Saturday, October 06, 2012

3632 The crystal jar

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Happiness is not something you find; it's something you make.


October is Jay's month, partly because of that first-week curse (previous post), partly because he'd died at the end of October, and partly because he loved the autumn.  So even though it's eleven years since he left, October is his month.

At his memorial service (which he specifically didn't want but his sisters insisted upon) the pastor spoke of "keeping memories in a crystal jar".  I liked that idea.  I filled a crystal jar on the living room bookcase with slips of paper, each a special memory of him that I didn't want to lose.

I brought the jar down to the new house in September.  This morning I unpacked it from the box, and I read the slips of paper again for the first time in a few years.

I've listed those slips twice already in this blog, on October 27, 2004, and on February 19, 2006.  Here it is again - for Jay.

• The way he played video games with his tongue and whole body

• When something (a hammer, a pen) wasn’t where he expected to find it, he said "It escaped!", and seemed truly surprised

• He always tried to think honestly about his feelings, never hid anything from himself or me

• He never tried to talk me into skiing, never indicated in the least that he missed it

• Twinkling eyes

• He supported me against his father’s strong disapproval when I found the McDonald’s outside Versailles
• He couldn’t spell worth a damn

• He gave me the clouds and the moon

• "Carrot cake is a vegetable, right?"

• He loved Pleiades, volcanoes, and meteor showers

• In many ways, he was like my beloved mice - quiet, made nice warm nests, worked hard, personally very clean, and, like a mouse, he left the remnants of his tasks scattered behind him

• How huge he looked behind the windshields of his tiny cars - one wondered how he would ever unfold to get out

• The way he pronounced "oops"

• The mountain of his shoulders in bed, the angle of his hip

• When he stood at the bar of the Marlboro Inn in his three-piece dark suit, among the hunters and farmers - how tall he seemed, how impressively broad his shoulders

• After his diagnosis, he joked that he didn’t understand all the fuss - after all, his illness was just "all in his head"

• The way he could snatch flies right out of the air - and always released them outside

• He explained that there are things that are very clear and understandable, until you try to explain them - there are some things that just shouldn’t be looked at too carefully

• He was unaware of how big and powerful he was - he was timid about walking the streets of Binghamton after dark

• He never complained. Not once. No matter what

• His delicate tapering hands

• The way he gave off heat when he slept

• How playful he was

• The dangerous toiletries

• When he worked on something, he made a terrible mess of his environs, but the work itself was done neatly, delicately, and perfectly

• He acknowledged male hormonal urges and prohibitions - even better, he was able to describe male attitudes and thought patterns so that a female could actually understand and sympathize with them

• The way he couldn’t resist "improving" everything he bought

• How confident he was of his ability to understand/handle/fix anything

• Everybody says you have to work hard and constantly at a good marriage - it wasn’t work for him, he did what came naturally, and it was good

• The way his uni-eyebrow and beard were all one piece, and his nose hairs blended into his mustache

• The way his tongue helped him concentrate

• How sensitive he was to my moods, and always said and did exactly the right thing

• Joy in little things, like Ninja and Baby plowing a figure 8 in deep snow - "Just what I always wanted - a doggy choo-choo!"

• That silky spot behind and below his left ear

• How soft and liquid his eyes could get

• Lying on the ground looking at stars

• Pizza! Pizza, pizza, pizza!

• He was so clean about his body that it took me ten years to discover that he had a severe problem with seborrhea on his scalp, face, and ears.

• He remembered perfectly everything he heard or read

• Music confused him - too much information all at once

• Elfin hairs on the outer curve and lobes of his ears

• His absolute joy in yummies

• LOUD!!! sneezes

• He never got petulant when I consistently beat him at word games like Super Boggle, and he played happily because he knew I enjoyed them

• His delicate artist’s touch

• The wonderful lopsided smile when he saw me coming down the hall at the rehab center

• In the last months, when he was having hallucinations and delusions, he listened to me and believed me, even though everything he "saw" and felt told him differently

• Near the end, he said that one of the things he appreciated most about me was the way I so thoroughly understood him. He didn’t realize that was only because he opened himself so completely to me.

• Incredible force of will - he hung on until I told him it was time to go.

• The cloud formation a few days after he died - his face, with a winking moon eye

• The meteor shower a few days after he died - I got up at 5 am and went out to the deck only because I knew he would want me to, and I counted >50 in the first 2 minutes, then I stopped counting. Later, the newspaper and the astronomy club reported a peak of 30 per hour! I got a private show. I truly believe he arranged it for me.

Is it any wonder I'm still in love with him?

3631 Mortgage musing

Saturday, October 6, 2012

“With the enormous expansion of social programs in the 1960's and 1970's,
America waged war on poverty - and poverty won.”
-- Ray Wilson, in an Amazon reader review of Nickel and Dimed in America --


First week of October.  One more day and then the October curse has passed for another year.

Jay and I  had learned to fear the first week of October.
  • That's when his back went out, ultimately requiring surgery.  
  • That's when he had the head-on collision that totaled the car and ended up with him being sued, lawyers and depositions and the whole shebang (his was the third of four accidents on that curve that evening before the county got around to sanding the curve).  
  • That's when he had the first seizure, that led three months later to the brain cancer diagnosis.  
  • That's when the first tumor recurrence showed up on an MRI.  
  • And then the second.  
  • That's when he woke up one morning with someone else's arm attached to him, the beginnings of the loss of the left side of his world.  
  • And that's when he began his final decline from a devastated immune system.
For six years at least, every first week of October brought something bad.  For eleven years since, every fall, I hold my breath for a week.  Yeah, it seemed that the demons of October had it in for Jay, not me, but still....


I don't understand interest rates.

I'd heard that it's difficult to get loans these days.  I hadn't been paying a lot of attention, but I did notice that the interest rates on my credit cards had been creeping up.   No, I don't miss payments, and I'm not late, and I almost always pay off the full balance every month, so the interest rates don't affect me that much anyway, but I killed one of my Visa accounts a few months ago when the interest rate suddenly went to 24% for no apparent reason.  That's ridiculous!  I didn't even bother calling them, except to kill the card.  My other cards hover around 7-9%, and when they creep up to 11% I call and complain and they drop it again.

So, I was under the impression that loan interest rates were high.

On the other hand, banks are paying ridiculous rates on savings.  I don't much think about what they're paying because my money isn't there to earn interest, it's just in savings as less accessible backup.  So yesterday I checked.  My savings accounts (four of them in three different banks) are paying .12% at one bank and .15% at another.  WHAT?!  That's less than a fifth of one per cent!  That's ridiculous!  I haven't bothered with CDs in decades, because they rarely pay even 1%.

So I wondered - if loan rates are high, and savings rates are low, why are the banks crying poverty?

Well, I checked on loan rates.

NJ current average mortgage rates:
3.33% - 30 Year Fixed
2.75% - 15 Year Fixed
2.68% - 5/1 ARM


I consider that very low!

Of course, my last experience with a mortgage was when I left Ex#2 and bought the house in Highland, NY, in 1983.  I had a 1/3 downpayment on the house, financed the other 2/3, had an excellent credit history, and yet the best I could do was a 30-year adjustable-rate  mortgage at 16%, with 6 points!  Over the next few years the "adjustable" part took it up to a hair over 17% before it started down again.   90+% of my monthly payments went to interest, not principle.  So I have a horror of mortgages, and have avoided a mortgage on my last two houses since.

Sheesh.  At 2.75% it would make sense for me to take out a mortgage on the city house, invest most of the money in mutual funds (mine are paying 7% and up), and use the mortgage cash instead of credit cards - since I'd be paying like 6% less to use it.

It's not simple.  How much am I willing to pay for simplicity?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

3630 Oh, THAT debate.

Thursday, October 3, 2012

In the movie "The Third Man", a character observes that thirty years of turmoil in Italy under the Borgias produced Michelangelo, Leonardo DaVinci, and the Renaissance, while five hundred years of peace in Switzerland produced the cuckoo clock.


The previous post outlined my own personal disappointments with the debate.

Of course, as expected, Obama exaggerated a bit in a positive direction on the economy, and Romney exaggerated a bit in a negative direction, except when he was making positive but unsubstantiated forcasts for his own plans.

Ho hum, what else is new.

A lot of claims were made and numbers tossed around, and mostly my eyes crossed because I didn't know much about the numbers, except that each was chosen (and inflated or deflated) to create an impression.

So, if you are as curious as I was, you'll find the facts about the numbers (rather dense) at

If you'd like a score card of the truths, untruths, and half-truths tossed around, go to

What's sad is that very few people will bother to read any analysis.  So as far as most people are concerned, everything that was said is "true" to some degree, so the "winner" is he who can tell the most eggregious lies the most convincingly.


3629 What debate?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Money cannot buy love, but it can put you in a good bargaining position.


Yeah.  The debate.  I yelled at Obama to talk faster, more forcefully, and please please throw in a few quotable lines among those long dissertations, just one would do for cripes sake!  I yelled at Romney to quit interrupting and stop with the pandering.  I yelled at Lerher to take control, damn it, do your job, stop letting Romney blow right over you!

I didn't learn much.  I'm left with a few questions, like does Romney know the difference between "compete" and "collude" when talking about businesses?  Given his background, I'd wager not.  He might even figure that without regulation and oversight, big business will feel a proper social responsibility to serve their public.  (Unfortunately, big business considers their public to consist only of shareholders.)

And how come nobody anywhere, not Obama last night (I was yelling at him to ask) nor commentators or columnists today, how come nobody has asked how Romney's plan of turning over a lot of federal functions to the states results in lower taxes?  Yeah, maybe it would reduce federal taxes if the federal government isn't paying that bill, but what is the result on state taxes?  How does it help me if my federal income tax drops by 20%, but my state income tax and sales tax double?  Why didn't Obama ask?

I forget exactly when it was, but a few decades ago a lot of social service programs (including medicaid, foodstamps,  education, and so on) were fully funded and administered by the states.  The result was that the quantity and quality varied enormously.  The secondary result was that people in need and dependent on a program moved to states that had better services - with the result that they overwhelmed the system in that state.  Federal involvement leveled the field.  At least, that's my impression.  Have we not learned from that?

Remember a while back when conservatives were agitating to privatize social security, turn it over to the stock market and other investment?  I was yelling then about nobody remembering why social security was started in the first place.  Hey, remember October of 1929, when folks who had saved all their lives suddenly found it had all disappeared, and they had nothing?  Social security was meant to ensure that nothing like that ever happened again, that no matter what happened on Wall Street, they would at least not starve.  So why on earth would anyone want to hang that safety net back on Wall Street?  Heh heh.  Fate in its wisdom saw fit to teach us again why not.  Notice nobody talks much anymore about privatization.

Romney says he'd halt funding of, among other things, Amtrak.  Yeah, Amtrak has some problems.  (So does the deteriorating highway system.)  Um, we desperately need better mass transit systems.   We don't need to kill off what little we have.  You can travel all over Europe by train.  You don't even need a car at all in England.  What the hell???

I just get so frustrated when people don't learn from history, and keep wanting to try things that we've already found don't work.  Hey, I have an idea - let's not declare war on anyone for a while!  Did you know that the recent wars have cost gazillions of dollars, all of which was BORROWED!  And then Romney's party didn't want to raise the debt ceiling, when it was Bush's personal wars that got it so high?  Does anyone else find it interesting that Romney wants to give the military more than they want?  Is there something he's not telling us?  (Why didn't Obama ask, for me?)  Is THAT his plan to increase employment - start another war and hire all the unemployed as gun-fodder?

Ah.  Stop.  I hope for more from the veep debate.  Biden won't be as polite, and Ryan won't be so cool.

Monday, October 01, 2012

3628 Lung power

Monday, October 1, 2012

Democracy is the worst system in the world - except for the other ones.


Leslie Stahl said on Sunday's "60 Minutes" that it was part of Arnold Schwarzenegger's life plan to "win one bodybuilding competition after the next".  I'm having trouble figuring out the timing on that.  I guess that's planning two ahead?


There's some kind of contest on YouTube.  Regular sponsored vloggers (bleck!  Yes, they exist) have been asked to get their regular viewers to submit videos of themselves for the "Supernote 2012" competition.  (See for Lamarr Wilson's call for entries, this morning.)

Basically, you just sustain a note for as long as you can.

Now, keep in mind that I was born and raised in a home where both parents smoked two packs a day.  I'm now a little old lady who's been smoking for 50 years.  I got dizzy blowing up the Nugget's wading pool this past summer.  Still, I figured I'd try it, just out of curiosity.

I took a few deep breaths, fulled the old airbags, and woo'd a note. I held the note steady, sustained with no wobbles, for 37 seconds on the first try.  I think I could go longer with some practice, but given my age and smoking history I figured I'd still get nowhere near contest-worthy.

So this evening I checked to see what responses Lamarr had.  There's about 50 of them so far, and most are young males.  I am shocked that very few of them managed to get past 22 seconds!

Let me repeat that - only a handful got past 22 seconds!

And these were submissions, so you know it wasn't the first try - it was the BEST try.

Wow.  Either I have more lung capacity than I expected, or I know how to conserve air.

So, how long can you go?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

3627 Baths and Showers

Sunday, September 30, 2012

"The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures;
but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot." 
--  Mark Twain --


So, how often do YOU bathe or shower?  And does one feel less need to bathe as one gets older?  The question came up on another blogger's post.

The myth is that all Americans bathe every day, but judging from the responses on the referenced post, every other day seems more common.
  • Folks on online dating sites always want people who shower at least once or twice a day.  I wonder how many of them actually do.  
  • Jay showered every morning.  
  • My mother complained that one of my brothers showered three times a day.  
  • Ex#2 would bathe only when I told him to.  When we visited his parents, if even if we were there two weeks, he didn't shower or brush his teeth once the entire time we were there.  Not once.  Daughter says he still avoids washing.  When she visits him she has to tell him he stinks and push him into the bathroom.  
  • "The Man" showers every day, possibly twice.  I have to assume that just from what I know of him, because when we've been together he showers (or takes a bubble bath if there's a Jacuzzi available) morning and evening.  I have often tried to talk him out of the evening shower - I love his natural scent, I prefer it to his soap, but he seems to cringe at the very thought of going to bed unwashed.  When he's sweaty after bowling, I'm not allowed to snuggle until after he's showered.  He refuses to believe that I love the smell of his sweat.  I DO!  I do do do !  He seems to have a great fear of offending.
  • Me, I take a bath or shower whenever I plan to leave the house and be around people - anything beyond like a trip to the post office or the quick-shop.  Going to the grocery store will call for a small bath.  If I don't plan to be around people, I don't bother.  I never go more than three days, though, even if I'm playing hermit. I wash my hair about every four days.
Now, the question asked was after 50, does one bathe less?

Babies don't get adult-style body odor.  When they have a clean diaper on, they smell wonderful, even without powders or soaps.  Kids don't get body odor problems, either, until they start adolescence.  That's when they start needing deodorants.

It's hormones.  Adult sexual hormones change the skin, oils, and sweat so that they produce distinctive odors (pheromones, the sexual signals), and when left on the skin the richer exudates foster the growth of odor-causing organisms. 

Really quite simple.

Just as we start life with a bean-shaped body, we end life with a bean-shaped body.  In our first ten years we gain a lot of abilities, and in our last 30 years we lose those same abilities - in pretty much the same order.  If we live long enough, we even end up bedridden or in a "stroller", wearing a diaper and eating soft foods.

As we age, our sexual hormones weaken.  For men, it happens over time (the reverse of their youth), and for women it happens more suddenly (also the reverse of their youth).  So our body odors also change.  We get like kids again.  If older men and women smell bad, it's usually, uh, diaper scents, due to a bit of a control problem, similar to their babyhood.

So yeah, older folks feel less need to bathe.   We instinctively know we aren't "putting out" as much in the way of interesting scents and organism-buffets as we used to.  Even our sweat is less interesting.


When I was in high school I lived in an area where houses were heated by wood stoves, water came from a hand pump, to be heated on the wood stove, and the "bathroom" was out back, and had nothing to do with baths.  That was true for most of my classmates.  Baths were once a week, in a galvanized tub in the kitchen in water pumped from the well, carried to the house, and heated on the wood stove.  My classmates considered me rich because we had a bathroom, a furnace, and hot water that came out of a faucet.

But back then, even for those of us who had all the conveniences, one took a full bath maybe once or twice a week.  Except for people with exceptionally dirty jobs, the daily wash was hands, face, underarms, and crotch, standing at the washbowl.  We'd have thought that anyone who felt it necessary to take a full bath or shower every day had something wrong with them. 

And nobody stank.  Maybe we were used to it.  Or maybe we expected people to smell like people, not like soap.

I don't know where this fear of being natural came from.  I think it was Madison Avenue.  Make us afraid of being too real, too natural.  Buy soap!  Rinse and repeat!  You are not acceptable unless you buy our stuff to cover your disgustingness. 

Wanna know how bad it's gotten?  People now think it's necessary to bathe cats!

3626 Grammar

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Why is the gift of intelligence so often given to people too stupid to know what to do with it?
-- Lev Grossman, "Time", 3/15/04 --


This Harvard Business Review article,,  is an essay from a guy who gives a grammar test to prospective employees, and won't hire them if they can't pass it.  He makes some valid points about why, like that if in twenty or more years a person hasn't noticed the difference between "it's" and "its", that's not an impressive learning curve.  He wants people who are aware and detail oriented.

I wish people who hire writers would do the same!


I found this real comment a few weeks ago on a LockerGnome YouTube video:  "Yore wrong but consistent I luv ur'e house"

That's two interesting and frightening variations on the "your/you're" confusion.


On "Say Yes to the Dress" last Friday, a woman said that one dress was too plain, it "needs more embezzlement".

3625 Appalled

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they suppress.
-- Frederick Douglas --


Nescience is not understanding something you have no way of understanding; ignorance is not understanding something you should understand;  stupidity is not having the ability or desire to understand.


A few posts back I begged folks to read John Scalzi's list of what it means to be poor (  The following is a comment on John's essay, about one major difference between being poor in the US and being poor in Britain:
harasseddad says:
I had no idea. Here in the UK we tend to think all Americans are rich – but
Living in Britain means hospital treatment is free, for everyone.
Living in Britain means ambulances are free, for everyone.
Living in Britain means dental treatment is free, for everyone.
Living in Britain means prescription drugs are free to those on welfare and a maximum of £6.50 for everyone else (that’s under $5)
Living in Britain means a free pint of milk every day for every child in britain until they’re two (till five if their parent(s) are on welfare)
Living in Britain means you might be poor, you might have to go to bed hungry, you might not have a bed – but you will always be able to see a dentist, a doctor, a psychiatrist. And they’ll be the same hospital, the same standard of treatment as everyone else.
I have never been so grateful for the national health service – and more appalled that the richest country on Earth can not achieve such simple goals for its citizens.
Yeah. I am appalled, too.  I don't understand why there's so much opposition.  "Obamacare" is a half-assed attempt to get as close as possible to what is really needed, but it's unweildy because the opposition makes it impossible to go all the way and do it right.

The saddest thing is that I don't think the sheeple even know what they're opposing.


Note for future reference - 9/27 - woke at country house with swollen right index finger.   Firm lump in the middle joint. Jammed?  Spider bite?  As of 10/6, still swollen.  Lump size of large pea.  Finger bends as far as swelling will allow.