Monday, May 30, 2011

Statistical 'Cheer'

     Most of the time, I am quite content. My expectations of being whisked away by a gallant gentleman on a white horse have long been low – even nonexistent. I had no problem with that but a recent news item made it clear that there never was much hope.
     According to an Associated Press article printed last Friday in my local paper, there’s been a major reduction in the “women’s population advantage, primarily in the 65-plus age group.” [That happens to be my age group.]
    “Over the past decade,” the article continued, “the number of men in the U.S. increased by 9.9 percent, faster than the 9.5 percent growth rate for women. As a result, women outnumbered men by just 5.18 million, [my italics] compared with 2000, when there were 5.3 million more women than men.”
     Why am I not thrilled?
     I never wanted women to have the ‘population advantage.’
     The odds have never been in my favor anyway. Older single women are not considered prime dating material. So, even if there are merely 5.18 million more women than men, the chances of my getting a date are hardly astronomical. Or even measurable.
      Ah well. Thanks Associated Press for keeping it real.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Copy of April 10 article published by UK's GUARDIAN

Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights with equal status for Mother Earth
Law of Mother Earth expected to prompt radical new conservation and social measures in South American nation
Sunday, April 10 -- [John Vidal reports from La Paz]
Bolivia is set to pass the world's first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country's rich mineral deposits as "blessings" and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.
The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.
Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature "to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities".
"It makes world history. Earth is the mother of all", said Vice-President Alvaro García Linera. "It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration."
The law, which is part of a complete restructuring of the Bolivian legal system following a change of constitution in 2009, has been heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual world view which places the environment and the earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life. Humans are considered equal to all other entities.
But the abstract new laws are not expected to stop industry in its tracks. While it is not clear yet what actual protection the new rights will give in court to bugs, insects and ecosystems, the government is expected to establish a ministry of mother earth and to appoint an ombudsman. It is also committed to giving communities new legal powers to monitor and control polluting industries.
Bolivia has long suffered from serious environmental problems from the mining of tin, silver, gold and other raw materials. "Existing laws are not strong enough," said Undarico Pinto, leader of the 3.5m-strong Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, the biggest social movement, who helped draft the law. "It will make industry more transparent. It will allow people to regulate industry at national, regional and local levels."
Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said Bolivia's traditional indigenous respect for the Pachamama was vital to prevent climate change. "Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family. We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food and financial crises with our values," he said.
Little opposition is expected to the law being passed because President Evo Morales's ruling party, the Movement Towards Socialism, enjoys a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament.
However, the government must tread a fine line between increased regulation of companies and giving way to the powerful social movements who have pressed for the law. Bolivia earns $500m (£305m) a year from mining companies which provides nearly one third of the country's foreign currency.
In the indigenous philosophy, the Pachamama is a living being.
The draft of the new law states: "She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation."
Ecuador, which also has powerful indigenous groups, has changed its constitution to give nature "the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution". However, the abstract rights have not led to new laws or stopped oil companies from destroying some of the most biologically rich areas of the Amazon.
Bolivia is struggling to cope with rising temperatures, melting glaciers and more extreme weather events including more frequent floods, droughts, frosts and mudslides.
Research by glaciologist Edson Ramirez of San Andres University in the capital city, La Paz, suggests temperatures have been rising steadily for 60 years and started to accelerate in 1979. They are now on course to rise a further 3.5-4C over the next 100 years. This would turn much of Bolivia into a desert.
Most glaciers below 5,000m are expected to disappear completely within 20 years, leaving Bolivia with a much smaller ice cap. Scientists say this will lead to a crisis in farming and water shortages in cities such as La Paz and El Alto.
Evo Morales, Latin America's first indigenous president, has become an outspoken critic in the UN of industrialised countries which are not prepared to hold temperatures to a 1C rise.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Navajo (Dine) Capital

Window Rock
Code Talker statue
in Window Rock, Arizona, capital of the Navajo (Dine) nation.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Never Assume

One of my father’s favorite pronouncements was: “never assume.”

Throughout my childhood, my teen years, my college years and, yes, even later, he reminded me of the folly of assuming something would be one way just because it had been that way before … or a person was one type just because he or she was tall or short or black or white.

Yet still, just yesterday, I assumed.

When I came downstairs for breakfast, I noticed two books on the living room floor. And a gap in the shelf under the living room window.

I have two cats: one charcoal gray (Guinness) and one cream with pale orange accents (Herbie). Herbie is the mellow one, the snuggler, the one who sleeps most of the time, the one who loves everyone. Guinness is the neurotic one, the mischief-maker, the one who steals cat toys and Herbie’s food and who runs away whenever a stranger enters the house.

Naturally, I assumed that Guinness had knocked the books off the shelf.

I muttered a general reprimand and proceeded to make breakfast. Afterward, when I was cleaning up the kitchen, I heard a sound that I could not identify. It seemed to come from the living room. I dried my hands and walked in the direction of the sound.

Another book had fallen on the floor. And deep in the shadows of the bookcase a pale, cream-colored face peered out, wide-eyed and innocent.

Herbie did it.

Dad was right (damn it). Never assume.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Champion Red Bud

A giant redbud rises three stories high in my back yard. The other morning, a stranger knocked on my front door and asked if he could see my tree. Of course! I often make people come look at my tree. The stranger said he used to run Colorado's champion tree program. He'd never seen a redbud so big. My tree has a multiple trunk. If it did not, if it had one solitary trunk, the stranger said it would be a champion.

It's a champion to me (and to the chickadees nesting in a hole in its trunk (estimated to be more than 90 years old). Enjoy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Power of Art

The Thursday, May 5, New York Times Arts section included three stories that, to me, illustrated the power and essential-ness of art.

Headline: Mozart Leaps Perilous Hurdles To Reach an Audience in Gaza
Daniel Barenboim, conductor, “led an orchestra of two dozen elite musicians – volunteers from the Berlin Philharmonic, the Berlin Staatskapelle, the Orchestra of La Scala in Milan, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris – into Gaza on Tuesday.” Barenboim was quoted: “This (concert) is meant to demonstrate European solidarity with Gazan civil society.” The concert required careful maneuvering by the United Nations and others and was taken as sign of possible easing of Gaza’s isolation. One Gazan businessman interpreted the concert saying: “it means people still believe in us. You start with music and end up with acceptance.”

[Mr. Barenboim used to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. On those wondrous occasions when I could attend a concert, I was stunned by the fact that he did not use a written score – it was all in his head!]

Headline: 12 Heads Do the Talking for a Silenced Artist
The artist: Ai Weiwei, now in his second month of detention in China. The 12 heads: the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads now on display at a fountain in front of New York’s Plaza Hotel. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg cited New York as a city that “fiercely defends the right of all people to express themselves,” and called Ai “one of the most talent, respected and masterful artists of our time.’

[Had I been there, I too would have held a sign: "Free Weiwei"]

Headline: Bargain Plane’s Priceless Heritage
A young California couple, Matthew and Tina Quy, bought a vintage Stearman biplane on eBay in 2005. They restored it, then discovered it was a piece of American history “one of the few surviving planes used to train the Tuskegee Airmen, the pioneering, all-black corps that served in the Army during World War II.” The Quys are going to give the plane to the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. When the Quys (who are white) discovered the plane’s heritage, they named it Spirit of Tuskegee and have flown it to air shows to teach people about the airmen. “For three years the couple has been raising money through the sale of … T-shirts to pay travel expenses for airmen who join them to speak about their wartime experiences." Those experiences included the racial hatred (and sometimes violence) that pervaded this country in the 1940s.

These three stories demonstrate how art can transcend barriers – political, international, and racial – with beauty and courage. How can we not honor art and art teachers?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Cat Has Balls

My cat, Guinness, has balls. Not the two he was born with (I adopted him from the local Humane Society) but the ping-pong-ball-sized bits of fluff adorned with sparkly metallic threads created for American consumers who have-love-dote upon their cats.

They often come in packages of four. I buy them, hide three in the cupboard above the laundry room sink and toss the fourth for Guinness to chase and return.

Then they disappear. First the one I tossed, then (if he has not already extricated them from the cupboard) the other three.

There are (of course) other toys, so we do without for a while. Then, the next time I buy litter and cat food, I buy another package.

On March 11, I posted a blog recounting such a purchase. [When I returned home, both my cats were at the door but I thought I had managed to sneak the toys in, unobserved. When everything was put away, and when I was sure the both cats were off in another part of the house, I opened the cellophane package, extracted one ball and quickly slipped the package into a kitchen drawer. When Guinness wandered into the kitchen, I threw the extracted ball into the living room and laughed as he scooted after it, sliding slightly on the wood floor. He brought it back. I threw it again, etc. The next morning, I noticed a silver sparkly ball on the upstairs landing. And a red sparkly ball by the front door and a blue sparkly ball on the living room rug and a purple sparkly ball in the dining room. What was going on? I opened my (not so) clever hiding place. There in the corner was the cellophane bag – empty. And there at my feet was Guinness. I swear he was grinning.]

But soon all balls disappeared.

Until I had the loveseat cleaned. When the loveseat was moved, there was a whole trove of balls. I put a cluster of them in a plastic bag that I hid in the laundry room cupboard and placed three around the house for Guinness to find.

He found them. And the cluster in the cupboard.

Within days, all of them had disappeared.

Today, an intensive search was conducted. With an assistant, I looked in every known and suspected hiding place.

We found 20 cat balls.

Where should I hide them this time?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

No Cure But Sympathy

My last blog was true at the time. For a while, my malady seemed a respite --- a break from the seemingly perpetual round of things to do. I had gone to the doctor feeling ill – had that illness confirmed – had medication prescribed. It was an odd sort of validation.

I stayed home, rested, read. Luxuriated in torpor.

As of yesterday, my malady was old. I wanted to be able to do something. I tried; venturing to a store only to have to admit that I didn’t feel well enough to be there. Not well enough to shop! That’s practically un-American.

Later, my nephew called to relay some family news. I tried to tell him I still did not feel well. He dismissed my malady in a most matter-of-fact manner. Noting the worst was undoubtedly over, he said something to the effect that now it’s just a cold.

Well yes, I guess so. But I haven’t been with other people for almost a week. Laryngitis precluded phone calls. And cats don’t quite compensate.

Being alone had lost its charm.

I just felt deprived. Abandoned. It would have been nice if he had asked if there was anything he could do. (There is, but he lives too far away to do it.) But what I really wanted was some tiny little indication that he gave a damn. Just a: “Sorry, Aunt Mim, I hope you feel better soon.”

Sometimes that’s all it takes to make someone’s day a little brighter: a warm smile, a casual compliment, a modicum of sympathy.

People need to be acknowledged.

I’m going to try to go to church today. I’ll try to remember that, try to practice the smiles, the compliments, the sympathetic phrases. Who knows? Maybe it will be reciprocal. But whether it is or not, I’ll bet it makes me feel better.