Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: The Tiger Year in Review

   This has been a Tiger year.  Chinese astrology teaches us that Tiger years bring upheaval, change, havoc,  unrest, and other opportunities for personal growth.
    On the world stage, innumerable earthquakes, the BP oil rig disaster, North Korea on less than best behavior, more problems in Africa, Wikileaks....shall I continue? Naah.
    In my personal circles, there's been at least three deaths from cancer, divergent paths, elders experiencing the ructions of age, too many replacements of electronics and appliances to count, and worst of all, Orion's crossing of the Bridge.
     Through Facebook, I learned that people in all corners of the world have crazy people to deal with. I've joined in the shouts of joy over several births and mourned leavetakings with others, and been mourned with for Orion.
       And also through Facebook, his little sister, Sparkle, found us. This tiny girl with a big heart and bigger brain has some health concerns related to having been a stray and six weeks in a shelter, but as soon as she heals, she'll be coming home. And getting her own Facebook page to boot.
     It makes me cherish what and who's left that much more. Thanks, everyone....

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's Six Days Before Christmas...

...and I don't really care. Gift certificates will be snagged; perhaps a batch or two of cookies baked. Beyond that, you're on your own, world.
   It's not just a backlash against materialism or a questioning of the religion that I was raised in. Let me back up. To Christmas Eve, 1971.
    My mother fussed over holiday details. The cookies, the dinner, the decorations, all fell into place by December 23, in time for our Christmas Eve gathering.  She stayed up late, fussing with this and that, then rearranging the tinsel on the tree.
    Excitement propelled me downstairs. "What are you doing up?" she asked.
   "Couldn't sleep."
    She smiled, then continued with her fussing.
    I played with one of my new dolls and then noticed that the little hand of the clock pointed to the twelve, and the big one to the one. "Mom, is it Christmas now?"
    "Yes, it is." We hugged and wished each other Merry Christmas, and gazed at her tree. Somehow, I got back to bed and to sleep.
     We didn't know that it would be her last. Six months later, almost to the day, a heart attack claimed her life.
     We lurched into December 1972, staggering around the hole left by her leave taking. Much of it fell to my siblings. Dad unsuccessfully tried to cauterize the raw wounds with Scotch.  An innocent question lead to getting dragged out to the kitchen by my forearms and a lecture about how it was my fault because I'd wanted a bike for my birthday.
    I stayed close to my sister the rest of the night.
    She went back to her apartment. My brother graduated and moved 700 miles away.
    By the time I was in junior high, the Christmas mantle had been dropped on my head. Along with hints that it would disappoint my grandmothers if the house wasn't decorated, and that it was all my fault if my siblings didn't play nice with each other.
    So I tried and tried, and tried some more, to create the perfect holiday and conjure the perfect presents (many of which went to Goodwill) and be the consummate hostess as my mother had been. Too many gatherings featured screaming, the niece and nephew bouncing off the walls, and The Spouse feeling coerced into celebrating a holiday he didn't believe in (we're different ethnic and religious backgrounds).
    A "thank you" would have been nice. An acknowledgement would have been great.  
    Finally, when my niece and nephew grew to the same age I had been when the holidays had been dumped into my lap, something went off in my head. It was unrelated to the kava kava that I popped like chocolate to say calm that year. Wait a goddam minute: when I was their age...
    The Spouse and I bowed out the next year.  We on a short getaway and gave gift cards so people could pick out their own presents. I went into January rash free and much calmer.
    So, my gentle readers, if you need me that day, I'll be here at home with The Spouse. We'll be watching our gift to each other, "The Tudors" complete set. I'll make a nice dinner for the two of us. You'll be fine. So will we.  


Monday, December 13, 2010

We Interrupt Today's Events To Discuss An Ongoing Issue

So you think that you know about poverty? Take this quiz.
I found out that I didn't know as much as I thought I did. Half in Ten has set an ambitious goal of cutting the poverty rate in half by 2020.

  • Numbers are on the rise in the suburbs.
  • The majority are white.
  • The federal poverty line is about $20K, but for an average two-kid two-income family, it takes over $40k to stay solvent.
Please, can you stop to find out what else you can do? Thanks.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cables: Are They Making a Comeback?

    Been watching the unfolding saga of the latest WikiLeaks release. Unflattering comments about world leaders? Gracious. Gathering info on UN delegations? Goodness. Tales of Prince Andrew acting like a buffoon? Gasp.  The US has been pressured by the Saudis to take steps against Iran? Well, a bit of surprise there.
    But that the US still uses cables for diplomatic communiques? Now, that's a surprise. Or is it?

  • Despite being low-tech, they're still harder to hack than email, even encrypted ones.
  • The codes in the header provide inviolable proof of where the cable came from and its destination. Each terminal has its own unique code. They are the only electronic communications that stand up international courts because of it. 
  • The financial industry still uses them to transfer money. Shipping companies use them as well.
  • They're still fairly common in remote corners where phone systems can barely support calls, let alone any form of the Internet. It only takes a baud rate of 50 to send one using Telex machines still in operation.
        Emails? They've gone to being mundane and common. Faxes? Nice for hard copies, but a bit utilitarian. But sending a cable evokes an era of mystery and glamour that may be entering its new golden age.