Monday, July 30, 2007

Good to be home

It's only been a week and a half, but it sure feels good to be home. I woke up early, got a cup of tea and sat looking over the Bay.

The early morning light in Northern California has a luminous quality I've never seen anywhere else. Something about the way low-in-the-sky rays of sunlight beam through the morning layer of fog that so often enshrouds the Bay. The plants in my back pocket garden look their best in this soft, low light, and I can't resist taking a few photos.

My robust clump of Miscanthus senensis Morning Light, is, as the name implies, perfect in this soft light. It highlights the white edges of each blade of grass and makes the clump almost glow. Beside it, Oriental lilies are blooming, with a few buds still coming on. They'd just started to open when I left town to visit family in NH and attend the BlogHer conference in Chicago, and I was afraid I'd miss them all. Should have known better.

My husband did a good job of watering the plants in pots while I was gone. The tomatoes are a tangle of leafy stems, yellow buds and little green tomatoes. A low-hanging branch on one cherry tomato has a cluster of ripe, red fruit. That's the one branch that didn't get chomped by marauding deer earlier this summer when I put the tomato pots out on my sunny front stoop. So it goes. After a stint of trying to surround the pots with chicken wire barriers (real attractive!), I moved them to the slightly less sunny but totally deerproof back deck. They've all recovered, but tomato production has been delayed a few weeks.

In my back garden, I see the Sally Holmes rose is trying to take over the world again. It leans over the Peewee oakleaf hydrangea, shading it, and mostly obscures the entrance to crawl space under the house (a good thing, unless you need to use it). About time for another round of pruning. But I can't bring myself to do it while it's still blooming...and Sally Holmes blooms all summer and into the fall.

A gold crocosmia, the one I relocated last year because it clashed with the pink flowers in my front garden, is starting to bloom. It's looking fine against a backdrop of hydrangea. A neighboring beebalm, Raspberry Wine, towers above it, happy at last to be in a spot that gets afternoon shade. The white anemones beside them, now coming into bud, are looking kind of puny -- either water-starved or gopher-bit, I'm not sure which...maybe both.

Over the Bay, the sky is clearing, the morning fog is's another beautiful day in Northern California.

I find myself humming an old Simon and Garfunkel tune:
"Gee but it's great to be back home, home is where I want to be."

Oh, yeah.

Friday, July 27, 2007

BlogHer: We are all press here

"We are all press here."

That was the reminder BlogHer organizers gave to all assembled for the opening session of BlogHer 2007 today at Chicago's Navy Pier.

Everything related to the media is changing, especially traditional concepts of who's a reporter and who's the public. In a crowd of bloggers, it pays to remember we are all the media.

Monday, July 16, 2007

How the News Works?

Cartoonist Tom Tomorrow's take on How the News Works is a little too close to the truth for comfort.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Happy birthday Patrick Stewart!

Today is Patrick Stewart's 67th birthday.

I'm a long-time fan, and I still rue the day the Star Trek TV franchise ended. I don't go to Star Trek conventions or dress up like a Klingon at Halloween or anything -- I'm not that kind of a fan -- but sometimes I just wanna watch an episode of Star Trek. Fortunately for me, Spike TV, the "macho guy" channel, offers afternoon reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

What's the appeal? Can't be that bald dome...though my Dad was bald...hmm. Maybe it's the British accent and the fact that we both enjoy a nice cuppa Earl Grey (or at least his character, Captain Jean Luc Picard, did).

A couple years ago in Las Vegas, I ran into Patrick Stewart. He was gracious enough to let me get this souvenir shot. If he appears a little stiff, there's a reason: we were at Madame Tussauds.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Peter Pan politics

John McCain says we can't leave Iraq now. Referring to Vietnam, he says he's "seen this movie before."

So have we. Maybe he forgot the ending?

Of course, this is the same guy who, after losing some key campaign staffers because he's out of money, says, "I'd describe the campaign as going well...I think we're doing fine."

Yeah, right.

Reminds me of a couple other big-name politicians who are in denial. First, there's Joe Leiberman, who's still running around saying we're winning in Iraq (what's he been smoking?).

Then, of course, there's the irrepressible George W., who's now taking a "Peter Pan" approach to the war...if he just "believes" hard enough (and gets the rest of us to say we believe too), his "Tinkerbell" war will come back to life...and he'll be remembered as a war hero, not as "the goat."

Fat chance. Baah!

Wanna read more?
SF Chron: Bush fights growing chorus for exit
NYT: McCain campaign drops top aides; new doubts rise

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The dead

It was 22 names this time, the most ever. This morning our minister read 22 names. That's how many American soldiers died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past week.

Each Sunday we hear the names and acknowledge the loss. They are men and women unknown to me who have died fighting on behalf of my country, in a mismanaged war based on lies. Seven were from California. Some were old enough to leave behind families...wives, children, maybe even grandchildren. Some were so young they probably never had a chance to find love and marry.

This week's dead are:
  1. Jason Dale Lewis, 30, of Brookfield, Conn.,
  2. Robert Richard McRill, 42, of Lake Placid, Fla.,
  3. Steven Phillip Daugherty, 28, of Barstow, Calif.
  4. Scott A.M. Oswell, 33, of Washington.
  5. Andrew T. Engstrom, 22, of Slaton, Texas.
  6. Steven A. Davis, 23, of Woodbridge, Va.
  7. Christopher N. Rutherford, 25, of Newport, Ohio.
  8. William C. Chambers, 20, of Ringgold, Ga.
  9. Jeremy L. Tinnel, 20, of Mechanicsville, Va.
  10. James L. Adair, 26, of Carthage, Texas.
  11. Juan M. Garcia Schill, 20, of Grants Pass, Ore.
  12. Raymond R. Buchan, 33, of Johnstown, Pa.
  13. Michael L. Ruoff Jr., 31, of Yosemite, Calif.
  14. Victor A. Garcia, 22, of Rialto, Calif.
  15. Jonathan M. Rossi, 20, of Safety Harbor, Fla.
  16. Robb L. Rolfing, 29, of Milton, Mass.
  17. Shin W. Kim, 23, of Fullerton, Calif.,
  18. Michael J. Martinez, 24, of Chula Vista, Calif.,
  19. Giann C. Joya Mendoza, 27, of North Hollywood, Calif.,
  20. Dustin L. Workman II, 19, of Greenwood, Neb.
  21. Cory F. Hiltz, 20, of La Verne, Calif.
  22. William W. Crow Jr., 28, of Grandview Plaza, Kan.
And since those 22 names were read this morning, the Department of Defense has announced six more American deaths (five men, one woman) on its news release web page:

  • Thomas P. McGee, 23, of Hawthorne, Calif., died July 6 of wounds sustained when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Wazi Khwa, Afghanistan.
  • Michelle R. Ring, 24, of Martin, Tenn., died July 5 of wounds sustained from enemy mortar fire in Baghdad.
  • James M. Ahearn, 43, of Calif., and Keith A. Kline, 24, of Oak Harbor, Ohio, died July 5 when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Baghdad, Iraq.
  • Christopher S. Honaker, 23, of Cleveland, N.C., died July 5 of wounds sustained from enemy small arms fire and indirect fire in the Watapor Valley of Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
  • Joseph A. Miracle, 22, of Ortonville, Mich., died July 5 of wounds sustained from enemy small arms fire and indirect fire in the Watapor Valley of Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
According to reports on tonight's news, the U.S. death toll now tops 3,000. And, of course, that's not counting contractors...or the estimated 160,000+ Iraqi civilians who have died since we invaded Iraq.

But there is a glimmer of hope...another Republican senator, Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, has come to grips with reality and broken ranks with the president on Iraq, calling for a pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq. And in one of this Sunday's editorials, The Road Home, the NYT editorial board finally stated the obvious:
It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.

In the eye of the beholder

How do you define beauty? How have our ideas of what is beautiful changed over time? Over generations? Over the centuries? The video "Women in Art" explores that question, showing 500 years of portraits of women by Western image morphing into another, one era into another, a changing portrait of beauty.

If you'd like to see more YouTube videos by "eggman," here's the link:

P.S. Thanks to Steve Greene for passing on the link to this video.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The court's circular logic

Let me see if I've got this straight...the Bush administration's NSA secret wiretapping program is so secret that nobody can find out whether or not they've been secretly spied on, or prove whether or not they've been injured by being secretly spied on. That's the reason two of the three appeals court judges gave for dismissing the case, saying none of the plaintiffs has grounds to sue.

Sounds like circular logic to me.

Link to NYT coverage of this decision.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Are you "Sicko" yet?

I just sent this letter (without the graphics) to both of my senators:
Yesterday I went to see Michael Moore's film, Sicko. I left the theater wondering why -- if America is the smartest, richest, most innovative and powerful nation in the world -- we can't figure out how to provide good health care to all Americans.

If the Canadians, the British and the French can do it (to say nothing of the Cubans), why can't we?

For example, did you know that in Great Britain, doctors get bonuses based on the improved health of people in their care? If their patients stop smoking, lower their blood pressure, etc., they get a bonus. In the United States, doctors get bonuses for seeing the most patients per day, for not making referrals, and for denying requests for treatment. Our insurance companies reward doctors and other employees for denying coverage and courses of treatment -- for limiting costs, not for helping people. We've got it entirely backwards.

It is clear that our national priority has been to make health care profitable for PPOs, HMOs, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, not to care for people. This has to change. We need to put people first, not corporate profits. We need to make health care a national right, not a profit center.

I think it's time to refocus the health care debate...away from incremental and useless changes like requiring people to buy insurance (so are they supposed to stop eating to pay for coverage?), or funding some coverage for poor children (at least until those funds run out -- tonight I watched NOW's Insuring the Children on PBS; it talked about how the State Children's Health Insurance Program is running out of funds and what that means to children can't get the Georgia girl who is likely to die without her diabetes meds).

Frankly, health insurance is not the answer. It is no guarantee of health care, not when insurance companies focus on making profits by denying claims and coverage.

One of my friends, a woman in her 50s who recently changed careers, is deeply worried about losing her job. Loss of income is bad enough, but the thing that really keeps her awake at night is the fear of losing her health insurance. She's got a health problem and she's worried that it will become a "pre-existing condition" and she'll won't be able to afford to get treated. And if she can't get treated, she won't be able to work.

In other developed countries, people can focus on doing their jobs, living their lives and caring for their families. They don't have to worry about being bankrupted by an illness or injury. They don't have to worry about dying because some bureaucrat denied them coverage or a needed treatment.

I want what other developed countries have. I want the security of knowing that if I get sick or am injured, it won't bankrupt my family. I want to know that if I get a serious injury or illness, I won't be allowed to die so some insurance executive can get a bonus. I want to know that, should I be unfortunate enough to end up with Alzheimer's like my mother, my family won't go have to through hell and destitute themselves trying to care for me.

National polls now show that health care is a top concern of a majority of Americans. That's because even those of us who have insurance know we are just one job and one claim away from denial of treatment or loss of coverage.

Please, it's time to change the debate on health care. It's time to make health care a basic right, not another privatized profit-making venture. Please do something.
If you want to do something, you can start by writing your representatives a letter too. Feel free to recycle parts of mine, if you like. And go see Sicko. See through the propaganda we've been fed all our lives, and see how the other half of the developed world lives.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Patriotic garden?

My garden...blooming in red, white and blue.

Happy July 4th!