Saturday, December 12, 2009

Personal Update

I've finished radiation--yay! And my skin is only slightly pink, which may be due to the aloe vera I slathered on three times a day.

The results of my MUGA test, which checks how efficiently my heart pumps blood, came back with excellent results, so I can still have Herceptin treatments (Herceptin targets a specific protein on the cancer cells). And I just started taking Tamoxifen (a daily pill).

Now I have to wait for the results of my mammogram. I can't believe it's been a year since the lump was discovered.

And my hairstyle has morphed from "Golem" in LOTR to "M" (think Dame Judy Dench) in Casino Royale. And, yes, that's an improvement! Now I only wear hats or caps when I'm cold. :)

Irony--AGW Edition

The Bay Area has a "Mediterranean Climate," according to what I was taught many years ago. Basically, summers are cool and winters are cooler, without getting really cold. Summers are also dry, for the most part, with rain coming between November and April.

So what was this stuff I saw on December 7?
Yep. Snow. On the cars that had been parked overnight at the BART station.

And on the hills across the street.

The forecast was for the snow level to reach down as low as 1300'. So I expected to see white tops on Mt. Diablo (3849'), Mt. Tamalpais (2571'), and Mt. Hamilton (4200'). The hill pictured is much lower; probably around 1100 or less.

The snow didn't stick around, but Tuesday and Wednesday brought freezing temperatures, which meant frozen windshields and black ice on the roads. We generally don't see this kind of cold weather until January and February.

Today it's raining, so it's warmer. And we need the rain around these parts, so I'm not complaining!

Monday, November 23, 2009

R.I.P., Matt

Sadly, Matt passed away the day he was scheduled to come home. He went to sleep and never woke up.

Please pray for the repose of his soul and for his family.

Cal: 34, Stanford: 28

For the first time since 1973, I did not watch the Big Game in the stadium. This year, rather than fight traffic, the cold, and the chance of losing my mother in the crowd, we watched Big Game at Sis#2's house. If the Bears couldn't hear us in Palo Alto, it wasn't for lack of trying. (I'm still hoarse.)

Easy parking. No worries about baby-sitters. Plenty of food and drink. No lines for the bathroom. Great company. And we watched the second half of the Oregon-Arizona game, which went to double-overtime!

And, like most Big Games, the outcome was decided by 7 points.

The only thing I missed was watching the Band perform, including trying to figure out what the Stanford Band--who are not noted for their marching ability--was trying to do. And the card stunts. Those are never shown on TV.

No game this week, but the Bears play the Huskies at Washington on Dec. 6. Seems very strange to have a game after Big Game, but there it is.

Trying to figure out the Bowl Game situation is also confusing. Apparently, Cal is eligible for possibly five Bowl Games, depending on how the Pac-10 standings shake out.

Makes pro football look tame by comparison!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Decision Time

Now is the time to choose if you're blue & gold or cardinal & white. If you're a tree or a bear. Order or chaos.

It's time, Bay Area, to choose a side for the Big Game: Cal or Stanford.

And, oddly enough, people do choose. My local Jay Vee liquor store sports a yellow sign with the blue script "Cal." At H-P, employees are divided. Heck, the guy who sits in front of us during the home games is a retired professor from Stanford, but roots for Cal because that's where he graduated.

Unlike most other years, this Big Game is for more than just Bay Area Bragging rights. Stanford has a real chance to win the Pac-10 and go to the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. Cal has a chance to redeem themselves and get a better Bowl bid.

Oh, yeah: the winner gets The Axe. And to decide what the score of the 1982 Big Game (look up "The Play" on YouTube) really is.

Who am I rooting for?

picture taken by me with my Palm Centro(tm) at Cal's Memorial Stadium on November 7. Image of Oski (the Cal mascot) designed by the Cal Rally Committee using cards for card stunts. Yes, the students at radical, socialist, Leftist Cal still do card stunts. The Cal Band betrays its roots by marching in step. The football games open with a color guard formed by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine ROTC units. Code Pink chooses to not protest. Good thing, too. The stadium holds 72,000 people.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prayers Requested...

...for Matt and his family. He's a high school friend of DS#1 who has been battling liver disease for most of his life. He received a liver transplant about 12 years ago, but it's failing. He was on the transplant list, but just found out his other organs are now too damaged. So he's coming home, basically to die.

DS#1 saw him the weekend he came up for Aaron's funeral (a group went down to Stanford Hospital to see Matt). Since he's coming home for Thanksgiving, he'll visit with Matt again.

As you can imagine, it's been difficult for Matt, his parents, and his sister. But--damn!--this is the second young man (25-26 years old) in a month within DS#1's circle.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You to Veterans

The September after my dad died, I accompanied my mom to a Reunion of my dad's shipmates (the WWII destroyer, U.S.S. Fraser, DD-607). Like many veterans of WWII, my dad didn't talk much about his experiences, so this was my chance to discover more of what made my dad the man he was. He was one of the "babies"--not quite 19 when he was assigned--and he had been somewhat spoiled and pampered before entering the Navy. He was a gunner's mate, in charge of handing up ammunition from the hold to the gun operators. The work was physically hard, especially in the hot, humid climate of the Pacific.

Later, the Fraser did "clean up" in the Philippines and in Japan (specifically in Yokohama) before being decommissioned in the Boston Naval Yard.

The men my dad served with went back home and became farmers or lawyers or businessmen or blue-collar workers like my dad. One returned to his medical practice. They returned to their wives or married and raised families.

The women I met were pretty interesting as well. Long before my generation decided women needed "liberating," these women were working the family farm, managing the family business, raising kids during a time of rationing (two pairs of shoes per person per year!), and generally doing the work necessary to "keep the home fires burning." They are survivors--and are funny, intelligent, and engaged in life and current events. They are also self-effacing, claiming that what they did was unexceptional and boring. They just lived ordinary lives during extraordinary times.

To me, they are every bit the heroes as their husbands and brothers were.

So, to all Veterans, to all Active Military, and to their families: Thank you, especially for your willingness to fight for the ideals of America even when many seem to doubt them.

And, props to Hubs, a Vietnam-Era Marine. Hoo-rah!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

OREGON: 47, USC: 20

Ducks are now undefeated in the Pac-10, with four games to go. They absolutely manhandled the Trojans in the second half.

Autzen Stadium was so loud, I couldn't hear the announcers (not always a bad thing!).

Jeremiah Masoli was incredible. He ran for over 150 yards. He's the quarterback--they don't usually run!

And, BTW, the Obama "hand signal"? They ripped that off from the Oregon fans.

They shut up the USC band, too.

USC Needs To Learn New Fight Songs...

"Ode To Troy" and "Victory" are obnoxious no matter where USC is playing.

Although I think it's pretty funny that they've co-opted "All Right Now" which is what Stanford uses as their fight song.

The only two private universities in the Pac-10--you think they could afford to buy a wider variety of music. :)

Go Ducks!

(Cal beat Arizona State--barely. But I'll take the win.)

Book Review: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Civilization of Love

Just in time for her feast day, December 12, this book by Carl Anderson and Fr. Eduardo Chavez documents the visitation of Our Lady to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on Tepeyac. Anderson and Chavez recount the visitation using several sources, including the testimony of Juan Diego himself as well as his contemporaries.

I knew the outlines of the story but I didn't realize how the Virgin spoke to Juan Diego in his native language, using phrases and endearments that he would recognize. And, as she did later at Lourdes and Fatima, she chooses her messenger from among the lowest caste.

In fact Juan Diego protests that there are others who would be better suited to deliver her request for a church to Friar Zumarraga, the bishop-elect of Mexico. But the Virgin insists and Juan Diego obeys. Fr. Zumarraga's staff stonewalls Juan Diego and later lies about his actions, but he delivers the Virgin"s message and later the proof Fr. Zumarraga demands: flowers wrapped in his tilma. And the incredible image we know as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

An incredible image it is, too. Anderson & Chavez write about the scientific examinations the tilma has undergone over the centuries, how this simple garment has withstood deterioration, the lack of damage from acid and bombs. They also reveal the complex symbolism of the painting, incorporating images recognized by the Spanish and by the native population, including the fact that Our Lady is a mestiza: a mixture of Spanish and native. I found this section quite interesting and wish I had known more about it when the authorized reproduction of Our Lady of Guadalupe visited my parish several years ago. In fact, my one complaint is the lack of color illustrations in this section of the book.

Anderson & Chavez spend a lot of time on the historical events at the time of the Apparition (1531), both in Europe as well as the New World, further clarifying the extraordinary power of the apparition and why Our Lady of Guadalupe is so highly honored in the Americas, including the United States and Canada. And explaining, as well, the significance of Mary to the Catholic Church.

The final section discusses the hope the Virgin brings to us because she carries her Son with her always. She directs our attention to Him and models for us the behavior of a true believer. To quote from the book, "...she is the spiritual mother we all share, perfectly enculturated, a symbol of the "catholic" aspect of a Church where all are full members and all are welcome as equal heirs to the kingdom of God." We share Mary as our Mother and with her help, we are called to bridge the gap between cultures and countries.

The Appendices include The Nican Mopohua, the earliest written record of the apparition, as well as a Chronology, prayers, and a bibliography. There are extensive footnotes.

Carl Anderson is the Chief Executive Office and Chairman of the Board of the Knights of Columbus. Fr. Eduardo Chavez is an expert on the Guadalupe apparitions and was the postular of St. Juan Diego's cause for sainthood.

The book is well-written in language for the layman. Canonical and theological terms are explained without slowing down the narrative.

FTC Disclaimer: I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book for review from The Catholic Company

On the March Hare scale: 4 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civiliation of Love.

crossposted at Catholic Media Review

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Please Pray for..

...the repose of the soul of Aaron, who passed away Saturday night from complications of juvenile diabetes. Aaron would have been 26 years old next month.

And pray for his family. Their life has been full of challenges lately; Aaron's death is just the latest one.

Aaron is the same age as DS#1; in fact, they went through First Communion classes together, Confirmation, and high school. One of my earliest, and favorite, memories of Aaron is from that First Communion class. Our parish had decided that parents needed to be more involved in the religious education of their children, so all First Communion families had to participate in classes held on Sundays after 9:00 a.m. Mass. You can imagine how well-behaved the boys were during the 90 minute class (taught by their parents) after an hour in Church!

The "activities" in the program consisted mostly of punching out paper figures and re-enacting the lesson. One of the early lessons was the parable of the Good Shepherd. There were three boys in the class: Aaron, DS#1, and one other. They punched out their paper dolls of Jesus and the Lost Sheep and then gave one of the more sacrilegious renditions of the parable I have ever seen: three paper Jesus figures "fighting" over the three identical lost sheep.

We broke it up, trying hard not to laugh.

Aaron was always polite to me and hugged me whenever we saw each other at Mass. He always had a smile and a laugh--and he usually made me laugh, too, when I wasn't shaking my head. I'm going to miss seeing him around.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Catching Up

Update: "EIT" stands for "Engineer in Training." It's the first step in becoming a licensed engineer, not the exam for grad school. If DS#1 passes his EIT, the next step would be working for three or four years, then taking the exam for his Professional Engineering exam.

Another step taken towards full-fledged adulthood! :)

Good News: I’ve finished the worst of the chemo. I am now receiving Herceptin only, which takes 90 minutes, does not require a slew of additional medications to prevent side effects, targets a specific protein on the cancer cells so it does not randomly attack all fast-growing cells in my body, and whose only side-effect is congestive heart failure, for which I am tested every three months. Radiation treatment starts in November—25 treatments, which means every weekday for five weeks. But then treatment will be mostly done.

More Good News: my hair is growing back. I have enough hair on my head to brush, I have eyelashes (albeit short and still a bit thin), and I can feel my eyebrows. I am getting much better at drawing in my brows, so them I don’t miss so much.

Great News: DD#1 is safely ensconced at UC San Diego. She gets along with her roommate, who is another redhead. (Really—six girls in the suite and the two redheads are sharing a bedroom.) Her suitemates are pretty quiet. The color scheme happens to be orange & green, which are DD#1’s favorite colors. The other color scheme is bright yellow and turquoise. UCSD was founded in 1960 and, even though this dorm is brand new—these are the first students to live there—Housing went with a retro theme.

More Great News: DS#1 has his Senior Project. Now all he has to do is complete it successfully and write it up. It has to do with moving million dollar satellites across a warehouse without damage. While I have every confidence in my son, the idea that someone would entrust an expensive piece of equipment to him is rather mind-boggling. Proof, I guess, that he is now a grown-up. And he’s studying for his graduate school exam. (He’s studying! For his grad school exam! In Engineering! Music to my ears as there once was a time I wasn’t sure he’d make it through high school.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: So now we are four. Three-and-a-half, really, as DS#2 is a freshman in college. Although he’s living at home, he has his own wheels, which means I’m never quite sure where he is. Or will be. As long as his cell phone is charged—and as long as he depends on Hubs and I for gas money—we know we can find him.

DD#2 is now in the unique (for her) position of not being defined as someone’s younger sister. Big Brother has graduated along with his friends, so she is really on her own as far as clubs and activities. However, she doesn’t drive, so I get 20 minutes or so with her each morning and Hubs gets the same in the afternoon. I enjoy my time with her: We talk about her classes, about current events, I share family stories, and, occasionally, what she wants to do after High School. I try not to push and not to nag, but I am her mother, after all, so I receive my share of exasperated looks.

And there are evenings and afternoons where it’s just Hubs and I. We look at each other with amazement. Just the two of us. We can watch what we want on TV. We can go to the movies without worrying about babysitters. We can be spontaneous—if we’re not too tired. But he needs a hobby, something other than me because that will drive me crazy. (I kind of miss those weekends when he was off playing with the Scouts.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lest We Forget: Ezra Aviles

In 2006 I posted this entry in memory of Ezra Aviles. I'm proud to do so today so that this ordinary man who did the extraordinary on this day in 2001 will be remembered.

Today I join with thousands of fellow Americans to honor those killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11. I dedicate this post to Ezra Aviles, 41, of Commack, NY, who worked for the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey at the World Trade Center.

From the Newsday website:

Ezra Aviles
He Worked to the Last Seconds

October 11, 2001

As the first hijacked plane struck One World Trade Center, Ezra Aviles was on the phone calling Port Authority officials from the 61st floor, describing the plane crash, giving emergency guidelines and warning colleagues to stay away from the building.

Aviles, a Port Authority senior manager for strategic planning and development, had seen American Airlines Flight 11 pass his windows before it plowed into the North Tower some floors above. Rather than flee for safety, Aviles stayed on the phone informing police of what was happening. He also briefly called his wife, Mildred, in Commack at about 8:50 a.m., but continued working, helping others to escape. His body was found in the rubble four days after the collapse of the towers.

Lewis Eisenberg, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, praised Aviles' heroic action, calling it "the best of America in the worst of times." He listened to Aviles' voice-mail messages on his cell phone as he toured the wreckage.

Aviles, 41, formerly assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, had responded to the previous terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, when six died and many suffered smoke inhalation. An expert on building materials and air quality control, he came to the Port Authority six years ago where he "hoped he could do something to make a difference," said family friend Debra Ferguson.

A geologist, Aviles was also a dedicated environmentalist. His daughter, Jacqueline, 13, who eulogized her father at services Sept. 19 at Christ the King Church in Commack, said, "We have all been impacted by his passionate pursuit of a better environment for all and future generations ... he made the ultimate sacrifice by placing the lives of his fellow co-workers before his own. My dad is a hero never to be forgotten, a peaceful warrior of the 21st century."

Another daughter, Kathryn, observed her fourth birthday Sept. 30. She was given a party and gifts at the Pumpkin Patch Day Nursery in Commack, where she attends with her 2-year-old brother, Andrew.

"Ezra's first priority was his family," said his wife's aunt, Carmen Rivera of Puerto Rico. "He would not schedule any meetings on the first day of school so he could take his children to school, and he would always be there when one of his children had a dance recital or a soccer game."

His co-workers "absolutely adored him. He would make them laugh. He was always in a good mood," Rivera said. A busload of Port Authority workers attended his funeral.

Born in Far Rockaway, Aviles graduated from Beach Channel High School. He met his wife, the former Mildred Marti, when both were students at York College. He earned his bachelor of science degree at York and a master's degree in geology from Brooklyn College. They were married 21 years. --Rhoda Amon (Newsday)

This link will take you to a page where those who knew Mr. Aviles recorded their memories about him and offered condolences to his family. The portrait these leave is of an ordinary man; a man who cared for his wife and his family; a man who was not looking to become a hero.

But, like the passengers on Flight 93, when the call for heroism came, he answered it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Movie Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

I reviewed the novel here. When I heard it was going to be a movie, I wondered how the story would be handled. There's a lot of jumping around and changes in point-of-view, switching from Henry to Clare and back again. How would a movie audience not become confused?

Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin did an excellent job. The movie begins with young Henry DeTamble in the car with his mother, an opera singer, on a fateful Christmas Eve, when Henry discovers his ability to move through time. An older Henry (Eric Bana) meets him at the side of the road, bringing a blanket, and reassuring young Henry that, although this experience is strange, it will be okay.

Flash forward several years. A young student, Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams), needs a book in the Collections section. She is referred to the librarian, whom she recognizes as Henry. However, Henry hasn't met her yet, so he's confused. Over dinner, Clare explains how she knows Henry from her childhood. And why his time-traveling doesn't surprise her.

It does surprise the boyfriend of her roommate, however. Gomez (Ron Livingston) is very protective of Clare. When he sees Henry fighting in alley while wearing a pink ruffled top and cutoff shorts, he has a few questions. He has a few more when Henry breaks into a surplus store and when Henry disappears. Gomez tries to tell Clare, but, of course, she knows all about Henry's traveling.

Henry's travel causes several awkward moments, especially since he seems to "travel" during times of stress. His traveling has also created a rift with his father (Arliss Howard), who wants to know why Henry can't prevent his mother's death. And, apparently, time traveling is genetic. Clare has several miscarriages as the developing fetus "travels" out of her uterus. (Why this didn't happen with Henry--or where his time travel gene came from--is never explained, which bugs me a bit.)

The emotions and relationships among the characters are well done and realistic, especially when Henry and Clare deal with the miscarriages. There is one, almost obligatory, slam against Clare's father who is "a Republican and he hunts." Of course, the fact that this particular Republican paid for Clare to study art in college is never mentioned. Ignore that and the miscarriage/gene plot hole and enjoy the movie.

The ending, although different from the book, is poignant and satisfactory.

There are some sex scenes which are more sensual than sex. When Henry time travels, he arrives nude, but these are also tastefully done. There is one phrase ("Oh, sh..!") that recurs, but usually in situations where I'd say the same thing. It's rated PG-13, which seems appropriate, but I don't think many younger teens would enjoy it.

I made Hubs take me to this movie. To quote him, "This is a chick flick a guy can enjoy!" There's the science fiction element, it's not mushy, and there is some action--Henry is definitely not a beta male.

On the March Hare scale: 4.5 out of 5 Golden Tickets

Crossposted at Catholic Media Review

Annoying Ad Award for EFCA

The California Nurses Association (CNA--a union) has been running an ad over and over on my favorite radio station and, frankly, it's bugging the heck outta me.

The ad first talks about the important work nurses do. That they do. But then the ad talks about "silencing" nurses and not allowing them to speak up on behalf of their patients. The announcer--a female--urges Senator Feinstein to co-sponsor the "Employee Free Choice Act" because "You are either on the side of the angels... or you're not."

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is also known as the Card Check Bill--if enough employees sign a card stating they would like union representation, then there is no secret ballot. The union is in.

I'm not sure why the CNA feels that they need the EFCA; I thought the nurses were unionized in most of the hospitals in the state, if not all of them. And how will EFCA enhance the ability of nurses to advocate for patients? The only way I can think of is by insisting on certain nurse-to-patient ratios, which they already do.

But what I really find offensive is the line about being "on the side of the angels." WTF? This sounds like emotional blackmail to me. And the ad is definitely not making more sympathetic towards the CNA.

In fact, I wonder how many nurses actually support the CNA using their dues this way?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Roller Coaster!

It's been a wild couple of weeks here at the Warren...

We planned to host two Japanese Scouts: a Boy Scout, who has hosted DS#2 on his visits to Japan; and a Girl Scout, who had met DD#2 at camp in Japan. So DD#2 decided we needed to paint. And buy curtains. And slipcovers for the couch. And new garbage cans. And clean off the dining room table.

I wasn't planning to do it all in about three weeks. But we did, all except clearing the dining room table. That just didn't quite happen.

During this time, DS#2 was volunteering at Boy Scout camp.

A leak developed in the water line between the meter and the house. Which meant that my favorite tree, a crab apple that had glorious pink blossoms in the spring, had to be cut down because its roots caused the problem.

Three of the five cars needed repairs.

And the Japanese were still coming...

Just before they arrived, DD#1 received a letter from UC San Diego. Because of a D in Calculus, her GPA dropped below a 3.0 and UCSD rescinded her acceptance. Of course, we had already paid a deposit on her dorm fees and her tuition.

I'm not sure who was more disappointed: DD#1 or DD#2 who had been looking forward to having her own room.

The Japanese came. DD#1 wrote a letter appealing UCSD's decision. DS#2 took his J-Scout to a party with his friends; DD#2 had a party with her friends here. The next day the boys went paint-balling and the girls went shopping in San Francisco and then we went to a barbecue.

The boys, including Hubs, went camping on Monday. The girls, including me, went camping on Tuesday. The boys went backpacking; the girls made tie-dyed t-shirts and lanyards and cooked. Our J-Scouts made a chicken curry with rice. Our US-Scouts made foil-wrapped dinners.

Both groups sang and ate s'mores because the marshmallows in Japan are different than the ones here (they're flavored, for one thing), so s'mores aren't part of their traditional menu.

The boys went to Colombia, a historic gold mining town, and panned for gold. The girls went to the Exploratorium and walked to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Both groups toured Cal and went to their Scout stores to buy gifts that they can't get in Japan.

DD#1 tried to call the Admissions office at UCSD, but couldn't get through. She did drive the girls to the Exploratorium because I had chemo that day. It was her birthday. Celebrating a birthday with Scouts is a common occurrence in our household. She then went camping with friends.

In the middle of this, DS#1 came home unexpectedly. He needed to do laundry and the car he is using needed a new starter (that was the third car).

On Saturday, we took our J-Scouts to Santa Cruz Beach & Boardwalk. This proved to be a good choice because they got to ride roller coasters, ride the cheesy haunted house and cave rides, bury each other in the sand, jump the waves in the ocean, play miniature golf and lazer tag, and eat all kinds of American junk food. We could have stayed longer, but the J-Boy Scouts were leaving for Yosemite early Sunday morning.

On Sunday, DD#2 took our J-Girl Scout to the movies. DD#2 chose Transformers, figuring that it was mostly a silly action movie that would not require understanding the dialogue. They went out to lunch, came home, our J-Girl Scout packed, and then DD#2 and DS#2 took her bowling.

The next morning, we took our J-Girl Scout to the airport. Some of the girls had problems with overweight bags and we ended up buying a large carry-on bag to help the girls consolidate their smaller bags to reach the two carry-on limit. We had a teary goodbye, but I brought tissue.

Since we were in the area, DD#2 and I called my mom and offered to take her grocery shopping since she no longer drives. She, in turn, took us out to lunch.

And then we went home where I promptly forgot that I had a mandatory meeting at Church. Oops. But I'm sure they'll be understanding, when I tell them why I forgot. :)

DD#1 came home Tuesday. There was another letter from UCSD that I didn't open, even though I was dying to. She called me at work. In light of her appeal, UCSD rescinded their withdrawal--she's back in. I'm glad I didn't cancel her dorm reservation! DS#1 was surprised; he didn't think using the "my mother has cancer" would work. I read her letter and it was very good, with only a moderate amount of exaggeration.

I reminded her she still needs to take Calculus.

Tuesday I returned to work and began to catch up. I had warned my co-workers that I would need a vacation from my vacation. And when I told them what I had done during the week, they agreed!

Now I'm down to three children and the house seems way too quiet. I miss my new Japanese son and daughter!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Unions vs. Environmentalists and Manufacturing Jobs

Chevron is one of the largest (if not the largest) employers at its refinery in Richmond, CA, and has been for 107 years. The relationship between Chevron and Richmond is often contentious as the city has grown up around the once-isolated refinery and as more is learned about the effects of pollution on the health of the workers and the residents.

The latest clash, however, is between environmentalists and unions over Chevron's plans to modernize sections of the refinery, allowing it to process heavier grades of oil with higher sulfur content. Currently, Chevron refines Alaskan crude oil; however, the amount coming in is decreasing. In order to keep the refinery going at capacity, Chevron needs to be able to refine oil coming from Saudi Arabia and Asia--which has is heavier and has a higher sulfur content. Per the Contra Costa Times:

"Chevron insists it is seeking to refine only higher sulfur crudes. Because the project also includes installation of new sulfur removal equipment and better pollution controls, sulfur emissions are expected to decline significantly as a result. Environmentalists, however, contend the company also intends to refine heavier crude oil and that this will increase emissions of toxins and other pollutants."

According to the Environmentalists, Chevron's Environmental Impact Report (a three-volume report)was too vague. The Contra Costa Superior Court judge agreed and ordered Chevron cease work.

With a stroke of a pen, one thousand union workers were laid off.

Chevron is appealing the ruling in State Court. Union officials want to get the work restarted as quickly as possible. Environmentalists claim they don't want anyone to lose their jobs, but that the health of local residents is important, too. In a wonderful display of economic cluelessness, they suggested that Chevron continue to pay the laid-off workers while the matter is being negotiated.

Meanwhile, according to the latest article in The Contra Costa Times, the City of Richmond and local non-profits lose out:

"Chevron and the city announced the 19 community groups that would receive $565,000 under the now-defunct community benefits agreement. The amount is about half the $1 million the agreement outlined.

Under that $61 million pact, Chevron was to provide funding over 10 years for city police, job training and other programs, and pay for air quality improvements at its plant. The agreement is contingent on the refinery's construction permits being approved. Because the court ordered permits be set aside, the agreement has ended."

But wait, there's more! Not only are one thousand people now unemployed at a time when unemployment is 11.5% in California, and the delay will necessarily increase construction costs which will eventually impact the price of gasoline at the pump, but the new refinery was also going to have the latest in pollution control technology, including more efficient sulfur scrubbers. There was going to be an increase in carbon dioxide emissions, now defined as a pollutant because of its alleged effect on global warming, but as far as human health is concerned, carbon dioxide is not toxic.

Drew Voros, Business Editor for The Contra Costa Times, wrote about the wider implications of this fight between manufacturing jobs and environmentalists. If frustrated long enough, Chevron will move the refining of the high-sulfur crude to their plant in Southern California. The losers will be the average joes in the Bay Area and the City of Richmond who will not have the money to provide services for their citizens. We'll breathe a little better, but other refineries (Tosco took over the former Union Oil refinery just up I-80 from Chevron) and maufacturers will take a look at what happened and will decide the fight isn't worth it. Who will replace them?

I see this fight as yet another example of college-educated elites doing what they think is "best" for the working class. Not everyone is "book smart": some folks are good with their hands, with spatial relationships, prefer not to work at a desk in an office. We need those people--they fix our cars, repair our broken pipes, refine our oil, keep our water running, generate our electricity, keep our planes in the air. And, yes, manufacturers should not pollute the air. They should have high safety standards and those standards should be enforced--it's in their own best interests to do so, frankly. But, those standards also need to be reasonable. Many environmental groups would love nothing more than to have the refineries and manufacturing plants go away and, frankly, for society to turn back the clock to a time when humans lived in "harmony" with nature. The fact that life was short and often brutal back then doesn't seem to occur to them.

Uplifting Story of the Morning

Let's start the day with a positive story, shall we? A story about one suburban woman, with an idea, making a difference in her local community.

Meet Anna Chan, also known as "The Lemon Lady." Because her daughter prefers to nap in the family SUV, Mrs. Chan drives all over her neighborhood and noticed fruit trees in the yards with unharvested fruit. So she knocked on the door of the houses and asked if she could pick some. Most of the homeowners agreed. After Mrs. Chan picks the fruit (mostly lemons when she started--lemon trees are very popular out here), she donates them to the Salvation Army pantry and the local SHARE pantry at the First Christian Church.

She's also been working with adults and children in a low-income neighborhood to establish a community garden. Mrs. Chan donated the starts from her backyard garden. Apparently the children in the neighborhood love watering it and keeping it alive, although they might not like eating the vegetables.

Mrs. Chan has set up a blog site with ideas on how to help in your local community: If you're a gardener or have a fruit tree, check it out!

Updating My Blog Roll...

I had a few minutes this morning, so I updated my blog roll, adding Bookworm Room (she's a local, a conservative living in an area that's possibly more liberal than San Francisco), Neo-neocon (not local, but another 9/11 conservative who is a psychologist, so has some interesting insight into the way people's minds often work), Pajamas Media (logs of articles and videos, many examples of different flavors of conservatives, and wide-ranging comments that are sometimes more entertaining than the articles), and Big Hollywood (you can live in La-La Land and not drink the Kool-Aid!)

I will probably add a few more to the Blog Roll shortly. Trouble is, I start reading the blogs and forget to update my own!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Joe Jackson And Thoughts About Michael

Last night, DD#2 and I happened upon Joe Jackson's interview on ABC. Not surprisingly, the interview was self-serving, the questions less than probing. What really creeped me out, though, is when Mr. Jackson spoke about his granddaughter, Paris. He looked almost predatory at the thought that Paris, and possibly her younger brother, Blanket, would follow in "the family business" on stage.

"They're Jacksons!" Mr. Jackson exclaimed.

Never mind what the kids might actually want to do.

The interview also featured clips of LaToya and Katherine Jackson. I noticed that LaToya strongly resembles her mother. The resemblance between Michael and LaToya (and Janet) was often remarked upon. Could it be that Michael's never-ending plastic surgeries were his efforts to erase all traces of his father from his face?

More Thoughts on Health Care

One of the problems when trying to calculate the cost of health care is what to include. The cost to fix my broken arm last year is much different than the cost of treating my breast cancer, which is much different than the cost of treating my migraines. Or my pregnancies.

Which of these conditions, if any, should insurance cover? Which should I be responsible for?

My migraines are debilitating. Before I found a medication that was effective, I was out of commission six to ten days a month, but isn't life-threatening. Left untreated, my breast cancer is. My broken arm was a comparatively simple fix: an x-ray, a sling, some physical therapy. My pregnancies had only minor complications, but I also had excellent prenatal care.

I haven't seen any studies cited in the MSM about the percentage of total health care costs is due to treatment, including medications, of chronic conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, to name a few. Some of these conditions are life-style related, some are genetic, some are age-related--which means some on within our personal control and some are not. The cost of treating these conditions is cumulative over time but the cost of not treating them may be higher.

Maybe the answer is a three-part system: pay out-of-pocket for routine care, much like you pay for routine maintenance on your car; buy insurance for catastrophic illness, like cancer; and set up a Health Savings Account/401(k) type account, to pay for chronic illness or long-term care. And if you are lucky enough to not spend your HSA, then you can pass it along as your heirs.

But, of course, to make this work would require that people plan ahead, exercise the self-discipline to save money for the future. In other words, it would require grown-ups to act like, well, adults.

Health Care Access vs. Health Care Coverage

According to, "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Democrats opened an all-fronts charge Tuesday to pass a $1 trillion, 10-year health care overhaul by August, unveiling legislation that would tax the wealthy to pay for universal coverage, create a public insurance plan and require individuals to carry insurance and businesses to offer it."

They hope to pass this bill in the next 15 days (counting the weekends).

The story seems to be that, without health insurance, there is no access to health care. That is not quite true. Hospital Emergency Rooms must treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. And, as Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air pointed out, just because the Government says they'll take care of your medical needs, doesn't mean you have access to a doctor or a hospital.

Without doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, physician assistants, technicians, pharmacists, therapists, and some health-related jobs I'm forgetting, no one has access to health care. The population of the U.S. is growing in real numbers and demographically is getting older--which means increasing demand. Is the supply keeping up?

Curious, I looked at medical schools and found this report on enrollment, just released by the Association of American Medical Colleges. There are currently 130 medical schools in the U.S. According to the opening paragraph of the report:

"Each year, the AAMC Center for Workforce Studies surveys medical schools regarding their enrollment plans for the next 5 years. Based on the 2008 survey, the AAMC estimates that first-year U.S. medical school enrollment will increase to 19,946 in the 2013 academic year. This represents an increase of 21% (3,458) from the 2002 academic year. Looking beyond 2013, this rate of growth will not lead to a 30% increase by 2015 as recommended by AAMC, but it could by 2017 or 2018."

Medical schools are targeting minority and rural students, hoping they will practice in underserved communities. The report does not clarify how it arrived at the 30% figure, whether that takes into account the drop-out rate of medical students during their four years of study, the rate of retirement of doctors currently practicing, population growth, or other factors.

The target figure is jeopardized primarily by the lack of financial resources in public schools to expand their classrooms, labs, and faculty; by the cost borne by the medical students; and by a shortage of training clinics. The shortage of clinics is critical: that's where medical students and interns practice, under supervision. Some of these clinics also contract with foreign medical schools, further limiting spaces.

This report is discussing only doctors. Anecdotal evidence (children of friends who want to go into nursing and family members in related health fields) suggests that the problem is worse for other health professions.

So, taking a supply-and-demand approach to this, if we are serious about increasing access to health care, shouldn't we concentrate on increasing the number of providers? And, if the number of providers increases, wouldn't the cost decrease because of competition?

Seems to me that the experience of Canada and the NHS in Britain bear this out. There is universal coverage; access, however, is determined by where you live--how much money your Province or County has in their budget. And, frankly, how is that so different than what happens in the U.S.? Where you live is almost more important than whether or not you have insurance to pay for your care.

Monday, June 29, 2009

R.I.P.-- Again

As I skimmed the local paper this morning, there was a brief article that Gale Storm has also died this weekend. A "B" movie actress, she was one of the first to star in her own sitcoms, notably, "My Little Margie" and "The Gale Storm Show." Her characters got themselves into a pickle every week, usually from the best impulses of their heart.

Was the dialogue snappy? Were the situations believable? About as much as "I Love Lucy." It was a different era. These were shows my parents watched; they were not geared towards those of us in the "peanut gallery." (We were expected to either remain in the room quietly or be doing something appropriate--like homework--somewhere else.)

According to the paper, Ms. Storm met her first husband during a talent contest. They had four children and remained married until his death. Ms. Storm re-married and remained so until her second husband also passed away. Wow--a simple life!

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen

Sunday, June 28, 2009


First there was Ed McMahon. Second banana to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, Ed introduced Johnny, played the straight man, laughed at the punch lines, and moved down the couch when it was time.

Would "Here's Johhhhneee!" as uttered by Jack Nicholson been as scary if we hadn't heard it first from the completely non-threatening Ed?

Then there was Farah Fawcett. Unfortunately, the last performance I saw of hers was a roast of William Shatner. She looked drugged or drunk, her slip strap falling down her shoulder. She was incoherent and didn't seem sure why she was there. Frankly, I wasn't sure, either.

Sis#2 had the feathered Farah 'do in junior high. I was impressed by Farah's athletic ability: she did her own skateboarding stunts, back in the day when skateboards were little more than a board on wheels. They were also much smaller than today's high-tech version.

Farah was upstaged by Michael Jackson. The summer I turned 19, I was a counselor at Girl Scout camp and pictures of The Jackson 5 and The Osmond Brothers were lovingly plastered on tree trunks in the units of the 'tween girls. Arguments about the relative musical merits and "dreaminess" of each group, and specifically between Michael and Donny, were frequent and often heated. As the adult, I was called on to arbitrate.

My answer: I preferred Simon & Garfunkel.

Who? That usually was enough to stop any further arguments.

And now Billy Mays. Who would have thought a TV pitchman would have become a celebrity, including his own show? His death seems the oddest, most arbitrary of all. He seemed so ordinary. Wife, family, just making a living pitching products. No drama. No outrageous behavior.

Death comes for us all.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen

Monday, June 22, 2009

And How Did You Spend Your Father's Day?

My philosophy on Father's Day is the same as my philosophy on Mother's Day: although it's a made up holiday, it's importance is in the heart of the recipient. So while I'm not keen on Mother's Day and I absolutely do not want any gifts from Hubs because I am not his mother, he is more into Father's Day.

I had a terrific idea. The Red Oak Victory, a Liberty ship turned into a floating museum, anchored near the Kaiser shipyard where it was built, was having a Father's Day pancake breakfast on board. Hubs loves the Red Oak Victory and has been to several Scouting events held there. I like history and ships. I could guilt the kids into going without too much trouble.

Instead, we ended up at the ER11:00 p.m. Saturday night. A cramp that started in my neck ended up causing me to not be able to breathe. At 2:00 a.m. on Father's Day, the doctor sent Hubs home because they were going to keep me until the morning.

Because I'm a chemo patient, I got my own room. And it was a fairly quiet Saturday night. But still there were the tests: EKG, blood work, X-ray, CT scan, more blood work, IV antibiotics "just in case," more blood work, and finally a stress test. Because of shift changes, I saw three different ER docs who each had a different idea of what might be wrong, mostly because the test results kept eliminating options. And then there was the cardiologist who did the stress test. She was impressed that I could walk for six minutes at a fairly decent clip, especially since I hadn't eaten (I did have water).

The conclusions were mostly positive in a negative sort of way: I didn't have a heart attack, I didn't have a pulmonary embolism (apparently common in cancer patients), I might have pneumonia, but I wasn't coughing. The final ER doctor came up with shingles, also common in cancer patients, which causes severe pain along the nerve endings. He sent me off with prescription to be filled "if and when" I get a rash or a recurrence.

Oh, and I'm anemic--probably more now than when I first arrived!

As for my breathing, it got better as the night wore on. I slept most of Sunday when we finally got home (sleeping is not compatible with hospitals, especially ERs). I decided to work from home today because it still was a bit painful to breathe. That is also resolving itself.

Go figure.

One thing that I love about our HMO is that all my medical records are on their internal computer system. All my prescriptions, appointments, test results, x-rays, scans--even those that have been done at other facilities in the system. The triage nurse still asked a lot off questions and I had to explain a couple of times that I hadn't taken one of my meds that I usually take at night because I was at the ER. But I didn't have to remember all of them.

Still, it's an experience I'm not ready to repeat.

One political comment: I hope I'm finished with my course of treatment before President Obama nationalizes health care.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Movie Review: Up

But first, the short....

Partly Cloudy starts off with an homage to the opening scene from Dumbo: the air is filled with storks carefully carrying bundles and depositing them on windowsills and doorsteps. Inside the bundles are babies: human, kittens, puppies... After they are taken in by their parents, the storks fly away, back to their clouds where, we discover, the babies are made.

The system works pretty smoothly, except for one poor stork whose cloud specializes in more aggressive baby animals like alligators and sharks. The stork is worse for wear and finally takes off for another, sympathetic cloud.

The first cloud becomes angry, causing a storm. But surely the stork wouldn't just abandon his cloud! Would he?

Like all Pixar shorts, there is no dialogue. But the visual expressions are very well done. Although I wondered if today's kids know the storks-bringing-babies story.

Now to the featured presentation...

Up starts with a Movietone Newsreel detailing the exploits of Explorer and Adventurer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). A young boy, complete with a leather aviator cap and goggles, watches wide-eyed and breathless. On his way home, dreaming of adventure, he hears a voice coming from an abandoned house, shouting directions to an unseen crew. Cautiously he steps in and meets a young girl, also wearing an aviator cap and goggles, who introduces herself as Ellie (Elie Docter, the daughter of director Pete Docter, who was 7 at the time). Ellie is an irresistible force and the young boy finds himself swept along in her fantasy. When he finally does find his voice, he can only say his name, Carl, and not much else. She dares him to retrieve his balloon; in doing so, he breaks his arm. She climbs up to his window later that day and makes him a member of her Adventurers Club, whose membership pin is a grape soda bottle cap on a pin.

The next several minutes goes through their life from young adults, with all the possibilities of life, to newlyweds, through the tragedy of miscarriage, to Ellie's death. And Carl (Ed Asner) is now sitting in his living room with Ellie's empty chair next to him. His big adventure is walking to the mailbox every day.

And when he does, we see that his house is surrounded by the construction of modern office buildings. Carl isn't about to sell his house, leaving all memories of Ellie behind. The Construction Foreman (John Ratzenberger) is sympathetic, but there's not much he can do. There's a confrontation and (shades of Miracle on 34th Street), Carl ends up bopping someone on the head. The Man in Charge seizes the opportunity to get Carl committed to an old folks' home.

But while Carl is old, he's not witless. He hatches a plot to float his entire home off to South America--specifically to Paradise Valley, where he promised to take Ellie.

And it works. There's only one small hitch: a Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai), who only has to assist an elderly person to get his "Helping the Elderly" badge. Russell is on Carl's front porch and Carl has no choice but to take him inside.

Russell is bright and eager and annoying. Carl wants to be left alone with his memories. Russell wants to help and, of course, makes the situation worse. But they do make it to Paradise Valley, just not in the spot where Carl wants to be. So they start walking, "towing" the house behind them.

Along the way they meet a strange and exotic bird that Russell decides to name "Kevin." Carl tells Russell Kevin can't join them--but he does. And then they meet a dog, Dug (Bob Peterson) who is wearing a collar that allows him to talk. Despite Carl's protests, Dug joins the group.

Dug is not the only talking dog. One is a particularly nasty Doberman named Alpha (also Bob Peterson) who is leading the search for Kevin.

Will Carl get the house to its ideal spot? Will he warm up to Russell, Kevin, and Dug? And whatever happened to Charles Muntz anyway?

Hubs and I saw this movie in 3D, which brings a nice, realistic feel to the movie. There isn't anything jumping out from the screen at you, so the movie doesn't scream "3D!" The characters are well-developed, especially Carl and Randall, once again proving to me that it's the story, not the effects, that make a movie great. I was teary-eyed at the end.

Fenton's is mentioned and is a real ice cream parlor in Oakland, apparently one of the hang outs of the gang at Pixar. Besides ice cream, Fenton's also has excellent crab salad sandwiches on toasted sourdough, served only on Fridays.

Like Wall*E, stay for the credits.

This movie is rated PG and there are a couple of scenes involving growling dogs, which might be too intense for young or sensitive children, especially in 3D. One little girl behind us started crying.

Overall, positive messages, although Russell's dad is an absentee father. And our family now has several new phrases in our family vocabulary, including "Squirrel!" and the Wilderness Explorer call.

On the March Hare scale: 5 out of 5 Golden Tickets. Basically, I went to work Monday morning and told everyone they had to see it.

crossposted at Catholic Media Review

Status Update...

Okay, so I've been just a little bit busy since the end of May.

DS#2 graduated from high school on June 12 but, because this is the way things work in my family, the most convenient time to have a family party was June 6. My cousin's daughter also graduated (on May 31) and since half of her guest list is the same as half of mine, we had a combined party. And, since my cousin conveniently (for me!) was laid off right about the same time, she offered her house and to do the running around. All I had to do was write a check for my share of the expenses. Worked for me!

There are some who wonder why we make a big deal over graduating from high school. Really, it's an excuse for the family to come together and celebrate. And this event featured a long-lost cousin, my mother's 94-year-young first cousin (we all want his genes!), and my aunt who recently moved back to the area. She's in poor health, which makes celebrating with her more special. The menu was simple: barbecued chicken, beans, salads, olives (very important!), soda, beer, and cake.

The next day was DS#2's Baccalaureate featuring members of the Class of 2009 reflecting on What This All Means. DS#2 wasn't excited about going, but I had heard good things about it, so we went. He conceded it was better than he thought it would be.

But there was still the dreaded Week of Finals left.

Friday afternoon, the last final (physics) finished, the Class of 2009 rehearsed. That evening, they graduated from the football field. And it started to rain. In California. In June. Fortunately, the rain stopped almost as quickly as it started.

DS#2 received his official diploma, so I guess that means he passed. We had time to take a couple of pictures and then he was off to Grad Night, locked on campus with his fellow graduates to eat, drink, party, and celebrate their last night as classmates. He came home around 8:00 a.m.

A side note... looking through the few pictures he took, I noticed that A. was there. He missed most of junior year while fighting cancer, so had to repeat. Still, he went to Senior Ball and participated in a couple of other Senior activities. Still, Grad Night is a closed event.

"A. went to Grad Night?"


"He was invited?" I was thinking of all the release forms and permission slips I had to sign.


"How did he get in?"

"We kind of snuck him in." And DS#2 told me how they unlocked a door to the girls' bathroom and spirited A. into Grad Night. Part of me is glad they did it. Part of me is very glad nothing happened, like A. getting hurt.

Amongst all this graduation madness, I started my second round of chemo. The side effects of this new cocktail aren't quite as bad as the first round, but I have to go weekly for 12 weeks. (I've done two.) One of the drugs I get to counteract the side effects is benadryl, through my chemo port--or, as I like to describe it, I mainline benadryl. I can tell when it enters because the room goes fuzzy and I check out. After chemo is done, Hubs drives me home and I go back to bed for a couple of hours. And then I'm okay. In fact, the graduation was a couple of hours after my session and I was fine.

Another side effect is muscle aches, which my oncologist described as "the kind you get after you over-exercise." Unfortunately, because I'm feeling good, I'm back at the gym taking water aerobics and aqua jogging classes. And I tend to jump into the program like I've never been out. So I can't tell if my muscles are sore because of the chemo or because I'm over-exercising. :)

Now, if only my hair would grow back sooner rather than later...

Summer Reading List--2009

Sometimes I pick the book; sometimes the book picks me...

When I was 49, I decided that I wanted to read Tolstoy's War and Peace before I was 50. I knew it would be a challenge, but I also knew that having read five books of the Harry Potter series by that point, my goal was doable. I wish I had known more about Russia's war with Napoleon and I also could have used the map from Risk! to move the pieces around. Few of the modern countries have the same borders as they did during the war; even some of the city names have changed. Since I was familiar with Russian naming conventions (each character has a French name, a formal Russian name which includes the name of their father, and one or more nicknames), I was able to keep the characters apart.

Another summer, I decided to read (or re-read) all of Jane Austen's novels, in order of publication. Re-reading Pride & Prejudice was delightful, but I discovered Persuasion, a more mature novel. After watching Jim Caviezel as Edmond Dantes in the movie version of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, I had to read it. (Major differences between the two, especially the ending. The novel is much more realistic, if anyone finding untold treasure on an undiscovered island can be considered realistic.)

So a couple of weeks ago, Hubs and I were in the hamlet of Port Costa, now known mostly for The Warehouse, a local bar, when I wandered into a store called "Joe's Oddities." What initially caught my eye was a sleeveless sequined shift in bright blocks of color, separated by black lines. Think 1960's. There was a collection of estate jewelery and some LP's of Frank Sinatra and Patti Page. Along the back wall were shelves of books. An eclectic collection, to say the least, nothing that couldn't have come from my parents' home, along with a few Oprah selections.

One book, though, caught my eye and I kept returning to it. It's a faux leather "International Collectors Library" edition of John Milton's Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes. Inside the flyleaf was a piece of paper explaining why this book is important and, on the other side, stating "This volume comes to you in The Marie Antoinette binging."

This edition has never been read. The attached ribbon bookmark marks a page that hasn't been cracked open. The edge of the bookmark is neatly tucked inside.

Once I picked the book up, I couldn't put it down. I asked "Joe" how much (because no price sticker sullied its elegant binding).

"A dollar."


"Including tax."

Since I happened to have a dollar, cash, on me I bought it. And now that the kids are out of school, summer has officially started and I can get with my reading program.

Nothing like a little light reading, eh?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, CA

This is the image of Christ the Light that greets you as you enter Oakland's new cathedral.

Add ImageI was not impressed by the outside of the Cathedral. It's dwarfed by the office buildings that surround it, so you really can't get a good look at the glass exterior. The shape is supposed to suggest flames and/or the bishop's mitre, but then there are these spikes on top. I'm not sure why.
The plaza surrounding the Cathedral is cement with minimal landscaping. Hopefully the Diocese will eventually add some trees, plants, benches, maybe a fountain or two to make the plaza more appealing.

Lake Merritt is across the street, which does offer some visual relief. However, there's a very busy four-lane street between the lake and the Cathedral.

I was pleasantly surprised by the inside, though. I think the use of Douglas fir and natural light warms the otherwise cold concrete. (The Newman Center/Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley is almost completely concrete and resembles a large cave.) The interior reminded me of Noah's Ark, turned upside down and re-purposed as church, which kind of tickled me.

The holy water fount at the entrance is also the baptismal fount, which I thought was another nice touch. The water is recirculated to become wall fountains in the mausoleum under the Cathedral.

Thousands of tiny holes allow sunlight to come through the rear screen and project
the image on the front. Once the sun goes down, the image is still there, but is very subtle: black dots on a gray background.

Along the sides of the church are several small rooms--I'd call them chapels, but there are no altars. Each room is designed for prayer and one can light a candle. There
is a single image in each room, done in different styles. Below is my personal favorite of the group: the Crowning of Mary, Queen of Heaven.

Other images included an empty tomb with a white cloth and a large sculpture of the Crucifix, which I didn't care for.

Underneath the Cathedral is the Mausoleum. You can also get to the meeting rooms which are under the plaza. Under the stairwell is this mobile of fish made by a local Catholic school. The floor plan of the Cathedral is shaped like a fish, so there is a lot of fish symbology (is that a word?) going on.

I can't remember what grade/s contributed the fish. Judging by the fanciful colors, they were in the K-3 range. :)

Overall, I'm happy with the design. According to the seating chart we received for Confirmation, it's supposed to hold close to 2,000 people. But it doesn't feel that big, which is a good thing, I think.

The sound system, on the other hand, stunk. Part of the problem, is learning to adjust the system from a nearly empty Cathedral to a full one in the space of 15-20 minutes. At least, I hope that's the problem and not that the system itself is inadequate!

Parental Rights; Spousal Rights

I must admit, this story about the Minnesota teen whose parents were ordered to have him treated by chemotherapy bothers me. I would definitely have my child treated; however, this is not my child.

And that's the point: parents used to get to make the decisions about medical treatment for their minor children. And while the greater community might have disagreed, strongly, with their position, as long as the parents were acting in good faith, their decision about treatment was accepted.

Today, it's parents who initially declined treatment in favor of some "Native American/naturalistic" type treatment. Next it will be Jehovah's Witnesses who refuse human blood transfusions or Christian Scientists who bring in faith healers.

Contrast this with the decision made to end Terri Schiavo's life. Her husband decided to let her starve to death and his decision was upheld because he was her husband. He was not compelled to resume rehabilitation or to move her to a more stimulating environment. The state did not take custody of Ms. Schiavo. In fact, Congress and state legislators were condemned for interfering in a "family decision."

But it's okay for the state to interfere in a family decision in the case of the 13-year-old.

I recognize that the cases are medically different. Hodgkin's Lymphoma is treatable (one of DS#2's close friends is recovering from it); Ms. Schiavo's brain damage was permanent. Still, most family decisions should be left to the family, no matter how strongly we disagree.

Prayers Requested...

For Joseph L., who went to an "end-of-season" party for the local rugby club and didn't come home. He was found, drunk and unconscious, in a hallway by his friends. They called 911, but Joseph died later that night in the hospital of alcohol poisoning.

He was 16 and a member of DD#2's class. They were in PE together last year and what she remembers is how Joseph could make anyone laugh. He was a member of the football team and the track team.

For P.J., who was also at the party and arrested for supplying alcohol to a minor. He just turned 18 and is a junior at the same high school. He's well-liked, one of those kids who would never deliberately hurt anyone. (He was in study hall with DD#2.)

For the third teen, who was arrested for supplying the hard liquor and the keg. Because he is a minor, his name was not released. But DD#2 and DS#2 will know who it is by lunch time through the campus grapevine.

Please keep their families in your prayers as well. I can't imagine what they're going through.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorable Vacations

Okay, I admit it. I just don't understand people who claim they "can't afford to take a vacation." Unless you are self-employed or working for an employer who doesn't offer paid vacation days, there is no reason not to take some time off.

Or do people mean that they can't afford what the travel industry deems as a vacation? You know what I mean: the ads that imply that if you don't take your kids to Disneyland/Disney World/whatever you are almost guilty of child abuse or that you can only relax if you go to Hawaii/Jamaica/Mexico or on a cruise.

Yes, it is nice to be waited on. To have someone else make the bed and entertain the children. On the other hand, we have taken the kids to Disneyland (and Disney World) and what I remember mostly is the stress and the meltdowns (we were guilty of trying to do it all in too little time).

The best vacations, the ones the kids really remember and still talk about?


They got to wear old clothes. They got to get dirty. They got to fish and swim in creeks or lakes. They got to ride bikes and burn marshmallows. They got to watch yellowjacket wasps eat a dead golden mantle ground squirrel over the course of a week. They got to play with Play-Doh (not in the tent, though). They got to play outside in the rain.

We explored ghost towns and volcanoes, visited small local museums that looked like everyone just cleaned out their attics, fed the fish at hatcheries, watched the festivities at "pioneer day" celebrations, and explored lava caves. They kissed banana slugs.

And I let them.

Why? Because my parents decided to go camping one summer, 50 years ago, instead of staying home. My parents were city folks and Bro#1 was in diapers--cotton ones, since disposables were expensive and didn't work well. But my siblings and I survived. More importantly, so did our parents. We went camping almost every summer after that.

The other option is a "staycation." We explore our local parks and beaches. Rent (or borrow from the library or exchange with friends) DVDs and make popcorn for a family movie night. Stargaze in the backyard. Make Christmas presents. Learn a new hobby or craft or practice an old one. Let the kids cook. Visit local historical sites (you know, the ones you pass every day on the way to work and you think that maybe, someday, you'll visit). Play games with the kids like Sorry! or Monopoly or Go Fish.

Unplug the phone and the computer. Tell work you're unavailable, that you won't have cell phone service or Internet access. Forget about meetings for a week.

It's about rediscovering my family. And myself.

I can't afford not to take vacation!

National Maritime Day

Today is National Maritime Day, intended to honor all those who work in the maritime industry.

Since I've worked either in the industry or in companies closely allied with it, I have a special appreciation for it. The Port of Oakland used to sponsor Maritime Day/World Trade Day at Jack London Square, hoping to increase public awareness of the importance of shipping to the local economy. Most of California's agricultural exports (and a lot of frozen poultry from Arkansas and Georgia) move through the Port of Oakland, due to its proximity to the Central Valley. Sadly, as shipping lines consolidated, moved their offices out of the Bay Area, and trimmed their advertising budgets, Maritime Day disappeared. So most people have no clue how their cell phones, computers, DVD players, Wiis, automobiles, and other gadgets get here.

Nor do they realize how important California's agricultural exports are to the U.S. balance of trade.

Or how many jobs ultimately are dependent on the maritime trade (and not just Wal*Mart, although they are probably the nation's largest maritime customer).

I wonder if President Obama and his people have a clue?

(Picture of the APL Singapore heading to the Port of Oakland. Taken by me from Pier 14 in San Francisco, July 2008. APL--formerly American President Line--is now a wholly-owned subsidary of Neptune Orient Lines of Singapore. But that's a subject for another day.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Lemonade Stand Award

Julie D. over at Happy Catholic was kind enough to nominate me and four other outstanding bloggers for this award, demonstrating out "great attitude and gratitude."


Per the rules, I must pass this award on.

Drumroll, please!

***Mimi, at Bigger Than A Breadbox
***Karen, at The View From My Chair
***Deb, at Ukok's Place
and, last but not least:
***TBG, at Listen to Uncle Jay

Now, spread the love!

We Have a New Bishop!

The Most Reverend Salvatore Joseph Cordileone was installed as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Oakland on May 5, 2009.

Our new bishop is young (52--younger than me!). He's a native of San Diego and is a product of public schools, and his dad was a fisherman. He's smart, reputed to be theologically conservative, appreciates the Latin Mass, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish.

His resume is impressive; what I thought was significant is that he asked to be a pastor. He was assigned to a parish in Calexico, which sits right next to the border between California and Mexico. Not an easy parish assignment!

When Bishop Cordileone's appointment was announced, my pastor, Fr. P., wondered how long he would be with us. Fr. P doesn't think it will be long, because of the Bishop's youth: Oakland is but a stepping-stone. (Hmmm... how long before Roger Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles retires?)

Oakland is a challenge, covering many ethnicities, many economic groups, spanning urban, suburban, and agricultural communities. Cultural and political clashes are common and unavoidable. We have a new Cathedral (more on that later--but I was surprised, given the negative reviews I've heard, at how warm a space it is inside) and the bills that come with it. A new high school has been promised to those living in the fast-growing Tri-Valley area (Livermore-San Ramon-Pleasanton), which has been deferred over and over again and the faithful there are becoming restless. Meanwhile, there are those who want the Diocese to focus more on social justice issues in the inner cities of Oakland and Richmond.

Bishop Cordileone--whose name means "lion-hearted"--must shepherd us all.

Please keep him in your prayers.

picture courtesy of The Catholic Voice

Monday, May 11, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek

DISCLAIMER: Way back in 8th Grade, my BFF told me about this cool new series on TV that took place in space and featured a captain, a doctor, and a pointy-eared alien who was completely logical.

"I can't describe it. You have to watch it," she said.

So I did. And I was hooked. As was Sis#1 and Bro#1, since the rest of the siblings were way young at the time. Or hadn't been born. Dad must have enjoyed it as well--or there was nothing better on--because he didn't object when we turned it on. And Dad was the final authority on what we watched in those days of one b&w TV!

When NBC threatened to cancel it after the second season, I wrote a petition and collected signatures from all my fellow
nerdettes in high school. This was not as brave as it seemed as it was an all-girl Catholic high school, so the social stigma of being a nerdette was minimal.

The same
BFF bought tickets for me to attend one of the very first Star Trek conventions, held at the Oakland Convention Center. We were out of college by then. Hubs, who was then merely Serious BF, came with me.

But I don't consider myself a "Trekker" or a "Trekkie," although I do have a copy of the original
Star Trek Concordia and blueprints for the original Enterprise somewhere in the boxes of books in the attic. And we did take DS#1 and DD#2 (who was a preschooler) to the "Science of Star Trek" exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences many years ago, where I bought a rubber stamp with the logo of Starfleet Academy. But I don't own a costume or pointed ears or a tribble. And I can't repeat the dialogue from past episodes word-for-word.

I'm just letting you know, up front, that I was well-disposed to
like this new re-imagining of Star Trek from the get-go.

REVIEW: The movie starts with a bang--literally. The U.S.S. Kelvin is transmitting information about an anomaly they discovered back to Starfleet (and are being told that their readings "don't make sense"), when there is a flash and what looks like black icicles emerges from the center of the "storm." After firing at the Kelvin and nearly destroying her, she is hailed by the captain, Nero (Eric Bana) of this strange-looking vessel, who tells them he wants to know where Ambassador Spock is. The captain of the Kelvin protests he doesn't know anything about an "Ambassador Spock." Nero then demands the Kelvin's captain shuttle over for a "discussion." The captain agrees--he has no choice, really--but not before leaving the con in the hands of his XO, Lt. Kirk, along with instructions to abandon ship if things go wrong.

And go wrong they do. The captain is killed shortly after boarding the black ship.

Kirk issues the order to abandon ship and everyone races to the pods, including his wife, who is in labor with their first child. He reassures her that he will join her. But, of course, Things Go Horribly Wrong, and Lt. Kirk ends up piloting the Kelvin into the black ship in an attempt to blow it up. But not before he hears the cry of his newborn son and tells his wife to name the baby "Jim."

Next scene is Iowa where a very young Jim Kirk has taken an antique muscle car for a joyride that doesn't end well. Jim is established as a wild child.

Contrast that with young Spock, taunted at school for being half-human. He calmly handles the taunts and jeers until his mother is insulted. He completely loses his cool, going after the three bullies who are older and bigger. Later, Sarek tries to explain to his son that it's not that Vulcans don't have emotions; in fact, their emotions are too strong, so they have had to learn self-control for the sake of survival.

Back to Iowa. It's several years later and the young-adult Jim (Chris Pine) is at a bar frequented by Starfleet types. He tries to pick up a hot young Starfleet cadet who is not buying any of his lines, and gets into a fight with a male cadet who is trying to stop Jim from harassing his fellow cadet. A bar fight ensues. Jim fights gamely, but is overwhelmed. The fight is finally broken up by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood).

Capt. Pike sits down with young Jim and challenges him to make something of himself by joining Starfleet. Jim accepts the challenge and off we go.

The new actors channel their predecessors quite well, in particular Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban) and Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg). The dialogue includes some favorites from The Original Series (TOS), which caused laughter in the theater among those of us in the know. And there are sly references to characters from Enterprise and First Contact. However, this is NOT Your Parents' Star Trek. As Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) tells the young Jim Kirk, this is an alternate reality. And because it is, the writers will have the freedom to move away from the Original Canon. With that freedom, however, comes an awesome responsibility to write well and to keep the stories consistent with this new canon.

DD#2 came with us. She claims she has never seen TOS, although I don't see how she missed the re-runs. She enjoyed this movie and is urging all her friends to see it. She was able to follow who the characters were and their relationships. Her questions afterwards were kind of interesting, for example, why is Star Fleet Academy headquartered in San Francisco? (When I told her that I thought it was because San Francisco was where the U.N. was founded, which was Gene Roddenberry's model for the United Federation of Planets, she was amazed. She didn't know that. Somehow that fact was glossed over in U.S. History in 7th Grade. I was more interested in whether the Golden Gate Bridge would end up destroyed yet again.)

The movie is fast-paced, which helped me ignore the plot holes. Yes, I want to see this again. In fact, I want to see it in IMAX so I can really appreciate the special effects. And, no, this movie doesn't depend solely on the special effects. The relationship of the characters is given equal weight. The story isn't as clever as the best, but it's acceptable.

The fights are physical and the combatants don't magically lose their bruises and cuts the next day. There is one seduction scene that implies Jim and his green-skinned female companion are going to have sex, but they are interrupted. That same scene features young females in bra and panties. There is some heavy kissing. I think it deserves its PG-13 rating.

On the March Hare scale: 5 out of 5 Golden Tickets

(crossposted at Catholic Media Review)