Saturday, June 21, 2008

1870 Rape Redux

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A few posts back I wrote that I thought the statistic that one in four women will have been sexually assaulted is much too low (here, and here). The following quote is from a woman who teaches women's self defense classes, the post it's from is at She quoted the number she'd heard as one in six. A mere detail. She and I agree either way it's way too low.

"I once went out for a girl's night out with seven of my best girlfriends at the time. We drank, and stayed up late in our hotel room like an adult version of slumber party, and the subject of rape and molestation came up. There were eight of us in that room. With the dark, and the alcohol, and the friendship, it was the sort of time and place where you confessed things to one another that you never would in the light of day. Every single one of us had been assaulted at some time in her life, some more than once (by this I mean different perpetrators, different circumstances.) Out of eight women from different backgrounds, different lives, from roughly the same age bracket. And you know what? I can only think of one of us that ever pursued her attacker through the legal system, and that was two years after this occasion. One out of eight that ever legally reported the crime against her."

This has been my experience, too. About half the women with whom I have discussed the topic have been sexually violated in some way (and that's only the ones who were comfortable with admitting it). I don't mean groping, or harassment, or being hassled. I mean violation through some kind of physical or emotional coercion. I know sweet little old ladies who met and married their childhood sweethearts and stayed married to the man for 40 or 50 or 60 years, who have stories of the father, grandfather, uncle, neighbor, or boss who seemed to feel entitled to her body, and she didn't know she could say no, or didn't know how.

1869 Critical Critique

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I got an email notice this morning about a free pre-release showing of "Critical Condition", a PBS POV film about the struggles of four families without health insurance, to be shown on PBS on September 30, 2008. The viewing at the arts theater in Rhinebeck would be followed by a discussion with a guy from POV (PBS's "Point of View" series). He'd be looking for comments and questions that might improve the presentation (it's actually still in production).

So, of course, I went. There were only 12 people there. Disappointing attendance, but it WAS a beautiful day, and there was a huge arts/crafts fair at the fairgrounds just up the street (I'll go to that tomorrow), and advertising was word-of-mouth.

I don't have much of an opinion on it. It left us with a lot of questions. Michael Moore's "Sicko" did a better job, but was too sensational for many. "Critical Condition" wasn't sensational enough. ("Sicko" was about people with health coverage getting the shaft from insurance companies. "Critical Condition" is about people who have no health coverage.)

And I hate to say it, but one of the four families, actually with the most critical medical condition, did not generate much compassion. Pity, yes. Compassion, no. You had the feeling right from the introduction that they were asking for it, ignoring health conditions they could have controlled cheaply if they had only thought about it. Political correctness prevented anyone from saying that, though.


Through a circuitous route I ended up perusing a stranger's Flicker albums this afternoon (he/she had some dance photos someone else had referenced), and I came across a series of photos taken at a conference.

I looked at the people in the photos, and thought "My God! It looks like a Mensa convention, but WORSE!" I'm sorry to admit it, but I looked at those people and thought that they were not people I wanted to sit down and talk with. They had that Mensa unkempt I-don't-care-how-I-look-and-neither-should-you sloppy look, but they also had something weird about the eyes. Something a little bit blank and other-worldly. Like I wouldn't be able to connect with them even if we did talk.

I looked up the name of the group.

It was a hardcore sci-fi fan club.



1868 Girdles!

Saturday, June 21, 2008, early am.

I was just flipping through TV channels and passed a commercial for another "body shaper". They seem to be all the rage now. What happened?

Until the late '60s we wore girdles. Some included the bra and right down to the mid-thigh, some were waist to top of thigh, and variations between. Everyone wore them if you were leaving the house. It was called a "foundation garment". A girl knew her mother considered her a young lady the day she was presented with her first girdle. Partly it was to prevent the dreaded jiggle. Mostly it was to hold stockings up. And everyone always wore stockings everywhere, all the time. We actually wore stockings with shorts! Bare legs were very daring, and only for the most casual of occasions.

Yeah, there were garter belts, but they were uncomfortable, let your stockings droop when you sat down, and made funny bulges. There were rolled garters worn just above or just below the knee, but everyone knew they encouraged varicose veins, and tended to fail at critical moments. You wore them just around the house.

So we all wore girdles, almost all the time.

Reliable pantyhose were not commonly available until the very early '70s. It was pantyhose and the Women's Liberation movement that spelled doom for the girdle. I am loose! I am free! This is me! Like it or lump it! We gloried in our natural bodies.

Suddenly, I'm seeing what amounts to girdles everywhere. They don't call them girdles. They call them smoothers or shapers. (Um, doesn't this imply your shape isn't good enough? Has it occurred to anyone that if they're lumpy, maybe their clothes are just too tight?)

Hey! They're GIRDLES! They are a negative symbol we rejected three decades ago! And you don't even need them for stockings any more. They are purely an external rejection of who and what you are!

What happened? Why are women backsliding? I don't like it at all.

Friday, June 20, 2008

1867 A day at the home

Friday, June 20, 2008

Everytime I hear someone on a commercial mention "age-defying makeup", I hear "age-defining makeup", and I wonder why anyone would want that.


Fireflies! Lightning bugs! My front yard is full of them, finally!


I'm tired. Today I volunteered at a huge local nursing home/rehab center, from 2 'til 8 pm, at an open house to celebrate their 15th anniversary. They had a petting zoo that included a baby kangaroo in a pouch that you could hold, goats and sheep and a huge tortoise, lemurs, and an alligator that you couldn't hold, pony rides, carnival games, a bouncy thingy, three stages with entertainment, and lots of food. The entertainment included a crooner, a pair of very impressive and entertaining jugglers, a caricaturist (who was excellent), and a band, "The big Smoothies".

The free food included fried dough, hot dogs, hamburgers, pulled pork, five different formats of ice cream, bags of various munchies, lollipops, sno-cones, cotton candy, four or five kinds of drinks, and possibly other stuff I didn't find. Everything was free to everyone.

The Big Smoothies were fantastic. I can't believe I've never heard of them before. Eight members. It so happened that the frontsman and lead singer, Daryl Magill, is also the activities director at the home. He has enormous energy, one of those people who really works the crowd. (And he makes a credible Tina Turner.) They did two outdoor shows, and had 90 year-olds dancing in their walkers with 60s, 70s, and motown music. The link above has their schedule, and I intend to see them again. They'll be at the Rondout for the fireworks. (Local folks - they'll be free outdoors at Ten Broeck Commons Wednesday evenings starting July 9, through July and August. I don't know what time. Daryl said "beneath the stars", but the old folks go to bed early, so I don't know. Anyway, when I figure it out, you'll see me there.)

When I first arrived, I was assigned to the main activities room, where the crooner (Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra standards) was singing. My job was to watch for any residents who looked restless, and ask them if they wanted to leave, and escort or wheel them to wherever they wanted to go. A few fell asleep, but no one looked restless. I would have been. The singer was ok, except for an unfortunate habit of being off key on every sustained note.

Then I pushed ladies in wheelchairs to whatever activity they wanted to visit, chatted with them and made sure they were comfortable, ran messages back and forth between the kitchen and various food stands, and often just stood around enjoying the shows and the crowds. And there were crowds! Thousands of people.

About 6:30 pm the guy currently on the cotton candy machine needed a break and I was asked to take over. I'd always wanted to do that! Yeah! It was a big industrial model with a hood that you had to reach into with the paper cones, and you spin the cone in your fingers as you go around the inside, to spool up the sugar webs. My arms aren't very long, so to do it right I had to stand pretty close to the opening (they gave me two milk crates to stand on) and reach way in to get all the way to the back, with my head almost inside the hood.

I had a blast! But, well, let's just say cotton candy makes a very good hair spray. Holds like AquaNet. Until it rains. Then you get a sugar helmet.

It didn't really rain. There were just a few sprinkles, the kind that dry on the parking lot as fast as they fall. We had about five minutes worth of sprinkle during The Big Smoothies' second set, and suddenly about 50 ladies in wheelchairs demanded to be taken inside, immediately. The forces were mobilized. I took one lady in, and when I returned for another, they were all in. That's one of the most impressive things about this home - the staff. They've got enough people, and they all work together when something needs to happen.

So, I went from youngsters on Tuesday to oldsters today, and I enjoyed both.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

1866 Why Bother.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Public radio has been doing a series on how police departments profit from confiscating drug money and property.

I was aware of that law, allowing the confiscation of houses, vehicles, boats, money, anything suspected of being used for making, running, selling, or distributing drugs. I've always disagreed with that law, and don't understand how it ever made it past the Supreme Court, because all that's required is suspicion, no trial, no proof, and that is flat out unconstitutional. There have been cases where people have had property confiscated, but were not charged with any crime, sued to get their stuff back, and couldn't get it back because it had already been sold or destroyed. They might get a grossly depreciated value returned. Or nothing at all because, get this, they don't have a receipt. And maybe they didn't do anything wrong! Suspicion only! Maybe just a nasty rumor.

What I wasn't aware of until yesterday is that in most jurisdictions, the police are allowed to keep the confiscated property, and are allowed to use it in any way they wish. That's a good incentive to go out and confiscate, isn't it?

There's some sheriff's department just above the Florida/Georgia line who takes in multi-millions of dollars every year, just by stopping and searching cars, and confiscating anything they take a liking to. I-95 is the corridor for running drugs from Miami to the northeast.** Drugs would be headed north, and money headed south. Guess which side of the road gets the traps.

I got the impression that few of the people are actually arrested on drug charges, because when you're finding just a lot of money, there's not enough evidence to prosecute.

They also talked about Texas, where they "stop Mexicans", and the state police net many BILLIONS of dollars per year.

They said that few people try to get their property back because the legal costs make it not worth it.

I think this is extortion. I don't care if they ARE guilty! It's government sanctioned extortion.

So today I caught a bit of the followup on my way to dinner. Someone pointed out that police can't stop a car, and especially can't search the car or the people, without cause. What cause do they use?

I could not believe the answer. An actual police officer said, with no irony in his voice, as if it was reasonable, "Well, when the speed limit is 65, people are going to be doing 75. So you stop the guy doing the speed limit or less. He's got something to hide."

My brain is still screaming.

Obeying the law is suspicious, and enough cause for you to be stopped and searched, and have all your (possibly innocent and perfectly legal) money, jewelry, whatever, confiscated with no recourse.

Next time you're stopped for speeding, try that excuse on the officer. "I'm speeding because I want to look honest and law biding."


**Actually, I knew intimately someone who was a drug runner between Washington and Miami in the late '70s. But he didn't drive. He flew down with the money and back with cocaine in checked baggage. Maybe with all the luggage restrictions these days, flying with drugs is harder. That leads me to wonder how much of the hassle at the airport is to protect us from bombs made of infant formula and shampoo, and how much is to force the drug money to pass the highway police traps.

1865 Reverse Graffiti

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Last month I posted an amazing animated graffiti clip. (If you haven't already seen it, you should.) This is the other side of the coin. It's not as amazing, but it's an interesting concept.


1864 Terrorists are in our schools!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

NEW YORK -- A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, the Attorney General said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement.

He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction. 'Al-gebra is a problem for us', the Attorney General said. 'They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in search of absolute values.'

They use secret code names like 'X' and 'Y' and refer to themselves as 'unknowns', but we have determined that they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country.

As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'There are 3 sides to every triangle'.

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, 'If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, he would have given us more fingers and toes.'

White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent or profound statement by the President.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

1863 Oops

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Man's replacement laptop arrived today, so I ran it down to his office in NJ, so if there's any problem with it, we find out ASAP. Which led to an interesting afternoon. The following is an edited version of the note sent to The Man after my return home. I'm just too zonked to rewrite.

I made it to [the village, home] in good time, but things went west from there.
When I was getting gas at the station across the street and down from [Piper]'s office this afternoon (12:50 pm, on the way to meet you), I saw some guy and [Piper] in heated discussion outside [Piper]'s office. They were shouting, I could distinctly hear [Piper]'s voice, and it turned into a shoving match. It looked pretty bad, and ended only when [Piper] opened his office door, pushed the other guy away when he attempted to enter, went in and closed and presumably locked the door.
I called [Piper] a few times before I met with you, but got the machine on both the office phone and his cell. So, of course, I stopped in on my way home.
The battle was with [The Angel], his partner and our CPA, and it was about the mess (my words, not Piper's) [The Angel] has made of [Piper]'s 2007 taxes. [Piper] denies it, but I suspect it also involved my taxes, which [The Angel] messed up even worse. I didn't recognize [The Angel] at that distance. [Piper] says they've already made up, but when I arrived at [Piper]'s office, the door was still locked, which it never is, even sometimes when [Piper] isn't there, so I don't really believe him on either count.
[Piper] invited me out for a drink. His (pay attention here) daughter's fiance's father's brother had married a internet-order Philippino bride in a civil ceremony that afternoon, and the immediate family was having a celebratory dinner in a restaurant just down the street, and [Piper] wanted to drop in and deliver a gift, so we did. When offered a drink, I said "I'll have what the bride's having", which no one could identify as other than a Peach Something-or-other. Then [Piper] began to feel uncomfortable, so he said "Drink up and let's go", so I did, and that was a mistake.
I am right now tipsier than I have been in decades. I've done shots with the guys in the tavern of an afternoon. I've chugged the Grande Marnier when you and I have been in a hurry. But nothing has hit me like this Peach Something-or-other. I wonder what's in it.
[Piper] says he and [his lady] are finally absolutely really separating, and so he has invited me as his date to his daughter's wedding. I pointed out that he really should sit with his ex-wife - she won't be with anyone - but he says no way. I've met his daughters and enjoy them, they like me, but I'd be uncomfortable as the "date" of the father of the bride, so I don't know. (It's not really a date - a kiss on the cheek is as far as it goes, as far as it will ever go, but part of the problem is that others do think there's more going on, and his daughters wish there was more.)
Anyway, I'm home in one piece, unless I'm too blotto to notice what pieces are missing.

1862 Bloglines Backup?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Anybody else out there using Bloglines? Something strange going on? I'll get no alerts from blogs that are usually updated almost every day, then I'll get a burst of several days' worth of posts, 5, 8, even 10 at once. Inconvenient.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

1861 Pen Pals

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Pen Pals picnic was today. I got to meet the fourth-grade girl I've been corresponding with as part of their composition class this school year. The past several years, the picnic was at a town or county park on the river. They brought grills and cooked hot dogs, and we played games and went on hikes through the woods with a naturalist from a local college. We saw turtles and snakes and frogs, and learned to identify trees and flowers. The kids were all great. I really enjoy them.

I got the notice for the picnic about 10 days ago, and my heart fell. Instead of a park, we were going to the Maritime Museum - the museum where I had been volunteering and getting more and more unhappy because they were putting more and more responsibility on me, and it was taking more and more of my time, until one day late last summer I rather abruptly quit. Yeah, that place. I haven't been back there since, and didn't want to go. The volunteer coordinator has called a time or two to ask me to work at functions, and was glad I couldn't because I had other commitments. I wasn't looking forward to appearing on their doorstep today.

And, we were to bring our own lunch.

They had tables and tents set up on the grounds for us. The only planned activity was a tour of the museum. We arrived at 9 am, and nothing happened. By 10:30 the kids were bored out of their gourds and breaking into their lunches. They finally took half the kids through the museum while the rest of us sat and twiddled our thumbs, then our half, which got cut short when ice cream arrived. There were no games, so I didn't get to interact with any of the kids except the ones immediately near me at our table.

One of the teachers said that next year they'll probably have the picnic on the school grounds. That'll suit me fine. I'd rather have a park, but school will do if the kids get to play. (Well, ok, if WE get to play. I like playing with the kids.)

This evening I met The Man in Newburgh for dinner, drinks, and music. I really am strongly attracted to him, and it's funny how every time I see him it's like I discover it all over again.

Monday, June 16, 2008

1860 The Internet and Cognition

Monday, June 16, 2008

If you're interested in how the internet has affected how and what we read and how we think, you should read

If you take one look at it and decide it's too long, or if you skim the first few paragraphs and think, "Ok, got it", then you REALLY need to read the whole thing.

What it says is true for me. I have noticed it. Yeah, I can read whole novels online, but the point is, I mostly don't. Even when I'm looking things up because I want to know about them, I find that whereas not so long ago I wanted to learn about things in depth, now I get a few keywords and key ideas, and move on. The curiosity and ... attention span? even perhaps desire ... aren't there.


The owner of the Harley came today with a friend and a van, and loaded up the bike. Again we chatted a bit. He's smart. He's apparently somehow associated with Columbia. After the bike was loaded I said something about hoping I didn't see him like this again, and he said "Oh, you'll see me again, just not under these circumstances", reached out to shake hands, and bent down and kissed my cheek.

Sigh. He sure was good-lookin'. Classically handsome.

I wish I knew what he meant.


It was a beautiful day today, right up until 4 pm when the thunderstorms moved in. Both cats get jumpy when there's thunder, so I've got cat glued to my ankles. They still don't get along, have to be at least two feet apart, and since my ankles aren't that far apart there's a constant spitting snarling battle. (Miss Thunderfoot snarls and spits. Jasper just reaches out to her and pats at her. I think he's trying to play, and Miss Thunderfoot is having none of it.) Anyway, it makes it a bit difficult to walk.


It took a year, but I think Roman and his affection is moving on. We were both at the dinner last Tuesday, for the first time in months. He hesitated before deciding to sit next to me. During dinner, at one point I snarled at him when he started to put down a program I recommended to another, a program he has not tried, and I'm really tired of his doing that and I guess it showed. When dinner ended, he didn't walk me to my car and say goodbye.

I'm sad to see him go, but I wish him well.

1859 I Need Photoshop!

Monday, June 16, 2008



Sunday, June 15, 2008

1858 She Who Knows

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I mentioned a while back that people close to me who were on their way out have waited for me to arrive before they die. I should have qualified that. "... if they knew I was coming and could hang on." It has happened many times, and they always begin the final decline within minutes of my arrival.

My family, my mother's side, believes in "gifts". They won't admit it, but it's there, and it sometimes governs their actions. My mother could always predict the sex of a baby just by looking at the belly. She was never wrong. I always know when someone is pregnant, sometimes even before they know. I always know when a potato has a black spot in the middle. Back when there were always a few bad potatoes in a bag, I was asked to sort them, and bad potatoes never got past me. I know when deer are about to cross the road, and when there's a speed trap ahead. It's just a thing. My daughter is carrying on the tradition. She can tell just by touching someone when something is wrong inside their body, and where. She's always right, with the consequence that she won't hug me tightly because she "Doesn't want to know." It's a family thing.

Anyway, while showering, I was thinking about Great-Aunt Martha and her big feet. That led to all the Scranton family, GAs Bertha, and Sara, and Jane, GUs Fred, and Sammy. And I realized something that never stuck together before. All the GAs and GUs. Gramma. Grampa. My mother's brother Richard. MY OWN FATHER! All of them are long dead, and in every case, I was not informed that they had died, let alone were nearing death, until a week or more after the funeral, when I was informed almost as an afterthought. My siblings knew, and even in some cases attended the funerals, but no one informed me until it was all unquestionably over.


In the family, I am "She Who Knows Potatoes". Am I also "She Who Brings Death"?

1857 Mom and Baby Sister

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I was poking through a drawer and found this photo. It's my mother and my baby sister, in approximately 1988.

In this photo, Mom is one year older than I am now, and she died in my arms two years later, of congestive heart failure. Baby Sister (the sweetest person I've ever known) drank herself into a fatal coma seven years after this photo, and wasn't found for three days because her husband was too drunk to realize she wasn't just sleeping.

I'm still having trouble with it, which is, I guess, why the photo was in the bottom of a drawer. I can handle them individually, but together like this it's harder.

My daughter looks a lot like my mother. I see it especially in this picture.

1856 Preteen and Teenaged Adults?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What's with this new tendency to prosecute all young miscreants as adults? Even 12-year-olds? Either they are adults with adult judgment (granted, some adults don't have the judgment of a 12-year-old), or they're not. Developmentally delayed adults aren't held to an adult standard, so why should a 12-year-old? And if you are going to hold them to an adult standard of guilt and punishment, then shouldn't they also be given the rights of an adult?

I don't get it.

I suspect it has more to do with the prosecutor's political ambition than any public safety issue, and that disgusts me.