be virtually hit over the head with a concept, and no shortcuts, please: no generic descriptions, no stereotypical characters, no lazy writing.

My favorite genres are science fiction and historical romance, and right now I'm on romance jag, reading at least three a week, many of them downloaded in digital format from Powell's Books. I'm irritated enough with my current reading selection to wake up this morning with a rant on my mind.

First, when describing the warm, moist condition of an aroused woman's most womanly parts, please do not use use the word "teeming" (which includes the meaning "swarming") - unless the intent is to convey a problem with an STD.

If it has been well established in the story that the MC is a virgin, please do not beat me over the head with it again and stick the adjective "virginal" in front of "womanhood". That is just aggravating redundancy.

"Diabolically" is a useful adjective, but when ambiance is nicely established with horned shadows on the wall and other items, adding "diabolically" to "carved"creates more ambiguity than clarity. Now I must interrupt my reading to wonder, "Did the devil carve the chair? If not, was the carver truly diabolical? Perhaps it means the carving itself is diabolical. But wait - that is already established, and it is only the passing perception of evening shadows, because earlier descriptions of the manse included simple, Georgian era furnishings, so was the chair carved with little horned devils on it? There is no other description of this particular chair, so I assume not.... Aarghh!"

Last but most certainly not least - the miserable adverb "wonderingly". Here is my advice to published writers, nearly published writers, wanna-be writers and anyone else who may scribe: throw out "wonderingly". Throw it out. Permanently. Irrevocably. Lastingly. Foreverly! Yikes - do not let it back into your grab bag of shortcuts. If it tries to come back in creepily or sneakingly, hit it strengthily with your hammerly hand and kill it most definitely.

If you must express wonder, use the tried and true big round eyes, little 'o' of a mouth, or any other common description you like. Better yet, grab for the gold ring and characterize wonder with some original prose. Build it up, forecast it with the setting, include it in the colors, let it linger in the response - but whatever else you do, do not write "wonderingly".

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Twilight Fall by Lynn Viehl - a review

My oh my oh my oh my! Please, somebody hand me a fan! I mean to say, Lynn writes romance hot, hotter and hottest, and her latest novel falls into the latter group. I was very happy to see the attractive but lonely Valentin Jaus find love at last. The plot in Twilight Fall twists and turns in Viehl's unpredictable but believable style. In this one case, I ended up wanting to take a bite out of someone at the ending, because, well - the suspense was resolved, but then the end was such a shocking teaser! (groan) Now I'll have to wait for the next book in the Darkyn series for the answers. It isn't necessary to read the five previous Darkyn novels in order to enjoy Twilight Fall, but it added to my enjoyment to recognize characters from other books. If you are looking for a new, supernatural, romantic and highly sensual novel, look no farther: Twilight Fall is in bookstores now.

Friday, June 27, 2008


One nice thing about the Internet is that even when we move from this house, where we raised our family, my address here at Pandababy won't change.

Yes, after twenty-three years in this house, we are putting it up for sale. I'm packing up my books, Leo is throwing out clutter from the garage, and my niece, a John. L. Scott broker, is coming over to list the property next Monday. We are moving to an apartment (no yard, just a balcony).

I don't even have time right now to read Hawkspar, which arrived yesterday. Holly's books make me think, and once I have some time at night to read, I'm too tired to think. Oh well, back to sorting, tossing, packing...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Who Would have Thought? The Real Obama - Part Two

Who would have thought, watching Barack Obama at a community organizing meeting in 1983, that in 2008 he would stand before 20,000 people in Detroit and be introduced by Al Gore as "The next President of the United States?" Gore's mantra in that introduction was "Elections matter!", and his point was echoed by booming cheers roaring from the audience.

A side rant: later that day, I nearly choked on my toast watching a well-known news person characterize the above scene as "Al Gore, the loser in the 2000 election, introduced Barack Obama...". Interesting way to frame the only man in our history who lost an election by decree - by one vote on the Supreme Court. Al Gore, the man who was vice-president of United States for eight years, who went on to write the Academy-Award winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth", and who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change, was dismissed by a man who couldn't hope to accomplish half of his public service, as a "loser". WTF?

So who is "the real" Barack Obama? Here are a few more quotes from Dreams from My Father, which you may recognize from his speeches this year. It is my opinion that much of the man we see now was formed in the crucible of his grinding daily work in the Chicago slums, organizing the community to work for its own rights. Basic rights of tenants, for instance, to safe and working habitats, were not recognized by landlords without public pressure. (That is why they're called 'slums' you know.)

See how many of the following quotes you recognize from Senator Obama's rallies this year.

Here is an excerpt from one of my all-time favorite quotes from Barack Obama, on family.

"What is family? Is it just a genetic chain, parents and offspring, people like me? Or is it a social construct, an economic unit, optimal for child rearing and divisions of labor? Or is it something else entirely: a store of shared memories, say? ...
But I'd never arrived at a definite answer... Instead, I drew a series of circles around myself, with borders that shifted as time passed and faces changed... Until the circle finally widened to embrace a nation or a race, or a particular moral course, and commitments were no longer tied to a face or a name but were actually commitments I'd made to myself."
pages 327-328

I don't know about you, but his prose on what is family reverberated with me very deeply. Perhaps partly because of my years doing genealogy (but that is for another post.)

"We share more than divides us." page 382

"...a faith born out of hardship -- a faith in other people." page 429

"In the end, I'm less interested in a daughter who's authentically African than one who is authentically herself." page 435

"The law is also memory; the law also records a long-running conversation, a nation arguing with its conscience." page 437

The Barack Obama that I see is a man of strong convictions, born of his life experiences, a man blessed with exceptional talent and possessed of exceptional humility. In reading his biography, I learned that he demanded of himself the courage to face, to seek even, the sometimes unpleasant truths of his family history, and to embrace all those who contributed to his life with love and acceptance. I see a man who demands of himself a standard of public service and integrity that few can hope to match, perhaps none since JFK. Like JFK, he must overcome unreasoning prejudice and fear if he is to win the election. Perhaps no candidate since Kennedy has been the target of so many threats, and like JFK, he is determined to live in hope and not in fear.

For the first time in a long time, I have hope for my country.

Note: all quotes are from the hardcover version of Dreams from My Father, but the link is to the new, (and much less expensive) paperback version. As usual, I have made every effort to quote accurately, and any errors are mine, and mine alone. Disclaimer: I'm an independent, self-employed blogger and not employed or reimbursed by Barack Obama or any other person.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Obama - For Real (Part One)

I read Barack Obama's biography, Dreams of My Father, to find out "Is he for real?" First published in 1995, he speaks about his life in three different settings: Origins; Chicago; and Kenya.

Barack's early years taught him patience and tolerance, humility and perseverance, and all the other character traits that serve him well as an adult. He learned those lessons in the most intensive and painful school of all - the School of Personal Experience.

Why didn't he become angry instead of patient and tolerant when he was on the receiving end of racial discrimination? Why didn't he become proud when he earned a scholarship to Harvard? or discouraged when years of effort at community organizing paid such seemingly small dividends in change? Why did he choose forgiveness, generosity of spirit and love, instead of bitterness, when he visited Kenya and learned about his father's life there?

I can only conclude that his mother and his grandparents were exceptional people who practiced the Christian values that most people only preach, and that he chose their highest values for his own. But there is something more. We are not only formed by our childhood role models. We are all individuals who choose, day by day, what to keep, what to discard, what to value and what to despise, as we grow towards maturity. Barack chose well.

I offer these snippets from his book (with page references) as evidence that Barack Obama is not the slick product of focus groups and political mentors, but rather, that what we've heard him say every day during this campaign is what he believes, practices, and has said from his earliest time as an adult, working to create hope and change.

  • "In 1983 I decided to become a community organizer." page 133

about Marty, his employer and mentor in community organizing in Chicago:
  • "Somewhere in his life, I thought, he, too,had been betrayed." page 150
  • "...recognizing in myself the same vision driving Marty, his faith that if you could just clear away the politicians and media and bureaucrats and give everybody a seat at the table, then ordinary people could find common ground." page 152

on the racial divide and dealing with anti-Semitism or Asian-bashing in his community:
  • "I learned, for example, that most of the people in the area had been raised farther north or on Chicago's West Side, in the cramped black enclaves that restrictive covenants had created for most of the city's history." page 155
  • "Just talk. Yet what concerned me wasn't just the damage loose talk caused efforts at coalition building, or the emotional pain it caused others. It was the distance between our talk and our action, the effect it was having on us as individuals and as a people. That gap corrupted both language and thought; it made us forgetful and encouraged fabrication; it eventually eroded our ability to hold either ourselves or each other accountable." page 203
  • "The continuing struggle to align word and action, our heartfelt desires with a workable plan -- didn't self-esteem finally depend on just this? It was that belief which had led me into organizing, and it was that belief which would lead me to conclude, perhaps for the final time, that notions of purity -- of race or of culture -- could no more serve as the basis for the typical black American's self-esteem than it could for mine." page 204

about his reasons for leaving Chicago to go to Harvard law school:
  • "And I had things to learn in law school, things that would help me bring about real change. I would learn about interest rates, corporate mergers, the legislative process; about the way businesses and banks were put together; how real estate ventures succeeded or failed. I would learn power's currency in all its intricacy and detail, knowledge that would have compromised me before coming to Chicago but that I could now bring back to where it was needed, back to Roseland, back Altgeld; bring it back like Promethean fire." page 276
All page numbers for quotes are from the 1995 hardback version.

Tomorrow I'll conclude "Obama - For Real" with quotes from his experiences in Kenya. It's all about family; the immediate family, the extended family, the human family.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why Blog?

"To create one's own world, in any of the arts, takes courage." Georgia O'Keeffe

I blog to challenge myself: to put my ideas and actions out in the public and see how they hold up (or not).

I blog to challenge others to take up a book, a cause or a candidate they might not have considered yet.

I blog to give and to receive - to discover new friends and to update old friends, to begin conversations with people I've met (and many I've met only 'online') and with people I have yet to meet.

I blog to share my life in ways which could not otherwise happen since my handicaps keep me at home in solitude most of the time.

I blog for joy, and sometimes for sadness. My blog is my sidewalk and these pixels are my chalk, setting my messages in front of passers-by, strangers and family,
people from my neighborhood - a place as big as the whole world.

I blog for the hope that people are essentially good and kind and that to participate in this rising world consciousness called the Internet is to be part of something wonderful.

I blog to know myself better and to know others too.

I finished reading Barack Obama's biography, Dreams From My Father on my trip to Virginia this month, and the review will posted tomorrow.

Here are some other books I'll be reviewing soon:

A suspense novel by Enos Smith with a setting in Oregon, Cold River Rising. Included will be a discussion of self-publishing vs. traditional publisher with recommendations by Mr. Smith, from our recent interview with him.

Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie, on how to be free of the downward cycle of addiction and codependency that develops in relationships between addicts and the people who love them.

Don't Think of an Elephant, by George Lakoff, a classic on political propaganda and how to spot it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Report from Undercover

Many others have reported on the how and why of the end of Hillary's campaign, so I will just give a link here to a great summary by davidkc at the Daily Kos. He's done the work to provide links to the media stories, along with sharp analysis.

Last Sunday I went to the 'Hillary Party' and I did get the answer to my question of why people would vote for her in this Oregon primary.

We were all women, and all Democrats, and I was the only supporter for Barack Obama at the party. We enjoyed lunch, and then a delicious carrot cake, decorated with a picture of a very happy donkey. Finally, I asked "The Question": What is the main reason you are for Hillary?

The answers were different for each woman:
She's a woman, and I want to see a woman in the White House.
She has more experience, has been to more countries.
She has the experience to make better decisions.
She would fight harder for us.
She has been in elected office longer. (I made a small correction on that one - agreeing that Hillary had more time in the U. S. Senate, but pointing out that Barack Obama had more years in elected office because he served in the Illinois state legislature first.)

Heather - you were right, people think she has more (or better) experience (or that her husband does).

and then the last woman said -
She has Bill to advise her and help her out.

Here is where I was surprised, maybe a little shocked, because suddenly everyone was talking at once, agreeing together, excited and animated. I sat back a little back in my chair, lifted up my hands and said,
"Whoa - you are all scaring me a bit. Are you saying that this is a way to get Bill in for a third term?"

They all looked flustered for a second, and then some of them said no, oh no, she'll have other advisers, um, he'll just be there for her.... And one of them said nothing at all, just looked thoughtful, and then concerned.

But we ended on a high note, agreeing that we will all work together for whoever the candidate is in November.

With our mail in ballots, Oregon's election is different. The majority mail their ballots quickly (our household already voted for Obama and mailed our ballots). Some voters wait until May 20th and turn their ballots in directly to the collection centers - libraries and other designated places. We've done it that way in the past.

I've seen estimates that Obama will win 60% of the vote here in Oregon. I hope that is true. Although he is on the cover of Time magazine and the cover of The Economist this week, it isn't officially over until he has enough delegates and the convention ratifies his nomination in August.

With new delegates endorsing Obama daily, and a steady stream of delegates and supporters leaking away from Hillary and coming out for Obama, we are turning our attention to the next contest - winning the general election. Besides defeating John McCain, there are numerous House and Senate seats for the Democrats to turn over, including (R.) Senator Gordon Smith here in Oregon.

Senator Smith has been a faithful advocate for my niece, who was born with Noonan's Syndrome, and he has been so collegian on environmental issues that Democratic Senator Wyden has refused to campaign against him. So I will be sorry to see him go, but he voted with Bush on too many other things, and we need a solid Democratic majority in Congress to enact the changes that are so necessary.

We voted for Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley for U. S. Senate, but if challenger Steve Novick wins the primary, we will happily vote for him in November.

I'm over half-way through "Dreams From My Father" and will write a book review on that soon.

Time for a sauna now and it has a built-in cd player. I'll be listening to Resonance.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Going undercover

A neighbor who knows I'm supporting Barack Obama asked me to come over on Sunday for a "Hillary Party" she is having. I don't plan on making an argument there for people to vote for Barack, (it is her party, after all), but I want to discover what it is that would cause women to continue to support Hillary at this time.

My neighbor said it is because 'Hillary is a woman'. I hope to elicit answers from the attendees that will throw more light on this subject. I am puzzled why anyone, even a strong feminist, would prefer a woman with some serious flaws over a man who has proven to be a more skilled leader, and a more thoughtful speaker.

To put it simply - how can someone run a country if they can't even run a campaign? Hillary's campaign has failed to deliver a consistent and believable message (one day she's Paulette Revere, the next day she's Rocky Balboa, one day she's dodging bullets in Kosovo, the next day it was 'just mis-speaking from exhaustion - on at least four different occasions?); she failed to raise enough money (she had to 'loan' her own money to the effort); failed to plan for contingencies (was sure the race would be over in February); alienated supporters with her attacks on fellow Democrats (when Gov. Richards endorsed Obama, her campaign labeled him 'a traitor' and 'a Judas'); and she has not, with all this flailing, managed to take the lead from Obama.

I fail to see the attraction here, and hope to be enlightened on Sunday. Are there really Democrats who think they would be better off with a leader who is closely tied to the murderous, anti-union thugs in Columbia, just so long as she is the 'right gender'? Exactly what do they think she will do for them that Barack wouldn't do?

I've always had a problem understanding why people do things, so maybe I will be just as confused on Monday, but it won't be for lack of trying to understand.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New Widget added

is for the Daily KOS, where the news you wanted to find on the television is really happening.

I love the Daily KOS most of all because there are so many well-informed people who post high-quality diaries where I learn important news about US politics and the rest of the world. I love the KOS because I can learn about new books like the one I just ordered last month "So Wrong For So Long", by Gregg Mitchell. I love the KOS because we all have an equal opportunity to post our opinions, diaries, tips and recommends. I love the KOS because I can be part of a lively community of caring people, and I'm glad to be there.

Far Infra Red Sauna arrived

in one piece on Friday afternoon, and Goldibear has it nearly all assembled. My Finnish grandmother would be proud.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"The American People have to know"

"The American people have to know." This was how Daoud Hari, author of The Translator, a Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur, began his talk at Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon last night. Following is my report, based on my notes of his speech.

More chairs were needed, and the seating capacity nearly doubled, before Daoud could begin speaking. He has been in the U.S. for one year, as a refugee. His talk was marked with frequent references to the deaths of people who also did the work he did, but who were killed. He clearly feels that his narrow escapes from death, and his opportunity to come to America, are for a purpose - so that he can tell people what is happening in Darfur.

The violence in Darfur has a long history, and Daoud spoke only on the most recent years. He said in 2005 there was peace, and when the government started bombing the villages in 2006, President Bush intervened, and there was peace - for a season. Now the violence is worse than in 2006, according to Mr. Hari.

He spoke of his village of 250 to 300 people, ruled by a sultan, the person who had final authority over decisions. He described his life growing up with his camel and his friends. They would stay out until 11:30 pm or midnight, playing games, and his camel would take him back home, knowing the way even if he was asleep. Daoud said that life in the desert is very different than our lives in the U.S., with a harsh climate and very few trees and plants.

Even so, there was enough to sustain the villagers, until the climate changes narrowed the margins of sustainability on the land, and brought back old problems between Arabs and Zaghawa. The government in Khartoum, the capital city, fanned the conflict with a plan to "cleanse" the desert of the indigenous tribes and give all the land to the Arabs, who arrived there about two hundred years ago.

As Mr. Hari described the recent history of his people, I was reminded of his comment near the end of his book, where he said that the problems of Darfur are not 'simple genocide', but that it is complicated. The result, he made clear in his book and in his talk, is still the threat of extinction of his people, but the complex human and political relationships make solutions difficult, make peace agreements quickly void, and create discouragement among those who intervene and try to help.

Daoud spoke of the network of tribal relationships that his people and the Arabs have among people in Chad, Kenya, the Congo and elsewhere in Africa, so that the conflict which began in Darfur has spread to other nearby countries, and threatens the stability of the entire region. The solution to peace in the region, he says, is to create peace in Darfur, and the way to do that is to restore the tribes to their ancestral lands with security.

One of the pieces to the puzzle that is Darfur, is that the Chinese government is providing weapons and hard currency to the government in Khartoum. Mr. Hari tied the Chinese to the killing of his people and the rest of the tribal people in Darfur.

I asked the first question after his talk, which was, "Should people boycott the Olympics, or write letters of protest to the government? What do you think would be most helpful in cutting off the support of Chinese weapons and cash?"

Daoud responded by saying, "Don't go. This is the Blood Olympics. This is not sport." He added that twelve thousand new refugees have fled into Chad and the government has bombed another five villages. Daoud Hari said Darfur is not under control for anybody, even the government. The government wants the aid workers out of the country, and the workers are helpless without security and transportation. He said, "Disarm Janjaweed! The war is the humanitarian crisis!" He pointed out that before the attacks of the Janjaweed (the Arab guerrilla fighters on horseback and in land cruisers) the people had access to food and water, shelter and crops. The Janjaweed, he said, poisoned the wells and killed the animals, so that even those who survived their attacks would have to leave their villages.

Daoud ended by asking everyone to add their voice to ask for help for Darfur. He pointed out that President Bush acted in 2006 after one million people petitioned him to do so. He said we need one million people again to ask for the killing to stop, to ask for the United Nations to send in all their peace keepers, to get President Bush to act. In his country, if he were to protest a government policy, their response would be to have him killed. We have the freedom to petition our government, and Daoud's mission is to convince us to take action.

"Let me get another voice" - this was the hope of Daoud Hari last night at Powell's Books, speaking on the need for One Million Voices to stop the killing in Darfur.

Here is the link to the organization, Save Darfur, where you can get information on how to help the tribal people of Darfur regain their place on our earth. There are over 200,000 refugees living Chad, which is a country too poor to help them. The Janjaweed come over the border from Darfur and kill the men and rape the women when they go out to gather firewood. This can stop and will stop if enough people lend their voice. Will you lend yours?

I made an effort to check this report but as Daoud says, the history and situation in Darfur is complicated. He is a very intelligent man with an excellent understanding of Darfur. Any mistakes in this post are mine, and mine alone.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It Works

Yes, that marvelous little 'Barack-itizer' on the sidebar works. I just spent some time listening to Michelle Obama, and then I heard Barack's speech to the AFL-CIO in Pennsylvania. I never thought I'd hear a U.S. Senator say that it was wrong for them to have better health care than the rest of the country - but that is what he said. I never thought I'd see a person run for the office of President who never took money from lobbyists - but that is who he is.

That is why the motto for the campaign is 'change'. That is real change - when we have a choice to elect someone who is not part of the same old politics that we've had for decades. But don't just take my word for it - try out that handy little tool and then - let me know what you think!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Some Changes

I haven't lost my dedication to the WWF for a living planet. Their link is in a new location on my sidebar.

The top information widget on PandaBaby, until the election, will be for Barack Obama. It is temporarily replacing the WWF widget, because the election of a pro-earth president will have more long term positive impact than moving a widget for a while. I hope my earth-friend readers will understand my strategy. PandaBaby is still all for the animals - ALL the animals!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Why Pandababy has been AOL

Judge by Traviss came out March 25. You may notice that is the date of my last blog entry.

I read Judge immediately when it came out. I intended to publish a review right away. I'm not going to review Judge after all, at least not here and not now.

All I can say is that it is not at all what I thought it would be. I'm going to need to get some more distance before I can add anything to that.

It takes me awhile to back up and go in a different direction than the one I had in mind. Sometimes that is good - determination, tenacity even. Sometimes it doesn't work well for me, and it is just plain stubborn refusal to deal with facts that are not what I want them to be.


I'm waiting impatiently for the arrival of my next Early Review book: The Spirit of the Place, by Samuel Shem. It will be out June 15, and the early review copy is somewhere in the mail this week.


Our house is undergoing a very slow, small remodel, one bit at a time. The next piece is the two-person Far Infra-red Sauna, which is to arrive any day now. It is recommended by many health care experts for MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity) and for FMS (fibromyalgia syndrome) so we expect it to benefit both of us. This is going to use up our entire 'tax refund' boost to the economy - and then some. But if our health improves, it will be worth every penny.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Review: On Gold Mountain

On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family
by Lisa See (1996)
ISBN: 0-679-76852-1

I read On Gold Mountain slowly, with days between chapters to think about new ideas. On Gold Mountain was many things to me.

It was an eye-opening revelation to me of how racist our laws and immigration policies were towards the Chinese, up until our recently.

It was an amazing journey into Chinese society both in America and in China.

It was an uplifting and hopeful account of how, in spite of everything, Chinese immigrants were able to come to America, work, and prosper.

It was a heart-breaking indictment of the treatment of the Chinese by our government and big business, particularly the railroads. The suffering and death of so many people has gone too long unnoticed in our history books.

It was an amusing commentary on the foibles of human nature, and how love truly can triumph over it all, down through the generations.

It was an incredibly well-researched, well-documented and remarkably frank story of one Chinese immigrant and his numerous descendants.

In the developing field of social history, and using social history to illuminate a genealogy, On Gold Mountain is a seminal work, published five years prior to the ground-breaking "Bringing Your Family History to Life through social history" by Katherine Scott Sturdevant. As such, it is a remarkable example of the professional standards to which the social historian/genealogist may aspire.

Although the family history is rife with bi-racial marriage, multiple wives and concubines, infidelity and divorce, Lisa See presents the story in a sympathetic and factual manner, and avoids sensationalizing her family history. It is as much about the family business of importing Asian art, furniture and folk items, and other businesses the younger generations developed, as it is about the personal history of the family.

I would recommend Lisa See's book to anyone planning to write a social history; to all high school and college students in classes on U. S. Government, sociology, immigration, and capitalism. I would also recommend it to anyone who likes a good work of non-fiction about real people.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Gov. Bill Richardson Endorses Senator Obama

A former Clinton ambassador to the U.N. and Secretary of Energy, who has earned five Nobel Peace Prize nominations, Richardson gave Senator Obama a resounding endorsement today.

He will be with Barack in Portland early this morning, and 16,000 (free) tickets went in four hours to fill 12,000 seats at the Coliseum. Because of my health issues, it would be irresponsible to get chilled in the rain and 36 degrees, waiting for an hour to get in the door. I said some very bad words yesterday when I figured out that the logistics of getting into the venue would keep me out.

Senator Obama has already answered the race-baiters, the bigots and haters in the most significant speech on race given by a Presidential candidate in a hundred years. I've embedded it here for you.

So now, some answers for Jaye, (and anyone else who has seen the hatchet job the media is doing on Obama and his former pastor). As Jaye, who lives in Australia, said yesterday:

"We here down under, received the edited versions, and I was as shocked as anyone at the rhetoric.

My problem, I guess, is that Obama said Jeremiah Wright was his mentor for many years. So why didn't Barack walk out of the sermons he didn't approve of? A better question is why Barack didn't ask Jeremiah to tone it down a little.

Where does the truth lie? And how do you think this will affect his campaign? Or is it a storm in a teacup?"

Everyone was shocked at the rhetoric in the short clips played this week on the 'news'. Here is a link to a diary at the Daily Kos, where you can see the whole sermon. Then judge if the news has played fast and loose with the truth. Here is a link to a brief explanation of how responsible people view Rev. Wright and his speech. Rev. Wright is among the 100 most respected pastors in America in this photo of them gathering at the White House (yes that is Bill Clinton in the middle, next to Rev. Wright). Finally, here is a link to the website of Senator Obama's church in Chicago, Illinois.

My own opinions on Jaye's questions are short and simple.

Trinity United Church of Christ offers a loving welcome to people of all race and ethnicity. The majority of members are African American. The Church and their pastor have received numerous awards for their community activism, helping the poor and sick. A church is a group of imperfect people who come together for worship and celebration. You don't walk out of your family because the head of the family says imprudent or even outrageous things occasionally.

I respect the loyalty, the genuine love and attachment, the non-judgmental ways that Senator Obama expresses in all his relationships: political, personal, familial, and yes - his church family too. Barack has said that he expressed his dissent to Rev. Wright over certain things, (and I say it is the media's fault that this is all not well know or understood).

Where does the truth lie?

It lies here: I have been moved to tears by the courage of Barack and Michelle Obama, who went into this campaign knowing full well the racist lies and hatred that would be poured over them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Virtual Lynching

I have watched in astonishment and disgust as the media has shortened the original and very short clip of Rev. Wright, where after the "G-d d-mn" part, he points down to the Bible in front of him and says that it "says right there in the Bible" that "G-d will d-mn" anyone who - (he follows with a list: people who kill the innocent, murder woman and children, etc.).

The first clip showed too much for our lying media. It showed that Rev. Wright was delivering a sermon chastising our country for the civilians who have been murdered in Iraq, etc. The media have made that clip shorter, cutting off the part where he points to the Bible, to better stir up racial hatred. Surely that isn't legal anymore in America? Even worse, it is based on a distortion so great it is a lie. Even worse, they are using the government controlled airwaves to do it.

If the government does not step in with televised hearings showing the entire speech, asking the media moguls why they cut out the parts that would demonstrate Wright's Bible reference, etc. then we might as well not even have a U. S. commission on Civil Rights, because they are violating the rights of the society to not be fed lies by distortion and omission by people purporting to report the news or comment on the news. They are violating my rights as a Christian to not be slandered in the public airwaves.

When H. G. Wells "War of the Worlds" was broadcast on the radio, without disclaimers that it was FICTION, it ended up causing widespread panic that caused injuries to people.

What the media is doing right now with their virtual lynching of Senator Obama, (and by extension, any person of color, and any Christian) is a hundred times worse. They are spreading lies that are causing a panic among American voters that could swing the election of our next President.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Translator is in stores Now

Get the book and get informed.

Hear Daoud's voice in an interview on the BBC website "The World" from PRI (Public Radio International).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bus Karma in Black and White

It was a bright sunny day in San Diego, and I had graduated from my learner's permit to my own driver's license at last. From our picture window, I could see the corner of our block, and watched in surprise when a neatly dressed African American woman stepped down from a bus. After a moment of puzzlement, I concluded that someone in our white, privileged neighborhood had hired a cleaning lady. But she stood at the bus stop as if she were waiting for another bus. After twenty minutes, I walked across the street and introduced my self and asked her why she was waiting there. It was as I had feared - she thought there would be a another bus coming. She needed to get to a medical appointment a few miles away and the (white) bus driver had assured her there would be another bus. He could have known better, because his was the last bus of the day for our neighborhood.

I explained we had lived near that bus stop for five years, that I took the bus to school, and there was no bus from there that went to the medical clinic. I told her I would ask my mother if I could borrow the car to take her to the clinic, if she wanted to go with me. Putting herself in the hands of the Lord, (as I'm nearly certain now that she did), she thanked me with little hope but great dignity. She was surprised when I came right back in our black four-door Fiat. I peppered her with questions as we drove to her appointment. I probably said things in my ignorance that would make me cringe today. She responded at one point that I was "very young". Quite true - I was too young to "get it", which I proceeded to prove by replying that I was sixteen years old! When I offered to wait and drive her to a bus connection, she replied that her husband would come get her, no doubt thanking her guardian angel she made it to the clinic in one piece. (My driving was known to make brave men flinch, but I made up for my lack of skill with plenty of confidence.)

The reason she stands out in my mind after all these years is simple: it was the first time in my life I had a conversation with an African American. We didn't use the "n" word in our home, and my parents never told racial jokes, or spoke about race at all. I went to an "all white" high school, an "all white" church, and lived so deeply in the "white" suburbs that we never even drove past any African Americans that I can remember. I didn't realize at the time how strange and narrow my life was - to me it was just normal.

Three years later I was one of thousands office girls working in San Francisco. One evening I decided to visit my favorite art gallery in North Beach. None of my friends were interested, so I went by myself. At that time, San Francisco was still a friendly small town with a laid-back attitude, and I was still "very young" - too young to think anything bad could happen. Losing track of time as I lost myself in the evocative paintings of Margaret Keane, it was nearly turning midnight once I was on the bus back to the firehouse near Sacramento Street. When the (black) bus driver told me to get off at the next stop to transfer, I reminded him of my destination and asked him if he was sure. I seemed to remember a different route from earlier in the day. He said that bus didn't run this late and to get off if I wanted to transfer.

I stepped down into the balmy San Francisco summer night. There was little traffic, and behind me was a storefront with papered-over windows; even the glass inside the door frame was papered over with butcher paper. After waiting twenty minutes, I was getting worried there would be no bus. I was looking around for a public phone when the door behind me opened, and dozens of African American men, well-dressed for a meeting of some kind, poured out of the building. I tried to look invisible, but 120 pounds of 5 and a half foot girl can't hide behind a bus sign. Most of the men from the meeting left quickly, on their way back home. I was relived - until one man approached me, making sexual demands. I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back, it is clear he thought from the time and the neighborhood, that I was a hooker. Not this pandababy! I kept backing away in circles and protesting, hoping my bus would suddenly materialize. A few of the men who remained in front of the 'store' were telling him to leave me alone, but a few others were egging him on!

Suddenly, my persistent pursuer was dangling a foot off the ground, in the grip of a very large black man, who shook him a couple of times, and told him to 'take off'. I think his feet were running before they hit the pavement. I looked up, and up, and wondered if I had just gone from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. He looked down at me and said, "I'll just stand here with you until your bus comes, so you won't have any more trouble." He followed that sensible offer with more sensible advice, about young women not being out alone late at night, etc. When I protested that I lost track of time, he didn't look impressed. Then he asked me which bus I came on and which one I was waiting for. It turned out that my bus driver was a mischief maker like the one that dropped that lady off in our neighborhood a few years before. It turned out that the bus driver could have let me off in a different neighborhood for a different bus that was still running at that time of night, and that was a direct route to my destination.

I never connected the two incidents until today, when I heard Senator Obama's speech in Philadelphia on race in America. His message of unity and tolerance, of working together for a better America, prompted my memories of two unkind bus drivers, white and black, and two rescuers, white and black, and how individual acts of kindness can overcome the mischief makers.

I have watched some news people doing their jobs in a responsible manner, and also seen many who, like those bus drivers, can pretend they are "just doing their job" - but who are playing to racial tensions they know exist - and they're fanning the flames. As Senator Obama has said, "Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change." Those bus drivers failed because individuals stood up for decency. Those who gleefully grab any pretext to stir up racial strife will fail too, because millions of people are standing up for decency.

It is time for us to work with honesty and with tolerance, to make individual choices to change America, to change our future into the fulfillment of the dream of those in the past who worked, and who sometimes died. We have inherited a better country because of their efforts, and it is our turn to make the sacrifices necessary to leave a better America for our descendants.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Voters Behaving Badly

If Democrats could choose which Republican would be nominated to run for President, wouldn't they have fun! Would they choose McCain? Maybe they'd pick Romney, who came in less than one half percent behind McCain in the crucial winner-take-all Florida primary.

Don't be silly, you say, only party members choose the party's presidential candidate? I only wish! The Boston Globe reports that Republicans made a 100,000 vote difference in the Democratic race in Ohio, 119,000 in Texas and 38,000 in the vote in Mississippi. These weren't the Republicans who have been voting for Obama because they want to vote for him in the fall. These were Republicans who will vote for McCain, and want to choose Hillary for his opponent. How does the Boston Globe know that? Well, because those voters told the pollsters so!

By my calculations, in Ohio that means that Hillary's ten point win is reduced to five points, the same as McCain's over Romney in Florida. In other words, some of the delegates she won would have gone to Obama if Ohio had rules the same election rules as Oregon's. In Oregon we don't have the option to vote the opposite party's ballot during a primary election.

Oregon and some other states have a "closed primary", where you have to be pre-registered as a member of that party to vote your choice of their candidate, which will then run against the other party's candidate in the general election in November. Oregon's rules are to protect parties against specious votes in cases just such as this, when one party's candidate is running virtually unopposed, and the other party has two candidates locked in a win-or-die struggle in the primary elections.

Those voters were urged into their bad behavior by idols of "good behavior" such as Rush Limbaugh, but just because something is legal, or some shock jock radio host says it's good, doesn't mean it is the right thing to do. Anything that weakens the security and veracity of election results is bad for all of us.

These voters behaving badly are making losers out of everyone who depends on fair elections - and ultimately, that is all of us.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

EARLY REVIEW: The Stars Down Under

The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald
ISBN: 0-7653-1644-7; March 18, 2008 by Tor Books

Science Fiction and Fantasy genres overlap in many ways, and none more clearly than in this second book of Sandra McDonald's. The plot threads that I most strongly hoped she would develop from the first book, The Outback Stars, are the focus of this second novel in a series.

The story is a mosaic of hard science and myth, wonders and the ordinary, aliens and regular people. I love the way McDonald writes - a combination of matter-of-fact space travel and unexpected intrusions by powers beyond the control of any human being. I love the way her characters struggle to keep their plans and their lives on track in the midst of being thrust into events that change everything.

Reading McDonald, I sometimes have a sense of magical realism as done by Gaiman or by Charles de Lint. Once in a while the science under the phenomenon is revealed but most often we are left with tantalizing questions, which may or may not be answered farther along in the story.

I like the way McDonald wraps up the story threads in a satisfying conclusion, but still leaves enough openings for the next book. I suspect she could easily write the same novel in twice the length and keep me interested. At 336 pages, The Stars Down Under was over too soon. There is no doubt I'll pre-order the next one in the series.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Coming March 18 - The Stars Down Under

The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald
ISBN: 0-7653-1644-7; March 18, 2008 by Tor Books

Monday afternoon mail delivery brought The Stars Down Under - an Advance copy from the author. Yes, I have the hardback edition on advance order, but this is sooner, and autographed, and I'm grateful and excited.

Science fiction is a broad genre, from stories rooted in hard science, to wars in space to alien societies to space opera. One thread all popular authors have in common in this genre, beginning with Jules Verne, is "novum". They imagine societies, places, inventions, that are something new and different, something beyond our science, or norms. Be it dreadful or admirable, they create aliens and future people who think and act in ways that are, well, alien to us. Sometimes a human character is thrust into this alien world, someone not so different from us, and we perceive the strange beings and strange places through their eyes, with their feelings that are what we might feel if we were in their shoes.

I've been reading science fiction since I was a teenager - five decades of a genre that has grown in many ways since the late fifties. There were few women in the early SF stories, and the heroes were nearly always men. But then, the writers were nearly always men, too. I read science fiction for the adventure, and the novum, and not because I could identify with any of the main characters. What they felt was not necessarily what I would feel in their shoes!

The world has changed in so many ways since then, that what was science fiction has become science fact, science history even! The roles of women in our world, and also in the world of fiction, are changed beyond what anyone imagined. Women are generals in our military, and pilots both military and civilian. I can't think of a field that excludes women - they go down in mines, up in spacecraft and qualify for every kind of job in between.

Women who write science fiction are not uncommon now, and they frequently (though not always) create protagonists who are women. Women are included in the genre novels written by men too now, in ways that were unheard of a few decades ago, as multi-dimensional characters with jobs, relationships, ambitions, feelings - the whole gamut.

All this pondering brings me to a particular author of science fiction, Sandra McDonald. Her blog lists being an officer in the U.S. Navy as one of her previous careers. She put her insider knowledge to good use in the first volume I read of hers - The Outback Stars, where a woman officer on a space navy ship is caught in dilemmas personal, professional, and dangerous.

In the sequel that just arrived, the themes which I hoped McDonald would develop from the first book are the main focus. I've been reading for two days, and my questions are being answered, delightfully.

This is not the review, since I haven't quite finished reading the book. So, this is just a note to commend women who write science fiction in general, because I find it much more enjoyable and accessible than sf written by men. Of women writers of sf, Sandra has blended in her own unique notes, in harmony with the whole yet entirely different and her own.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Silly Politics

From funny politics to downright silly. More on how using the 'say anything to win' old politics of the last century has come back to bite Hillary.

The Daily Kos quotes Slinkerwink's Diary: Sinbad reveals Hillary's 'vast experience' at making peace in Kosovo was on a stage entertaining our troops.

In the same article
, her vital role making peace in Ireland is debunked by Lord Trimble, who actually did make peace there - and won a Nobel Peace Prize for it. He called Hillary's claims "a wee bit silly".

I sympathize with the media not headlining these stories and more. None of us want a former First Lady to look foolish in public. Won't somebody stop her, please?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Funny Politics

Just when I was needing a good laugh, fate stepped in with a message for Hillary. The tired old political games of the previous century not only don't work these days - they can backfire "big time"!

The scare tactics ad that Hillary ran in Ohio, which made me so depressed has turned around to bite her. It seems the little girl in the stock footage in the ad will be eighteen in time to vote, and she is currently spending her time working to elect Obama.

It makes me feel a lot better to think that fate doesn't like the 'say anything to win' method any more than I do.

Here is an article quoting the girl in the Washington Post.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Been Feeling Depressed

not because Obama lost in Ohio, but because of how Hillary won - by using an old scare campaign ad and slinging mud. It doesn't stop with Ohio. She's trying to whip up support for seating the Florida delegates at the convention. What really happened in Florida? Are voters being disenfranchised?

The DLC might be described as a small but powerful Clinton machine that competes with the main Democratic National Party - the DNC. Are the DLC people in charge in Florida? Did they agree with the Republicans to have early primaries? Was it a calculated plan to hand the delegates to Clinton? Do they expect to force the DNC to break the rules and seat the Florida delegates? Look at the numbers for the Florida primary and compare them with other states. Instead of an extra large turnout of Democrats, Florida Democrats stayed home in droves. Why?

It is all about party rules and party politics. Democratic Party rules said Florida and Michigan were not taking their turn in primaries - they moved the election date ahead of other states and broke the agreement. The candidates agreed not to campaign in those two states, because the party said the election would be invalid and the delegates wouldn't be seated.

Now Hillary wants to change the rules to suit her herself. Was it a fair election in Florida and Michigan? How could it be? Most voters didn't even vote because they were told it wouldn't count. Are the Florida Democrats willing to split the party and lose the election? Is their argument about seating the delegates, or is that just a ploy? Why is it that their greatest supporter is the Republican Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist?

All this is just one little side-bar in the current trial of race and democracy in America. Make no mistake - it isn't about Hillary, although watching CNN, MSNBC, or reading the NYT would make one legitimately think otherwise. This election is about whether we will once again let dirty tricks and the media dictate our choice on election day.

This is about whether CNN, MSNBC, etc. will stop showing Hillary all the time, and showing the back of Obama's head while they talk over it. It is about media fairness and whether the NYT and other papers will stop publishing columns that either damn Obama with faint praise or praise him with faint damns, and start reporting the truth - he is the front runner. There is no 'virtual tie' except in the fantasies of Hillary Clinton.

Picture this: Hillary ahead by over half a million popular votes and over a hundred total delegates, and Obama and Michelle repeatedly and publicly call for Hillary to sign on as his vice president. Got the picture?

Now picture what the media would do with it.

Obama is the one ahead by in the popular votes and in the total delegates, and Bill and Hillary have been asking him to 'go to the back of the bus' and accept a position as her Vice President.

Wake up fellow Democrats and cast the sleep from your eyes. Look around and ask who has vastly more support from the Unions? (Obama) Who has the most diverse supporters in age, income, race, ethnic origins, or anything else? (Obama) Who is NOT taking money from the lobbyists who have run Washington and nearly run our country into the ground? (Obama) Which candidate draws the broadest support from people of all political stripes? (Obama) Which candidate can deliver victory for the party and a fresh start for America? (You guessed it!)

Will we wake up? Or will we once again show the Republicans that we can still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

and Ohio answered with a decisive YES!!

So Democrats are once again poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as Hillary prepares to savage the front-runner in a long and bloody battle that will culminate in McCain winning the general election in the fall. With the former First Lady fighting all his battles for him, how could he lose?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Will Dirty Tricks and Outright Lies Win in Ohio?

After sixteen years of acrimonious and nasty politics (eight under Clinton and eight under Bush) are Americans ready for a real change?

Either we cave in to the candidate who takes the low road - who expects us to believe whatever they say about their opponent, or we take the time to examine carefully what each candidate has done with their life, their time, their votes in Congress - and use the facts to choose wisely.

Political wisdom says that dirty politics works. Obama and his supporters say it is time for a change, and are demonstrating it in the way they conduct their campaign.

High road or low road America. Which will you choose?

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Outback Stars - a second look

The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald

ISBN: 0-765-31643-9
Tor; April 2007

Imagine the far reaches of outer space, where settlers fleeing the debasement of earth have established new-born civilizations on pristine earth-like planets. Imagine the giant fleet ships, carrying supplies and more settlers, sailing the mysterious Alcheringa between planets. Imagine a space navy, where long stretches of routine tasks alternate with sudden, violent attacks by separatist factions.

Step into the cosmos as visioned by Sandra McDonald, a bright new star in the constellation of Science Fiction writers. Australians discovered the shortcut between planets, and named their subsequent discoveries after places from their native country. Did the same aliens who made the Alcheringa visit earth in its distant past? What connection does the Dreamtime and a mysterious aboriginal vision have with alien artifacts - or with our heroine?

I read The Outback Stars for a second time this week, and enjoyed it again. This is military science fiction as I've never quite experienced it before - a combination of the most gritty and realistic life-aboard-a-ship, with the kind of happenings that make one pinch oneself to see if one is dreaming. The fantastic married to the ordinary, the normal juxtaposed with unexpected violence and destruction, all melded smoothly together with a creamy prose that carries one through without a ripple.

The best part of The Outback Stars is its utter believability. Perhaps McDonald traveled through a time-warp and brought back a detailed description of what she saw. More likely, she draws on her own experience in the military. However she created it, The Outback Stars is a keeper, about to be joined by book two in the series: The Stars Down Under, coming March 18, 2008 from Tor.

If you like the works of David Weber or Elizabeth Moon, Viehl's Stardoc series or John Scalzi's Ghost Brigades trilogy, I think you will want to experience the universe according to Sandra McDonald.