Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Photo a Day Keeps the Boredom Away

I have lots of opinions and I like to write. But often there's just no time to do it. I also love taking photos, and I have 25,000 images sitting right here on my computer hard drive. So, I decided that even on days when I don't have time to cogently present my opinions, I probably DO have time to post an interesting photo and offer a caption or an observation or two about it.

So I thought I'd give it a try--especially since my slogan is, well, just read it above. We all should be as happy as kings, and as grateful as our hearts have
room for. And certainly, I can share with you a number of things. I hope you'll leave your comments, even just a few words.

Above, we have one of the critics of my photography, reaching for his favorite refreshment. He is wise. He is sanguine. He sees the world from a unique perspective.

To the right is a strange fish (those are his real colors) in the Seattle Aquarium. He has no tail fins. He's ugly. What is his name???

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Happy Bridal Shower Guest

This is one of the guests at the bridal shower I describe below. He ate his teething toy. The rest of us had pancakes with a toppings-bar, spinach quiche, salmon salad, 7-up, cranberry & sherbet punch and a chocolate cake decorated with the smiling faces of the bride and groom!

Bridal Shower, Raising the bar on Women's Appearance, and Politics

So much happens in a week. We've had hail, rain, clear, blue skies, bitter windy cold and 75-degree sunny days here in the Northwest. Yesterday my son was overjoyed because school was closed for snow!

I was privileged this weekend to be one of the hosts of a bridal shower for a young woman who I've known since, well, since before she was born. I spent many gleeful hours making decorations for the party--okay, I'll spill: I cut out gowns from a bridal magazine, pasted them on pages and then sized and pasted over the models' faces cut out heads of the bride (taken from photos I'd done of her engagement party) in positions matching the ads. Each newly-headded gown was numbered, posted on colorful
paper around the celebration room and, as a game on entering, the guests selected the three they thought the bride would choose as her favorites, later compared with her real choices. I also used poster paints for a seven-foot-long banner, and prepared some entertaining quotations about marriage...well, the event was a hit, and the beautiful kallah even modeled her wedding dress for the thrilled throng.

New topic: I wanted to comment on an article in the New York Times Thursday Styles section of last week called "Nice Resume. Have You Considered Botox?" by Natasha Singer. It says quite blatantly that signs of age (and there are photos of Mary Tyler Moore on her show in the 70s, Murphy Brown in the 80s) acceptable in years past are no longer so. The new book How Not to Look Old lays it out: no forehead lines, yellow teeth, gray brow hairs, sagging skin or receding gums. "The book is the latest makeover title to treat the aging of one's exterior as a disease whose symptoms are to be fought to the death or, at least, mightily camouflaged." And the reason? Job discrimination.

I do think that sexism is rampant here. I heard of the illness of Rav. Noach Weinberg of Aish ha Torah (HaRav Yisrayel Noah ben Hinda) and pray for his recovery. The fact he's got a massive white beard doesn't detract from his honor--it adds to it. Men with well-placed wrinkles and gray hair aren't marginalized if they're vigorous. The new 60-year-old Rambo looks great. John McCain...well, he'd be our oldest President.

But we who every morning thank God for making us according to His will don't have the same luxury. It was considered a mark of her stature that Sarah (wife of Abraham) looked youthful and beautiful. The green Esther earned wows because of her "chayne" (charm? people skills?) and so was seen as ravishing. Allure and attractiveness are valued.

The Style article cites psychologist Dr. Molly Andrews from University of East London who "argued that encouraging people to mask their age constitutes a form of ageism in itself." Even Cleopatra used olive oil. Why? Think about your own attitude: when you see an unidentified old person, do you consider him or her as important as someone in his/her prime and well-presented?

Bottom line on this: Though unfair, sexist, and even morally wrong--the article's right. Botox, hair highlighting, tooth whitening, clothes from the "juniors" department are necessities for Boomers, in this world where their availability has raised the bar. Nowadays, to see someone with noticeably crooked teeth is unusual and even distracting--and found only among those over 50. Orthodontia is a necessity because it's widely available (btw, my parents couldn't afford it for me). And I'll bet in this Hollywood-driven world, Botox will soon gain competition, its stigma will evaporate (if it has one) and those nasty forehead lines will be a thing of the past.

Last topic: The results of the Florida primary are being tallied as I post this. Our politics-saturated home roots for McCain. Anyone who cares to question why, may.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Aspiring to Make a Difference--and Failing due to Laziness

A couple posts ago I said that the person I know (well) who gets 200,000 hits a DAY on his blog, was doing something more important with his time than I am--even though I enjoy many wonderful pleasures from my life. Does that make him superior to me? I maintain that it does, though it seems others disagree.

He uses his time wisely. He works constantly, and enjoys most of what he does, even though the writing can be challenging. I enjoy what I do too--family-centered stuff, and house-centered stuff and a much smaller amount of writing.

Is it enough to enjoy your life, or is it BETTER to be actively working to influence others? I do influence others--just today I was talking to a Jewish friend and, I hope, was able to influence her to take on more mitzvot. Very nice. But the 200,000 hit man has probably not only influenced thousands to advance their Jewish commitment, but also influenced many, many thousands of others to view Judaism more positively, even though they, themselves are NOT Jewish.

And for that, he is a better person than I am. He, I believe, will earn BIG credits with God. For my nice little impact, I'll earn perhaps a few piddly credits with God. Something, surely, but no comparison.

Now, you may say, as Moshe did in my comments, that what I do enables Mr. 200,000 to make his big impact. Yes, that's true, and I'm hoping that my backdrop-sustenance will gain me a hold onto Mr. 200,000's coattails when it comes to being judged ultimately. But when I load the dishwasher and wash laundry and cook a Shabbos meal and talk on the phone to people, maintaining our social network, I am doing mundane tasks--and tasks that Mr. 200,000 appreciates but doesn't really NEED to make his huge impact. If we bought food from a caterer for Shabbat, we'd have a nice meal, I'd get five hours, and Mr. 200,000 would enjoy it. If we used paper plates, we wouldn't be ecologically "green," but Mr. 200,000 would be churning out his profound wisdom just the same.

I feel guilty. I do fun things (like edit my huge number of photos, and shop for three hours on the Internet for a camera for my daughter) while Mr. 200,000 is spewing insight out into the blog-o-webworld. How can you argue with the fact that what he is doing is superior? And that his choice to spend his time on earth making a BIG difference is superior to writing this little un-read, self-indulgent blog that I enjoy?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Anti-Immigrant Racism at Issue in Presidential Campaign

We are a home steeped in politics. We are also a Jewish family whose lives intertwine with both legal and illegal immigrants.

In observing Republican politics at the moment--which is not always pleasant, to say the least--I keep hearing pledges and promises that sound to me to be, unfortunately--racist. I hear things like Huckabee's vow yesterday that under his presidency, the approximately 12 million illegal immigrants now working among us will be booted out of their jobs and out of the country within 120 days of his oath of office. And never allowed back. Even if they have citizen children; even if they've been here 30 years and own their own homes and businesses and pay taxes and have sent sons and spouses into our military.

I see angry denouncements of people who come here under great peril and duress, leaving their young children and their aging parents because they have no way to make a living. And America has plenty of jobs, enough so they can quickly begin to send their paychecks home.

I've known some of these people. They work hard. They wish with all their hearts that there was a legal way to be here--or, even more, that they didn't have to be here, consulting "abogados" and finding some way to get a green card. If they could have come here to work legally, they would have--but their countries run with bribery and corruption. With bureaucracies that "lose" applications for years on end. I know of a case where a hopeful immigrant was told three times that his application was "missing," but could be found if he paid $2000. Meanwhile, families are starving; there are no jobs.

The anti-immigrant politicos are reacting to a small but vocal fringe. These voters don't like pressing "2 para espanol." They don't like seeing ballots printed in Chinese. They are uncomfortable with foreigners who have different ways; whose idea of a nice Sunday afternoon is a big family picnic in the park; a park now crowded with such families. They feel invaded and threatened.

The positions candidates are taking are not just reactionary but impossible to actualize. Employers from restauranteurs and hoteliers to construction companies and landscapers can't suddenly reach into a waiting pool of workers should the backbone of their support staff disappear. And many illegal immigrants have risen in their fields to positions of authority, and carefully established themselves in ways that conceal their lack of paperwork. Rooting out twelve million people integrated into the fabric of America cannot and will not happen.

We've got plenty of jobs, plenty of space and have accepted these millions over the years with the warm-heartedness that comes naturally to a nation of immigrants. There were no "closed borders" or restrictions on immigration until 1924. And I maintain that fear and prejudice shaped many of the rules and laws that have come since.

I'm worried and sad that such un-American sentiments can influence citizens at this time in our history. But I'm even more distressed that our politicians have listened to them and played along. Because this is the way they'll lose the election, and lose the heart of America.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Morning View when it's not raining

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Ahh, but it IS raining. Felines and Canines, in a dark haze of drops, though yesterday, don't tell, we had sunshine and clarity.
Last night I was driving in a car with my husband, daughter and her friend and it struck me: "All four people in this car have his or her own blog!" One of us has a blog that gets 200,000 hits daily. That would not be me.
But I do capture sunrises. And hear the raindrops pelting our metal roof, and look out over the lake to see reflections in gradations of gray. And eat excellent chocolate (thank you again, Nika!). Is that worth as much as having my thoughts taken seriously by hundreds of thousands of web viewers? Or millions of listeners?
It is not.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Hampshire Happiness, Steinem & Hillary, and a Computer comes home

Hope you're having a happy day, too!
I got back my computer with no loss of data! And I have 25,000 photos, not just 20,000. Turns out my home had apparently had a power surge; it fried my power source in my computer, my mouse and my keyboard. The dead accessories have now found their way to the trash. And I have found relief.

And the New Hampshire primaries have our house a bit giddy, as well. We are a home steeped in politics; we are a home brimming with opinions, many of them very independent. But we are happy tonight that Republicans chose John McCain, because we think he has the best chance of any of the GOP candidates to beat the inexperienced and potentially dangerous (when it comes to international relations) Hillary and Obama.

Gloria Steinem wrote an op-ed in the New York times today saying that poor Hillary is victimized because American's can't give a woman a chance. Poppycock.
We would have given the right woman a chance; we just don't have our own Margaret Thatcher.

What galled me in Steinem's article was that she says Hillary had more experience than Obama, including "eight years of on-the-job training in the White House." Exactly what WAS her job?? Meddler? Unelected and unappointed adviser? Her health-care plan flopped not only because it was unworkable and against what the American people want, but because she was not "on the job," but rather trying to usurp influence by marriage. That's devious. As I recall, the only thing American taxpayers paid her was too much attention.

Why were "her negatives" always so high? Because she presented herself when questioned like a deer in the headlights. Because she was often incoherent. Because her positions and plans seemed half-baked, and because next to Barack, she seemed to have had a charisma-ectomy. Plus, dear Gloria, she didn't have the backing of another woman, a woman of even greater influence and popularity than the candidate--Oprah.

Yep, for all her conniving--and I do see her terms as New York senator as merely conniving means toward her aspirations of the presidency--and dispite her two-percentage-point lead in New Hampshire tonight, Hillary's not going to have an easy time snagging the nomination. We saw how complicated her situation is when her husband wagged his finger and said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky..." and then had to come back and somberly recant. We all wondered, "Now, what, Hillary?" And she responded, "I still love him...and I'll just become President!" Well, it could happen. She probably struck a bargain with her "play-uh" that she'd let him philander if he'd use his popularity to campaign for her.

But I'm not here to bash Hillary. Instead, I'm just happy that God is blessing this land with a chance for someone who stands by his principles and can be strong. Can McCain beat Hillary? Obama? If he has the right running mate, definitely. Perhaps Lieberman, who endorsed him and would unite the parties--or how about Alaska's governor, the religious, 39-year-old, vivacious, mother,Sarah Palin (right)? The only thing for sure is that New Hampshire voters showed they're aware of the most serious issues we face, and that's a good omen for the future of this race.

Now if I could get my returned computer to have sound...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Losing Sleep over My Broken Computer

We are too dependent on our computers.

I'm awake this very minute because I'm filled with anxiety over possibly losing all 20,000 of my photos. Oh yeah, I've also got anxiety over possibly losing the chapters I've done on a book....just telling you about it makes me go AARRGGHH.

In the middle of working, after about six hours of tedious research and writing, (I did hit "save" every few minutes), my desktop computer died. Just stopped. It gave a heavy "click," and the monitor went black and my cpu went off. Now, occassionally this happens, and I just
hold down the power button on my computer ten seconds, and voila, it starts up and my dear Microsoft Word auto-recover gets me going again. But this time...nothing.

I'm thinking, well, at least I have everything saved on my external hard drive! Smart me! And I got out an auxiliary laptop and yes, there was my stuff on the external hard drive, was from its regularly scheduled backup three days
before--everything I'd done that day was not there.

OK, don't panic, I tell myself. The hard drive is probably not the problem. It's probably the fan. These mechanical parts go, and so, I'll just get a new fan. I seldom vacuum inside my cpu, and it probably up-and-died of eating too much dust.

The next day I spent the usual wasted hours trying to find somebody to come out and bring a new fan and repair my computer. I found a repair place that could send someone the following day. This was last Thursday.

He came (late, okay, but he did come) and said no, it was not the fan but the power source and he'd have to take my computer back to the shop. The next day he said he could send the chapter I was working on by email...great! It was Friday afternoon; I was cooking all day and didn't have time to check my computer, given that Shabbat came in at 4:10.

After Shabbat, I eagerly went to the laptop I was using as a substitute computer...and, no, there was no emailed chapter. And...what's THIS??? My external hard drive had autosaved the unimportant and minor contents of this laptop--and ERASED everything it had saved from my main computer!

I sometimes use the term, "aarrgghh." This time everyone in my house heard it.

And the computer place is closed today, Sunday, and I cannot sleep. Twenty thousand photos represents my life since December, 2003. Losing the work I've done on the book chapters is arrggghh-worthy beyond belief.

I have a dear teacher who recently lost everything on his computer, too--including books he'd written ready to send to his publisher, needed for his family's sustenance. A friend of his was going to investigate why it was slow on the internet, but the computer fell off the friend's motorcycle on his way home, and was immediately squashed by an oncoming truck. THAT is even worse than my situation.

I know that anyone reading this has also suffered with computer losses. Maybe you have lost sleep over it, too. What to do? External hard drive (don't leave it plugged into a substitute computer) and uploading to internet servers (I know, they charge $50-100/year) and backing up on CDs and sending important files to others as email attachments. But do we actually do all of that? For personal stuff like photos and email that you use all the time?

Anybody remember organizers and typewriters? Oh yeah, I do...guess THAT'S why we still depend on our computers. Our lives are so much easier and more efficient and even more connected because of them. And because there's so much more we create and share, there's also a lot more to lose.