Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy Relaxation

I try not to use this blog as a place to post my political views, irritations with the world, and bad attitude. But some days just seem to call out 'time for a rant.' So here it is.
Walking on the treadmill this morning, listening to Sugar Magnolia, Box of Rain, Start Me Up and other ancient tunes, I also had an eye on the television. The usual these days - Penn State, Syracuse, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney's hair, and yea or boo the banks (today the stock market seemed to be responding with an 'international yea day for banks.'   Just watching all that made me happy to be listening to my IPod tunes instead of actually hearing the endless chatter from CNN. But then...just when I was going to concentrate solely on the music, I saw the streamer about the L.A. Police closing down Occupy L. A.  Peaceful protesters and police, for the most part, but Occupy L.A. was dis-assembled, as they say. Thousand of police and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Was it really necessary? All those police officers getting overtime pay to round-up people sitting in the park, occupying and littering public spaces. For some reason, that news got me to pick up the pace on the treadmill, made me want to raise the incline, raise my heartbeat and sense of indignation. Maybe it was the fact that before leaving the house this morning I read about a Denver sheriff and US Sheriff of the Year being arrested for selling meth for sex. Why not send the police after people occupying and abusing positions of authority? How many US Sheriffs of the Year selling meth for sex equal how many Occupy villains? I could rant all day about the craziness of this all, but you don't deserve it and I have to find, once again, my glasses.
Luckily, I am ending this day with a yoga nidra at Karen Quinn's house. Yoga nidra doesn't put one to sleep, but does alter the consciousness enough that deep, deep relaxation takes place. So I am off to occupy relaxation.
Luckily

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Limits

Driving down a major road in Denver late this afternoon, trying to figure out if NPR had anything really interesting for my brain to ponder, I noticed a police car pull out of Walgreen's behind me. For a couple of seconds I waited for the red lights to start blinking, but nothing happened. Just paranoia. I had been driving slowly because I had just turned the corner on the light. I was good. Took a deep breath and turned the radio off.
Have you ever had a police car behind you for ten or so miles? Do you know how hard it is to stay under the speed limit for ten miles?  Even harder than staying under the speed limit, is staying under it without putting the brakes on every ten seconds.  I couldn't concentrate on that easy 'breathe in slowly and breathe out even more slowly' because I had to pay full attention to staying under 35 miles an hour for a long, long time AND keep my foot off the brakes.
. I understand the need for limits, but some limits are sillier than others. This particular limit, the slow slow down, allowed for endless time to look at the hundreds, maybe thousands, of monuments to dead people at Fairview Cemetery. This must be what eternity is like. So slow. Endless.
Finally the police car took a right turn, put his flashing lights on, and quickly exceed the speed limits in pursuit of an unsuspecting driver.
Speaking of limits, do you remember back in the day when 'the personal is political' - a rallying cry (both understood and, alas, misunderstood for the early Women's Movement?  I think Herman Cain missed lots of the women's movement and especially that slogan.  Is the personal political? Are there limits to what one can do and call personal and non-political?  That's for you to answer. As for me, I think Herman Cain has probably never met a limit that applied to him.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Missed the Sales

Ah, feels so good to have bypassed Black Friday, fill-in-the-blank Saturday and Sunday and, so far, not to have succumbed to cyber-Monday and Amazon. My boycotting has nothing to do with higher moral ground - in fact, it's probably the opposite. I don't like to shop, but I tend to buy things if I do go shopping.
I remember being with my grandmother and aunts, all dressed up with their hat and gloves, on the bus to Hartford and then to G. Fox and Company to browse. Floor after floor, just looking, admiring, commenting, but with no thoughts at all of buying. Pleasure was in the browsing. After morning browsing, it was off to Brown Thompson's basement diner for lunch, and then the bus back home. Maybe twice a year we would browse at Lord and Taylor's, and then have fancy cucumber sandwiches (the kind we assumed all wealthy people ate) for lunch. Adolescence ended my browsing the aisles.
Not sure I ever went through the 'shop til you drop' phase, but post-adolescence, it's always been shopping for some thing. So, not going to Black Days is just my way of not spending money. I am one of those suckers who looks at those items near the checkout line and identified said items as immediate gratifiers and then immediately gratify myself by grabbing whatever it is and purchasing it. Pitiful. So avoidance is merely protecting myself from myself.
But today I ended up walking by the mall on the way to the bank.  In no less than ten minutes, one burly twenty-something male asked me for Fifty Cent or a Dollar. Thought he was asking me something about music. Not. Then one cheery Salvation Army woman greeted me, wished me all the best of everything and withdrew her smile and the bell when I didn't open my backpack. A young woman, looking ever so teen-like, asked me for some change, and, believe it or not, right around the corner another Salvation Army woman and I went through the same exchange I had just gone through. Why didn't I give anyone anything? I'm all about the places I want to give to, all about waiting for December 6th, Colorado givesday, and making contributions to the organizations on my little list. But it's the spontaneous giving that always throws me for a loop. I have to make a plan, carry food, gift coupons, or a certain amount of cash so I don't stumble and mumble through each of these encounters. Would giving money to strangers be any more foolish than giving money for products that promised to reduce wrinkles? If I ever decided to match foolish purchases with give away money, I'd be giving for a long, long time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gratitude

Starting to feel gratitude, give thanks a day before we officially stop and give thanks. Here in Denver the sun is shining and the air is warm. Tricks one into thinking that maybe those early storms mean winter is past and we are moving right into spring. I know, I know. But one can hope.
Also feeling some gratitude for the fact that I have a dentist appointment at 3:30 this afternoon. Just a nudge of the beginnings of a toothache, but who wants that lingering in one's mouth when the day of warm, gooey pies is fast approaching?
Feeling loads of gratitude for all those generations, all those people who survived and those who didn't, who somehow sent me on the trajectory that is my life. I sure got here on the backs of a lot of people - poor people, oppressed people, angry, happy, sad, beaten down by devils and raised up by the angels of religion, myth, and ritual. Lots of gratitude going way, way back. And gratitude for the present. Beautiful family and friends. I am surrounded by big, booming, beautiful hearts. So many of them. Gratitude.
Taking the day off tomorrow to be in the world, to reach out a hand and heart. Taking the day off from technology. Getting myself ready to protest, to stay away from, and not be seduced by all the 'bargains' allegedly coming my way on Black Friday. Boycotting Black Friday and just going to hang around in the world.  So, of course, I need a poem to explain why I am grateful, what my role is in this abundant world.
Being Thankful for Everything.
Messenger My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
    equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
    keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be

    astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
    and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

    to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever. Mary Oliver

                                                            

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Food Products

This is just an excerpt from a longer piece, but worth the read. It's crazy out there, at times, and someone has to see some of the irony in what's going on.  Who would have thought that UCal - Davis would be the scene of such outrageous University police behavior? And why are the pepper spray perpetrators on administrative leave instead of being relieved of their jobs (and salaries)? Yes, the president/chancellor should be taking heat, and, depending on the circumstances, who knows if she shouldn't be taking the high or low road out of town? 

Megyn Kelly and the benevolence of ‘food product’ pepper spray

In this image made from video, a police officer uses pepper spray as he walks down a line of Occupy demonstrators at the University of California, Davis, on Nov. 18. (Thomas K. Fowler - AP)
There’s a reason this man is showing up in all the great artworks of history, pepper-spray can in hand, expression of utter, unmoved nonchalance firmly in place under the bulky helmet as he sprays protesters in the face.
He’s really a good Samaritan.
Some see in him a cop just doing his job. But I think that understates the positives. As Megyn Kelly sagely observed to Bill O’Reilly on Fox News last night, pepper spray is “a food product, essentially,” and it was thoughtful of him to share it with so many protesters. It’s like the miracle of the loaves and fishes again — so many nourished, from such a tiny can.
Given that pizza is a vegetable, I am sure that was at least a full day’s serving of something, which probably explains why the protesters winced and squinted and tried to get him to stop. “You are too kind,” they seemed to say, “but that’s already a full day of calories! Don’t turn me into the 1 percent who gets more than my fair share of the pepper products!”  . . .

What times these are. Arab Spring is turning to Arab Winter, and watching Egypt and the protests are such a reminder of how fragile and unpredictable the journey to democracy is. So many people around the world are putting their lives, their incomes, their beliefs on the line in order to make the world a better place. With Thanksgiving around the corner, I'm just feeling gratitude for all the people who just keep on keeping on.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Autumn in New England

Just two weeks ago, friends and family in CT were without any power at all. Trees had crashed down on wires, streets were actually closed for ten days, and Halloween was cancelled.
So I packed thick heavy sweaters, mittens and hats for the three-day weekend travel to West Hartford. Well, it was the perfect fall weekend. The only thing missing were leaves on the trees, but that allowed for blocks of shuffling through and crunching those big oak leaves, the maples and the elm. FEMA trucks were still around, and all weekend workers were downing split branches, uprooted trees and putting things back together. People seemed grateful - grateful for having survived endless days of cold, kids hanging around the house, and lack of showers. Looked to me as if everyone out raking and filling those huge bags with leaves had a smile on. . .
went to a soccer game at the Irish-American club and listened to those lilting voices and men chatting up the referee with their Irish brogues. People frustrated by the state's pitiful response to the national disaster winter storm pre-Halloween found some comfort in the fact that various executives of the utilities companies 'resigned.' Finished. A good finish, some modicum of justice, let people breathe a bit more freely.
It was the weekend of the West Hartford Conard-Hall football rivalry and the weekend of the annual Yale-Harvard football game. Boola Boola and all that, with the airport filled with fathers, grandfathers, and alum sporting Yale and Harvard sweatshirts and hats. Cider mills were open, people were crunching on apples, biking and hiking trails were filled.  Walkers strolled in Yankees or Red Sox caps, and pumpkins decorated almost every doorstep in town.  (I'm hoping these passive sentence constructions sort of pull the reader back in time, back to an imagined time that we have hopelessly romanticized).
All those saltbox, Cape, and colonial homes dominate the landscape; one as easily finds an insurance company or law firm in a colonial home along the main road as one finds a 'built in 1805' sign on another home. Played Pilgrim and Native Americans with Emma and Colin, watched my 20-year old niece burst into tears, saying something sweet about her father (my brother) at his surprise birthday party. So much love floating around at that party filled with old friends, newer friends, and families. Five generations and counting, and everyone with a story or two to reveal as the night went on. A sober house, a sober family, a sober party - with the exception of one woman. That's another story. 
If I didn't know better, I would have thought Norman Rockwell had come to town, painted a late fall in New England scene, and left it for us to visit. Surprised Robert Frost didn't show up with a new ode to New England in the fall.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I and Thou


 Well, the 'I and Thou' is a bit of a bait and switch, as I've been thinking about Martin Buber today, but don't feel quite up to the task of discussing 'I and Thou' or other profound thoughts expressed by Buber. The world seems so much more 'I and It' as opposed to 'I and Thou' these days.  It was in mulling over power and the fact that power seems to corrupt just about everyone who has a hand on the power button that my thoughts found their way to Buber. It appears that we objectify people, places and things more than ever, see a person as his or her ideology, not as a sacred other, a thou. That's the flow of thoughts that led to Buber.
So here we are with some words and thoughts from the famous Jewish philosopher.
  • Every morning I shall concern myself anew about the boundary
    Between the love-deed-Yes and the power-deed-No
    And pressing forward honor reality.
     
  • We cannot avoid using power,
Cannot escape the compulsion
To afflict the world,
So let us, cautious in diction
And mighty in contradiction,
Love powerfully.
   Martin Buber  "Power and Love" (1926)
  Perhaps it is in loving powerfully that we can grab hold of power and use it wisely, but maybe not.  Maybe Loving powerfully is ultimately corrupting to the lover or the beloved, but I'd like to think not.  I love the lines, 'We cannot avoid using power,
Cannot escape the compulsion to afflict the world . . '
Is it a human compulsion to use power to afflict the world? I hope not. But the line seems more true than untrue these days. Powerful poetry.

Now to another of Buber's famous lines, and one that I've been thinking about also, as I think about the pilgrims, the travelers, the sojourners I know. And as I think of myself, yearning to hit the road or air. Where to go and why? I love the following line, and I believe it to be profoundly and utterly true, whether we are going around the block, to the movies, a cowfield, or endless destinations around this world and others. I always come across or arrive at some place in my mind or body that wasn't on the itinerary or in my head. Always the secret is revealed when I am not looking or thinking. 
Tomorrow I will be on planes to destination spot, West Hartford CT for a family visit. I'll see my beautiful grandchildren and many family members and friends at a surprise birthday party for one of my brothers. But I don't yet know the secret destination. 
Happy travels, happy weekend.
    • All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. 
    •  
    • Amen. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On the way to the forum

Feeling pretty derivative today, taking Robert Reich's post from his blog and putting it here. But he writes so well and makes the point so clearly. In one of the world's on-going acts of irony, Reich gave his First Amendment speech - the Annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture -  last night at Berkeley, standing on the spot honoring Mario Savio (surely you remember him from the Free Speech protests at Berkeley?). He has steps honoring him, the Mario Savio steps, in Sproul Plaza. Gave his famous speech calling for a sit-in that became famous around the world.  Became a hero to the university in spite of the university.  Funny how a little distance gives a new perspective to some folks.
At any rate, Reich's speech was to be inside, but it was decided to hold it outside so the Occupy Wall Street folks and others could hear it.  Yes, funny things do happen on the way to the forum. All these years later, another call to Free Speech. Always been glad to have Reich on our side. Not surprising that he left politics for the academic world - where, so far, free speech is still valued.

Robert Reich (from Huffington Post blog)

A funny thing happened to the First Amendment on its way to the public forum. According to the Supreme Court, money is now speech and corporations are now people. But when real people without money assemble to express their dissatisfaction with the political consequences of this, they're treated as public nuisances and evicted.
First things first. The Supreme Court's rulings that money is speech and corporations are people have now opened the floodgates to unlimited (and often secret) political contributions from millionaires and billionaires. Consider the Koch brothers (worth $25 billion each), who are bankrolling the Tea Party and already running millions of dollars worth of ads against Democrats.
Such millionaires and billionaires aren't contributing their money out of sheer love of country. They have a more self-interested motive. Their political spending is analogous to their other investments. Mostly they want low tax rates and friendly regulations.
Wall Street is punishing Democrats for enacting the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation (weak as it is) by shifting its money to Republicans. The Koch brothers' petrochemical empire has financed, among many other things, candidates who will vote against environmental protection.
This tsunami of big money into politics is the real public nuisance. It's making it almost impossible for the voices of average Americans to be heard because most of us don't have the dough to break through. By granting First Amendment rights to money and corporations, the First Amendment rights of the rest of us are being trampled on.
This is where the Occupiers come in. If there's a core message to the Occupier movement it's that the increasing concentration of income and wealth poses a grave danger to our democracy.
Yet when Occupiers seek to make their voices heard -- in one of the few ways average people can still be heard -- they're told their First Amendment rights are limited.
The New York State Court of Appeals along with many mayors and other officials say Occupiers can picket -- but they can't encamp. Yet it's the encampments themselves that have drawn media attention (along with the police efforts to remove them).
A bunch of people carrying pickets isn't news. When it comes to making views known, picketing is no competition for big money .
Yet if Occupiers now shift tactics from passive resistance to violence, it would spell the end of the movement. The vast American middle class that now empathizes with the Occupiers would promptly desert them.
But there's another alternative. If Occupiers are expelled from specific geographic locations the Occupier movement can shift to broad-based organizing around the simple idea at the core of the movement: It's time to occupy our democracy. 
Who could say it better?  Certainly not I.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Moving Along

"Most families, it seems, live multigenerationally in the same big house... ten children, more... everyone sleeps on foam mattresses under thick fleece blankets. I've stayed in many such homes by now, one more person always seems to fit in comfortably. I'm a pilgrim, a hajaa christiana... welcome."
The above quote is from friend Ann's post on her blog winterpilgrim.blogspot.com. If you aren't following her, I suggest you hop on her site once or twice a week.  She's walked through Spain and Portugal and is now walking the Barbary Coast of North Africa. An extraordinary woman, she's making her way to Jerusalem, meeting new people and adventures along the way. She walks alone, belongings on her back, and relies on the kindness of strangers for food and bedding each night. She has walked through from Canterbury to Rome, from France to Spain, walked the Camino several times, made her way through Belgium, Germany, and trekked from Kyiv, Ukraine through Romania and on down to Petras, Greece during the winter. Before this trip, she walked from Denver to Mexico.  Always relying on the kindness of strangers, and always finding the kindness. Never spent a night without food or a bed and often given the best bed, floor space or mattress by villagers.  Never been in danger - well, if one doesn't count the occasional pack of dogs.  All those miles and all those caring people.
What an antidote her tales are to what we read and hear about people, what an antidote to the fear that washes over us daily when we learn about sex scandals, human trafficking, religious and political wars, the greed that exists.  Maybe we should all find a way to be pilgrims, to walk the spaces we inhabit with awe.
Maybe we all need to make the opportunities to find out the people who appear to be least like us, to have values not in adherence to ours, so we can learn how similar we all are.
For example, hardly did I realize it at the time, but years of teaching English as a Second Language to students at the University of Hartford was probably more life altering for me than it was for the students. This is a good twenty-five or so years ago, so it's what they call a lifetime learning experience.
Ali and Amar, from Iraq, loved and admired Saddam Hussein and his five year plan. They were full of praise for him as a leader. These were intelligent young men, an artist and a math major. Of course things change over time, but whenever Iraq and its politics come up, I remember these two wonderful men who sent me postcards when they traveled.  I remember Nori and Hassan, from Libya, who were strong supporters of Ghaddafi.  Beautiful, gentle men. Bibi, Waleed and Salem from Kuwait; Ali, Massood, and Reza, three brothers from Iran....and so it goes. Individual people. Beautiful people. Did we have some stark differences of opinion about the world, politics and religion?  Of course. But that wasn't as important as what we shared - love of food, friends, laughter, adventure. Love of learning. We all made mistakes at times, made one another uncomfortable, but we got over it. For example, excited about taking the students to a typical New England county fair, I didn't take into account  how truly disgusted they would be at the mere site of pigs in a pen. And we struggled over Ramadan, trying to find a way to revise the teaching schedule to accommodate the rituals, fasting, prayer, cooking and late meal during that hot, humid summer in Connecticut.
So I was blessed in the years to come, right up to the present moment, to be able to put a face - a person - in place when someone vented about the Muslim terrorists, the nations intent upon destroying the western world.
That's a long way of preaching that somehow we must all have the opportunity to see and know the kindness of strangers rather than the ideology of what appears to be the masses.
Ann reminds me of the goodness of people. And I'm not pretending to be Pollyanna... Not everyone is always in condition to be kind and gentle all of the time. But enough of the time, enough of the people are good. Just plain good. And we need ways to know and feel that fact. So thanks to you today, Ann.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Chimpanzees

I copied this article from today's New York Times on line. Hope that is enough said so everyone will know I didn't write this.  I haven't thought much about the ethics of doing lab research on chimpanzees. The article isn't as much about animals in captivity, (which is a whole other story), but about doing research on animals, especially chimpanzees. Is it right - and just - to use the animals close to us genetically for research to better human lives? Is it a question of 'what can we learn versus 'what should we do?' No easy or quick answers here.
So, to spare you the agony of my uninformed blather, I thought it better to read and just cut/copy/paste for you.
What do you think?
 
NEW IBERIA, La. — In a dome-shaped outdoor cage, a dozen chimpanzees are hooting. The hair on their shoulders sticks straight up. “That’s piloerection,” a sign of emotional arousal, says Dr. Dana Hasselschwert, head of veterinary sciences at the New Iberia Research Center. She tells a visitor to keep his distance. The chimps tend to throw pebbles — or worse — when they get excited.
Chimps’ similarity to humans makes them valuable for research, and at the same time inspires intense sympathy. To research scientists, they may look like the best chance to cure terrible diseases. But to many other people, they look like relatives behind bars.
Biomedical research on chimps helped produce a vaccine for hepatitis B, and is aimed at one for hepatitis C, which infects 170 million people worldwide, but there has long been an outcry against the research as cruel and unnecessary. Now, because of a major push by advocacy organizations, a decision to stop such research in the United States could come within a year. As it is, the United States is one of only two countries that conduct invasive research on chimpanzees. The other is the central African nation of Gabon.
“This is a very different moment than ever before,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States. “Now is the time to get these chimps out of invasive research and out of the labs.”
John VandeBerg, director of the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, one of six labs that house chimpanzees, agreed that this is “a crucial moment.” Any of several efforts by opponents “could be the cause of a halt in all medical research with chimpanzees,” he said.
The Humane Society of the United States and other groups pushed the National Institutes of Health to commission a report on the usefulness of chimps in research, due this year. The society also joined with the Jane Goodall Institute, the Wildlife Conservation Society and others to petition the federal Fish and Wildlife Service to declare captive chimps endangered, as wild chimps already are, giving them new protections. A decision is due by next September.
In addition, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, now in Congress, would ban invasive research on all great apes (including bonobos, gorillas and orangutans). Representative Roscoe Bartlett, a Maryland Republican who is one of the bill’s sponsors, says it would save taxpayers $30 million a year spent on chimpanzees owned by the government.
Mr. Pacelle says that invasive research on chimpanzees is expensive, that there are alternatives and that chimps in research studies suffer painful procedures and isolation. “This is an endangered species that is closer than any other species genetically,” he said. “And we shouldn’t abuse our power.”
Dr. VandeBerg, on the other hand, says that stopping research with chimps would be a threat to human lives. “Any reduction in the rate of development of drugs for these diseases will mean hundreds of thousands of people, really millions of people, dying because it would be years of delay,” he said.
If human lives can be saved, Dr. VandeBerg said, “it would be grossly unethical not to do research” on chimpanzees.   
There are 1,000 chimps housed in research facilities in the United States, including at the New Iberia Research Center. The center, part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, occupies 100 acres in the heart of Cajun country about 130 miles west of New Orleans. It houses 360 chimpanzees, 240 of which belong to the university and 120 to the N.I.H., and more than 6,000 other primates, mostly rhesus macaque monkeys. It has faced accusations of chimp mistreatment in the past, and some violations of animal care standards were found, and corrected, according to Department of Agriculture inspections. The latest, in July, found some outdated drugs for the animals.
On a recent visit, some of the chimpanzees were in 34-foot-diameter geodesic domes, some in smaller outdoor cages, and some, less than 10 at that time, said Dr. Thomas J. Rowell, the director of the center, were in active studies and held in indoor cages about 6 feet by 5 feet and 7 feet high, one chimp per cage. The physical procedures involved in the studies, he said, involved injections, blood samples and liver biopsies, the latter done under sedation. . . .
Using captive chimpanzees for research in this country dates to the 1920s, when Robert Yerkes, a Yale psychology professor, began to bring them into the country. During the 1950s, the Air Force began to breed chimps for the space program, starting with 65 caught in the wild. Chimps were also bred for AIDS research in the 1980s, which met a dead end. By the mid-1970s, support for preservation of threatened species had grown, and the importing of wild-caught chimps was prohibited. In 2000, a federal law was passed requiring the government to provide for retirement of chimps it owned after their use in experiments was over, and Chimp Haven opened near Shreveport, La., to care for these chimps and others.
It was an attempt to bring some semiretired chimps at the Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico back into the research pipeline that prompted part of the recent surge of opposition. The N.I.H. wanted to move about 200 chimps it owned from Alamogordo to the San Antonio center, which is part of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. The Humane Society lobbied to prevent the move, and the N.I.H. relented, asking the Institute of Medicine, an advisory board, for the report on chimps in experimentation this year.
Chimp Haven, one potential retirement destination, now has 132 chimps on 200 acres of pine woods. Chimps live in a variety of cages and enclosures, including concrete-walled play yards of about a quarter of an acre, open to the sky, and two forested habitats, one four acres and the other five, bounded by a moat and fences. But chimps at research centers might not move at all, even if research is stopped. They might simply stay where they are, exempt from invasive studies.
Whatever the decision, both researchers and advocates know that chimps are only one tiny piece of animal research, one part of a bigger debate.
Kathleen Conlee, senior director for animal research issues at the Humane Society, says that the current discussion about chimps points the way to the future. “This,” she said, “is the kind of rigorous analysis we should be applying to all animal research.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 14, 2011
A previous version of this article gave an incomplete name for a bill now in Congress. The bill is called the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran Danny Boy

I don't personally know many veterans. I know lots of people who avoided wars, protested wars, had kids so they wouldn't have to go to war, but not many real people who went to war.
But I knew my uncle Dan when he came home from war --- well, not just home from war, but home from being a prisoner of war for four years.
Uncle Danny was my father's brother; he went off to war when I was one-year old. When he returned home, it was to a two-family house in Hartford CT. My father, mother, three brothers and I lived downstairs, and my Grandmother and two aunts lived upstairs. I had watched my grandmother saying the rosary every day all the time we lived in that house, all the time Uncle Danny was a prisoner of war. She went from window to window in the living room, and then repeated the cycle until the rosary was completed. The windows were close together, but she always knelt in front of a window, prayed, and then walked to the next window, knelt and prayed. The room was small, so she must have gone round several times for each rosary. My aunts had an old record player and Grammy played 'Oh Danny Boy' all the time, over and over.
Such joy and weeping when we learned Uncle Danny was alive and coming home. I was only 4 or 5, didn't understand all of it, and tried to imitate the feelings and emotions coming from my grandmother, father and all the others.  Uncle Danny was coming home. I had only known him in pictures, now I would see him for real.
The morning of Uncle Danny's arrival we were all elated; by evening elation had given way to confusion. We were told that Uncle Dan did not want to talk to the kids and didn't want to answer questions or talk with anyone about the war.
I didn't get it. I had questions. For example, we were told that the only reason Uncle Danny survived the Bataan Death March and prison camp was because he had always eaten his oatmeal. That made him strong and able to endure all those days without food. We were told that he and the other prisoners would have to fight over the garbage left by the Japanese. Oh, we were full of stories and questions.
I hated oatmeal and wanted to know exactly how much he had to eat as a kid in order to survive.  I wanted to know if he had killed anyone or if he had seen lots of dead people. I wanted to know everything....I learned nothing in his first years back home. Truly, I learned nothing much at all, ever. He never spoke about the war when he began talking with us. And I knew if I asked him anything I would go to hell. No confession, no prayers or rosaries, no forgiveness at all if I asked him about the war. I never did.
He began playing the record with 'Oh, Danny Boy' and other Irish songs, and we were told that was a sign he was getting better.  Uncle Danny ended up marrying a nurse from the Veterans' Hospital and made a career of being a prison guard in the maximum security prison in CT. There's more, but that's enough. We're thinking of you on this Veterans Day, this 11-11-11, and going to pull up a youtube rendition of Oh Danny Boy.
Hope you are resting in peace, Uncle Danny.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

For now, the net stays neutral! No special deals, no corporations gobbling up the bandwidth. Today, the Senate voted against the GOP initiative. A vote we can finally like. In a bipartisan vote (who would have thought), the initiative to help veterans get jobs was passed. Seriously, who was going to raise his or her hand and say "Nope. No jobs for vets"?  A no-brainer.  Maybe all the politicians are too busy watching the Penn State fiasco and busy being grateful that this isn't their scandal.
But what a scandal it is. Everybody is wrong and nobody is right, people care far more about a football coach who has made loads of money for Penn State being fired than they care about the firing of the University president, under whose leadership the academic reputation of the institution improved immensely.
I'm for them all getting fired. Take a good look at any children, ages 7 - 12, you know or see walking to school every day. Imagine them being forced to have anal sex with an adult in power, male or female. If you are like me, you can't stand to imagine such a scene for more than three seconds. Imagine one of those kids up against the shower wall with some older man. Imagine what you would like to do to the man you visualize.
Also imagine a janitor or grad ass't. coming upon those scenes and deciding what to do. If you've ever been in a position of powerlessness, you'll understand why they didn't go to the police after none of the higher administration did so. Imagine knowing you would immediately be fired and blackballed anywhere you went later on.  I don't get people not understanding why the grad assistant went to his father, and not the police. I think it was a thoughtful decision, just as going to Paterno with the information after the father-son talk. What happened after that, I don't know. And I think I don't want to know. 
Was anyone visualizing those young boys?  See: Catholic Church response to pedophiles. This isn't about what's legal or illegal; it's about trying to salvage children. 
Talking to some people at DU last night, we all felt pretty humble and grateful. I'd bet my house, retirement, and anything else I own on DU's athletic director, Peg Bradley Doppes, making the right moral decision in such a situation. And both Chancellor emeritus Dan Ritchie and Chancellor Coombe would be right there backing up Peg. 
What is going on? In politics we have Herman Cain; in academia we have Penn State. Everyone is wondering where the economic leadership is. Now we're also wondering where the moral leadership is.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

From the Sublime to the Inane

The sublime:  Sister Antonia's funeral today at Saint Dominic's Church. The church was a study in true diversity:  people of all ages, ethnicity, socio-economic means, physical conditions, languages, gender, and religion or non-religion peppered each row.
We viewed photos of Sister Antonia marching with MLK in Selma, in Washington, at Rocky flats and countless other places where the call to social justice needed to be heard. We saw her working with indigenous people in Mexico and the United States.  Everything she did was within the context of learning about and from other cultures to help people to become self-sufficient, not to 'Americanize, Catholicize, or transform them from their culture to ours. A wise soul.
After the celebration of her life, I met a Mexican man and his five children who wanted to know where Sister Antonia's ashes were, so they could all go visit. Apparently, the wife of this man and mother of the five children is incarcerated in Pueblo and Sister Antonio had been assisting the whole family in a variety of ways.
In the church basement, three large tables, filled with tortillas, beans, rice, chips and chicken dominated the scene. Another large table of rich multi-layered white and chocolate cakes were off to the side. Nothing needed to be said, but it was clear that any leftover food would not go down the garbage disposal, but would be put to good use. Rest in Peace, Sister Antonia. Sublime.
Inane or Ridiculous:  On the way home, still pondering the beauty of the celebration, I stop in an upscale, tony sort of place, order a chai, and use the bathroom. As I walk into the stall, another woman enters and goes into the bathroom next to me. I close my door and sit. Suddenly I see a stream of fluid coming from her area.
She sighs and I hear her unlock the door. She comes back with wet paper towels and begins cleaning the floor. I sit in my little enclosure, waiting for her to leave. Somehow, I think she would prefer not to see me. But she cleans, and she scrubs, and probably uses most of the paper towels by the sink.  I need to get on my way, so I finally unlock my little space and opens the door. She looks directly in my eyes, paper towels in both hands, and smiles at me. By the time I get back to my hot chai it is cold. Both the tale and my telling of it strike me as inane and ridiculous. I need to get back to the sublime.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Net Neutrality


This week, Senate Republicans will try to overturn the FCC's rules preserving Net Neutrality which guarantees a level playing field for all websites and Internet users. Net Neutrality ensures everyone has a voice on the Internet and no one can be silenced simply because they can't afford to pay.   (In Denver, E-mail markudall.com to sign the petition for net neutrality.)  Everyone else, try to find a place or appropriate person to contact and petition for net neutrality.
Twenty-four hours ago I posted a tribute to a woman who spent her life working for fairness, equality, and social justice. Sister Antonio lived her life to help others. Today I'm focused on a world where people want to increase the distance between the have and have-nots; to make sure that the wealthier have access to a better communication system than the less wealthy. Oh, the less wealthy can have access, but not as much speed. Have to slow those suckers down or they will think they're as worthy as the wealthy.
And what a shame that would be. You can occupy our cities, but not our bandwidth.
Oh, and while you're at it, trying contacting your local representatives and politicians about dealing with the drug crises. No, not the vicodin and percocet drug addictions. I'm talking about the drug shortage crises. Yesterday, I talked with a woman who can't get the chemo treatment best for her ovarian cancer because the physician can't get the drug; in this morning's paper there was an article about a woman's treatment that was stopped midway because the drug isn't available.  Diana deGette, here in Denver,is supporting a bill that says physicians, hospitals, etc. must receive a six-month notice of a drug that is about to become unavailable. Will contacting local representatives, using the political path, lead to any changes in the net proposal and the drug crises? I don't know. What would Sister Antonia do?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Criminal Extremist

Sister Antonio Anthony was named a criminal extremist by The Denver Police in 2002. She was 73 years old, a Franciscan nun. Oh so dangerous
In 1996 she co-founded the Chiapas Coalition to help indigenous people in Mexico's southernmost area.
Her police file indicated that she thought and said the uprisings in Chiapas were, in part, die to global financial policies. nasty nun...no wonder the police kept a file on her.
Flash to 2011: Sister Antonia and Nora Jacquez co-organize the Living Economy Group. knowing Nora, but not Sister Antonia, I join the group. Am crazy about Sister Antonia right from the start. Immediately I sense that she 's one of those religious people who knows the secret. There aren't many people who seem to know what the secret is. You can tell by the twinkling eyes, the smile, and the seductive chuckle. The Dalai Lama knows the secret, so does thich Nat Hanh. So did Sister Pauline, a medical missionary, and my aunt. You probably know a few yourself. The ephemeral smile and unpredictable Chuckle, wrapped in and motivated by a profound, understated aura of holiness give them away.
Every monthly meeting of the group, she smiled, chuckled, provoked us to see the grave social injustices of the present economy; every meeting she'd have new readings, new websites. Every meeting this fall she'd press us toward action. She was the first one from the group to go to Occupy Denver, the first one with a bag of apples, a heart of prayer, and a list of questions to learn what the occupiers wanted and needed. That criminal extremist is really smiling now, but those of us who know her are not
She died this past weekend at the age of 82. She was driving home from mass, and her car was hit by another. She died, another sister is in critical condition.
During the night she asked that all the tubes, etc. Be unplugged. AppArently, she had made it clear to family and friends she wanted to go this way. Didn't want medical dollars to be spent on her when so many others were in need. What an extremist.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Remote

No, not far away, secluded or aloof.  The Remote Control.  Where was Steve Jobs when the remote control for television was being put together?
Comparing my ipod to the remote control last night, here's how it went:
Ipod: Press and open. Do a soft, circular fluid motion with finger to get to music albums. Click on selected album. Play. It shuts off when finished.
Remote for tv (the newly enhanced 1,000,000 channel package with HDTV channels:
To turn TV on:  Push TV button. Push Power Button. Push cable. Then select a channel, yadda, yadda
To access HDTV channels:  either look up or memorize 3-digit numbers (the same show as on regular channel, but picture is bigger and you can see newscaster's zits).Now many stations have two channels: the non-zit and the zit.  How many of these do you want to memorize? Oh, here's the other solution offered:
Enter channel (4, 7, 9, 38, 65 or whatever).  Four (exactly) seconds later push the OK button. If your push is timely and strong you will succeed.
Oh, then use the manual audio button to get decent sound. Lower sound for every commercial.
To turn TV off:  Push 'TV'
Then push 'Power'.
There's more, but you get the gist. I bet Steve Jobs could have made all of this happen with a maximum of three touches.
I've just finished reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs and it is a stunning read. A visionary, genius, pro acid tripper, vegan, tyrant, egomaniacal, vindictive, brilliant perfectionist. A man, like an angel, standing on the pinpoint of science and the humanities. Control freak (up close and personal, not remote)  and hippie; saint and sinner. I love the book for many reasons, but especially like the fact that so many people who had rather unsavory things to say about Steve, got to say them. A biography with blemishes...psychic zits that would explode on HDTV. So raw and human. Great, great read. Great, great man if you love the complexity and craziness. I do. Still wish he had put his mind to those remote controls. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

 

Last night I googled Collapse, a play that is opening at Curious Theatre this Saturday, and the first article that popped up was Colony Collapse Disorder. So I read the article and put it on my Facebook page. I assume this disorder is along the lines of oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, reactive attachment disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and big pain in the butt disorder. Have they just succumbed to a snowstorm defiant power outage rage disorder in CT?

Now, I know bees are important, as are all sentient beings, but to set up psychological disorders for all beings inhabiting this planet is going to take a lot of work. People need jobs, and the government needs to create some, so a Disorder Development program might be just what the country needs. In the meantime, I hate to see the good bees disappear, but I'm even more saddened by the fact they might have to take prozac or ambien to get out of the mess they're in. Feel free to start an Occupy Beehives protest. I'm sticking with the Greed/Wall Street protest for now. And will Michael Moore really be downtown Denver talking to the protesters this afternoon? 

Local Beekeepers May Play Role in Saving Food Supply

Small beekeepers could be the solution to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  By Claudia Lenart  Video_thumb
Part of a series on local food and suburban farming.
We can thank the honeybee for four of every 10 bites of food we eat, so for area beekeepers, their efforts aren’t just about the honey. Many beekeepers feel they are doing their part in helping the survival of what is likely our most important domestic species.
The Lou Marchi Total Recycling Institute at McHenry County College (MCC) hosted a screening of the documentary Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us? Oct. 25, followed by a panel discussion with beekeepers from the Northern Illinois Beekeepers Association.
The critically-acclaimed film by Taggart Seigel tells the story of the mysterious disappearance of bees through stunning photography, humorous animations, and some very entertaining and colorful beekeepers.
The film looks at the 10,000-year history of honeybees as a domesticated species, from ancient times when honeybees were considered sacred to today’s corporate agriculture practice of shipping honeybees thousands of miles in flatbed trucks to pollinate almond groves in California and blueberries in Maine.
In recent years, honeybees have been disappearing mysteriously; America has lost millions of colonies. The sudden death of honeybee colonies is called Colony Collapse Disorder. Beekeepers and scientists in the film point to chemical pesticides, single-crop farming or monoculture, and the industrialization of beekeeping as reasons for CCD.
“Their crisis is our crisis. It’s colony collapse disorder of the human being too,” said Gunther Hauk, a biodynamic beekeeper who operates Spikenard Farm, a honeybee sanctuary in Virginia.
Experts in the film see bees as a barometer of the health of the world. Queen of The Sun refers to Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner who predicted the collapse of honeybees in 1923.  “The mechanization of beekeeping and industrialization will eventually destroy beekeeping,” Steiner predicted.
“We have to wake up early enough to make a change,” said biochemist and beekeeper David Heaf, in the documentary.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Snow Days

Finally having a snow day of my own, I've been thinking about all the family, friends, and others in the northeast still without power four days after the October snowstorm.  Don't know how many snow days - or even more irritating - no power days I could take without becoming a bit batty.
Morning appointments canceled, leaving me free to peruse old news and new news:  NYT Sunday Magazine story:  how to figure out if you are a vampire or a zombie.  FYI, this is not an easy puzzle. Bill Clinton got it wrong, thinking he was a vampire, but truly was a zombie. A little zombie, touch of vampire perhaps? Never asked this question before. Never saw this question before.
Voting news: just about everything defeated.  We're in a season of defeat, an extended season of defeat. The dean and a cantor of Saint Paul's Cathedral in London stepped down because they couldn't, in good conscience, engage themselves in possibly violent acts to remove the Occupy group. Unintended consequence. With the Anglican Church in despair/defeat, the U.S. House declared bipartisan victory, confirming or reaffirming In God We Trust as the official U.S. motto. Raise that flag, raise it high. . .
Pardon me for asking, but what in the world does that mean?  I've gone through a long list of nouns that might be substituted for God.  In Government, Banks, Politicians, Education, Religion, Stock Market, Globalization, Money, Corn oil, pescetarians, octogenarians, vampires, zombies?  Do we (whomever the 'we' may be) really trust God?  Do we trust Allah?  What an odd thing is a buffalo nickel with 'in God we trust' or a dollar bill with 'In God we trust' going up against the pound.  Oh, the news is bewildering, whatever form it takes.
I trust, at least a little, maybe a lot, poetry. But we were supposed to learn from Auden that 'poetry makes nothing happen.'  Before signing off this flaky, snow day blog, here's a poem for family and friends on a January-type day in early November, a poem from Hartford CT poet, Wallace Stevens:
The Snow Man  
by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Hallows Eve


For the first time I can remember, Halloween was canceled or postponed because of snow. Many thousands of people without power in parts of New England, dangerous wires dangling, and hundreds of trees brought to the ground by their snow-laden leaves.  School in West Hartford CT closed for the week, and my old high school being used as a town shelter.  Who would have thought, during this time of global warming? Halloween postponed until Saturday. Maybe even later for people in other places.
However, Halloween in my Denver neighborhood is all jolly. The later the trick or treater, the more likely his or her grandmother would have a trick or treat bag for herself. And why not? How was she corralled into patrolling the streets at 9:00 anyway? A bag of M & M's, a Snickers or Reese's peanut butter cup is such a minimal reward. Lots of sugar highs and lows today.
Up the street and around the bend, the McMansions had equally big McMansion Halloween decorations. Graveyards in the front of the house, huge, scary plastic pumpkins and cats on the side. Cobwebs everywhere.
In Washington DC, six people shot on Halloween.
And how and where did this all begin? Here's a brief synopsis from history.com

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.  ---------
And, as you know, Samhain became Halloween, and hardly a young soul knows there's a connection between Halloween and All Souls Day - or even much about Saints and Souls. There wasn't much Halloween celebrating in the US of A when those pilgrims arrived; they left those pagan sorts of things back on British soil. But once the Famine sent boatloads of Irish across the sea to the new land in the mid 1800's, and the Scots came along, Halloween found its way back into the psyche of the folks. So here we are today; new food plate replacing the food pyramid, holding on to our trick or treat adventures and keeping our sweet tooth happy.