Reluctant Empathy and Old Ideas

I’ll go to my corner now that I’ve had my little tantrum after writing something that was more catalyst than conviction.

Later in the day when I was on my way to collect the resident teen from his spot at the curb after school, I heard the man I’d been watching earlier on television ask for privacy for the executives who’d received bonuses.  If the company was subpoenaed for the list of names, then it could be public information and the man expressed concern, reading from notes they’d already received from hate mongers about what should be done to the executives and their families if given the opportunity.

Continue reading “Reluctant Empathy and Old Ideas”

Dear Bakersfield Board of Education Members…

NaBloPoMo: I’m on it with a little hop in my step and a “tally-ho” spirit, raring to go. Onward and upward, and all that sort of crap. To quote my sister when she was very young and we had suffered yet another family trip crammed in the back of the blue VW bug, “Are we there yet?” No, dear. Just keep writing…

November 8, 2007

Board of Education Members

Bakersfield City School District

Dear Elected Members of the Board:

I never cease to be amazed that those who choose to sit as members of a school board seem to be obsessed with the most repulsive sort of demagoguery. With respect to this latest example of proof, congratulations.

I do believe that the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” and although you are most assuredly not members of the U.S. Congress, you are, as are we all, governed by that and all other amendments (even though judges enjoy the freedom to interpret them in their own way).

Additionally, the California Education Code, Section 220 states that, “No person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex, ethnic group identification, race, national origin, religion, color, mental or physical disability, or any actual or perceived characteristic…in any program or activity conducted by an education institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance or enrolls pupils who receive state student financial aid.”

Therefore, your recent decision to place in 2,300 classrooms and other gathering places within your school district posters that read, “In Got We Trust,” is inappropriate on several levels. The fact that you feel you’re “not going to accept the agenda of some radical leftists who want to expunge God from public dialogue,” Mr. Vegas, is beside the point.

What is the point is that not every one chooses to practice your religion, share in your beliefs, or pray to the same god that you do, or pray at all — simply because they do not believe there is an entity to pray to. They are entitled to those beliefs just as you are, whether they are in the majority or not. Or should I say “accepted” majority?

Clearly you think them wrong. That they’re carrying the future of society and its children to hell in a hand basket. One that belongs to “radical leftists.” Perhaps the same “radical leftists” who pay taxes that end up in your school district’s coffers, and with whose funds will be used to pay for the “In God We Trust” posters you will purchase.

It’s a problem.

The kids won’t care because it’s just another adult pissing contest that is very “junior high” in its characteristics. The “in” clique got what they wanted, and in the process has engaged in name-calling of anyone who isn’t on their side. If you don’t think $12,000 worth of posters that will soon become faded wall paper should be in our schools, then you’re un-American.

Because we all know that our beliefs should be plastered on our bumpers, our homes, our classrooms, and on our sleeves. That we’re card-carrying members of the “I Believe” sect and anyone who doesn’t strut it is suspect.

It makes me sick to my stomach. How do these ridiculous humans get elected? Oh, that’s right. They get elected by other humans who aren’t satisfied wanting what they want for their own children; they want it for everyone else’s as well. Because our children must certainly be what’s wrong with society. Damn them heathens. Actually, what they want is to not have to pay for a private, religious based education. They want us to pay for it.

Ah, yes. America. The land of opportunity. You, too can have whatever you want, have someone else pay for it, and then complain about it or send it back after you decided you didn’t want it after all.

In conclusion, you may want to take a look at your district’s budget. This is the time of year when school administrators begin to organize their site finances for the next school year. Since could be losing quite a bit of state and federal funding due to your self-serving actions, you’ll have quite a bit of adjusting to do to make ends meet. And if you don’t lose the money there, then it will most likely go to court costs when someone files suit over your recent edict. But hey! At least you’ll have pretty posters on your walls that no one will notice in a few months.

And just think.  As board members, you only set policy. The educators then have to scramble to clean up your mess.

Now that you’ve had your moment in the sun, perhaps you might focus on whether students are ready for college. Hmmm?

Sincerely,

An American tax-payer

Let Freedom Ring

Get Out Your Deflector Shields

Yanno, I was going to have a lovely, quiet morning. Feh.

After a much needed eleven hours of sleep last night (evacuated relatives, non-stop fire coverage, no school, no work, and a busy Las Vegas weekend) I stretched, poured my coffee and began to plan my day. Fire coverage is dwindling (thankfully and finally), the Santa Ana winds have completely died, and fire fighters are focused on what’s remaining — still a concern, but nothing like it was even a day ago.

I was cozied up to the MoH’s laptop (instead of my beloved mac since the RT is home and is putting in iTunes time) getting ready to do a bit of research on a recipe I’m going to tackle and I came across this article.

Dunce Cap Remember when I had the nuclear melt down over the Jeep Princess a week or so ago? Well, that was mild in comparison to the flare of heat I felt when I read it. The rush of anger, barage of razor sharp opinions, and flow of thoughts bottled for the better part of a year made their presence known. Matilda the Hun is alive and well in the smoke-filled skies of Paradise.

And to put the turd in that caustic punch bowl…

Dub-yah just landed in Air Force One to survey the burn areas.

I was going to go get paint for the RT’s room, which we’ve been sanitizing and organizing together. Miracles do happen. I was going to be physically constructive for the better part of the day instead of exercising my agile fingers and brain. But the article was a serious deterrent. And Dub-yah is guilty by association with NCLB.

Before I really get going, consider this: In his sophomore English class, the RT has to read whatever he wants — at least 100 pages a week. No big deal. He has to keep a list of what he reads and make a couple of entries in a notebook. No guidelines, just a note or two about each item he’s read. At the end of six-weeks, the teacher will go around the class, look at each list, “pick one of the items on the list” then expect the students to write about that item in class for a grade. Can the RT do this? Of course. The kid reads. He always has. And yes, he can write about what he reads, if the teacher is willing to subject herself to his tortuous handwriting. But what is the real point of the exercise? To catch the students who can’t, don’t, or haven’t read? Or to confirm the original assessment that their writing skills are seriously lacking, and that even though you haven’t taught them anything to begin to correct this problem, you’re going to test them? A test is supposed to be a measure of more than just a student’s learning. It’s a measure of the effectiveness of one’s teaching, also. Or the quality of the test. Or the material taught. Or the motivation of the students. Or the motivation of the teacher. Okay, so this is going no where fast.
This video sums things up fairly well.

Until everyone — EVERYONE stops thinking that “things” should remain the same as in the good ol’ days, and that what and how you and I were taught should be fine because “we turned out just great…” then we’re part of the problem. Unfortunately, a very large portion of the teaching force is part of the obstacle to change. A huge number of teachers are reaching retirement, and although many have had productive careers influencing countless children in positive ways, the sheer idea of having to learn radically different techniques that involve a strong understanding of how technology works is something less than attractive for many. Not all. Many.

Those interested in learning are facing obstacles caused by the dysfunctional system, the equipment, and the often less than knowledgeable quality of support staff. I’m sure I’ll burn with the politically incorrect in hell for making these statements — another problem. The world of education is quite two-faced. Face to face, it’s all peaches and rainbows. Behind the scenes, it’s all snarking and biting. It would make a terrific reality show.

There are newer, more idealistic teachers coming into the profession, some of whom are from different professions. And yes, they have much to learn from their more experienced colleagues, and should definitely listen. But it rarely works in reverse, and that’s too bad. Why is it that as we age, we close our minds? We think those younger than us, or from outside our system, lack knowledge and ability. We forget how we felt when we were their age, and what we knew. There is a very odd culture within the educational system that is unlike that of others who understand the value of working together, and sharing ideas. Individuals in the medical profession, engineers. There seems to be a fear that prevents the development of an intellectual community within the educational system. That if you gain certain heights, you’ve forsaken the masses, and are to be questioned. What is that called?

No, not all teachers exhibit that level of closed mindedness, but many.

I’ve raised three sons who are pleasant, productive people. They’ve watched some television, played some video games, played some sports, and had to endure some chores to earn an allowance. And they’ve had quite a bit of time to learn to entertain themselves with books and hobbies. To use their imaginations. To feel boredom and develop a willingness to do something about it.

Unfortunately, they’ve also had a fairly lack-luster experience at school with primarily lecture-driven instruction supported by textbooks that are so sanitized it’s a wonder the information inspires any degree of critical thought. They’ve had county schools, city schools, Montessori schools. They’ve had experienced teachers, new teachers, engaged teachers, and people who should have been encouraged out of the profession before their second year. They’ve attended low-performing schools, mediocre schools, and extremely high performing schools. It doesn’t seem to matter. We’re good at perpetuating the notion that learning occurs in a box in this country. Extremely.

It would be so easy to launch into a diatribe on parenting at this point because parents are the primary responsibility for their children. But if society acknowledges that not all parents are capable of raising their children appropriately (and they’re not because anyone can have sex, and unfortunately children can’t choose their parents), then the educational system has got to provide. (Rush Limbaugh is probably choking right now…) And what is provided can’t be the same across a district, or a county, a state, or the country. That thinking persists because it’s easy. That thinking persists because we’ve been doing it for so many years.

That thinking will persist until the people who work in the public education system work together to change their thinking.

It’s not challenging. You just have to be willing to wrap you head around the idea that things are possible instead of not. It’s called optimism. Optimists are shot down in the educational system. Those who stand out and work to achieve different possibilites are frowned upon and talked about. Surely, innovation is suspect. Negativity and snarking about “the pendulum” swinging back again inevitably begin. How nice to be able to act in such a sanctimonious way. To think that the kids are going to hell in a hand basket and that you can’t do your job because you’re not being given the same material you used to be given.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but school is supposed to be a place where you actually learn, and not show up to show what you know. Increasingly, it needs to be a place where students learn HOW to learn — impossible if someone is standing in front of the room talking and then assigning homework. When’s the last time you had to sit in a room and just listen to someone who couldn’t possibly know all he or she should know to teach you? Fun, wasn’t it? And yet we subject our kids to that.

I’m not suggesting that educators aren’t intelligent. No one in any profession can possibly contain all the information necessary to truly teach. Things have changed. Information is available everywhere. Students need their teachers to understand what and where the sources are, teach them how to discern credible information from what is faulty, and push them to develop their own hypotheses and investigate their own theories. Publish their own findings. Constructively argue the validity of their own findings.

Teachers are the key. They have to be. They can’t continue to complain about their administrators, the parents, the students, the lack of materials, lack of technology, support staff, pay, and stress on the job. All of those issues can be part of the problem, but when has complaining accomplished anything?

This rant is far from done. But it’s all over the place today, and god forbid that someone out there correct my choice of syntax and punctuation (which is much easier to do than use the questions I’ve posed to analyze and evaluate their own part of the problem).I respect the fact that anyone can stay in a profession for their entire career. That they can look back on their accomplishments and feel good about them. That they can speak as an “expert” because of that experience and make comments about “what the problem is” without considering that they, too, could have a share in being the problem.

That it can’t possibly be only the students. That it can’t possibly just be their parents. That it can’t possibly be just the administration, or the lack of funding, or the feds. That maybe. Just maybe. They are partially to blame because their thinking, their strategies, their unwillingness to become part of a solution, take action, and let go of their negativity, could be part of “the problem.”

When you examine the lives of individuals who are successful, and listen carefully to what and whom they’ve been influenced by, rarely to they say it had anything to do with their education. And if it does, it’s a dedicated teacher here or there. A coach, a professor, a dance instructor.

Ask a writer whether he or she learned to write in school. Rarely, if ever, are they able to attribute their skill, talent, and passion to any writing teacher — unless one considers a particular author a teacher — and I do. So do they.

Ask yourself to what extent your education inspired you. And not just through the K-12 years, but beyond. And then wonder what works, for whom, and why?

Or just pat yourself on the back that you made it to the end of this.

Observations on ambivalence

ambivalent (adj.) having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone…

IMG_4061.JPG Yesterday late in the afternoon, I received an email referencing this piece. I’ve read it several times since, and caught myself mulling over aspects of it.

Politeness. Authority. Acculturation and silence.

Self-negation.

But Verlyn Klinkenborg’s piece is about writing, isn’t it? He acknowledges that when “you talk about writing…you always end up talking about life.”

I know. I see what he sees as he observes and writes. The students, the classroom. The quiet. It’s what gets in the way most often when you’re teaching someone to write and they’re struggling, not understanding that aspect of it all, thinking that it fits neatly into a formula with five double-spaced paragraphs in 12-point helvetica. It’s easier to think of those very concrete things. More safe. There isn’t a commitment, really. Is there?

Writing comes from life. Everything we’ve said or thought or done is a path from which words come in whichever voice we choose: one of passivity and compliance, or cold detachment.

Abject humor.

Writing is not linear. It’s messy. There are no clear cut rules even though most of us had rules thrown at us about what we should or shouldn’t do as writers. We were asked to complete lifeless narratives or produce dull regurgitations of information on gross national product and chief exports — if we were asked to write at all. We received letter grades for our efforts, in pen at the top of the paper where everyone could see it, and when you turned the paper over, could feel the embossment, and think about the teacher putting it there. IMG_4056.JPG

It’s safe to expect students to write about those things. Nothing personal will arise. There will be no worries about whether one piece on “Where You Went On Your Summer Vacation” will differ from the next. You don’t have to have confidence in anything like that because you just write it.

Unless you didn’t go anywhere on your summer vacation.

Or lacked the confidence to realize that it didn’t mean your summer vacation was insignificant compared to that of others. That lying in golden, waist high grass to watch clouds drift, or listening to pebbles clack hollowly against one other in a ditch as the water from lawn sprinklers carries them along may not be considered worthy of being written about.

That the teacher might look at your paper and think, “I knew there was something not quite right about this girl…Who must her parents be?”

We’re pigeon holed almost from the beginning to behave and think and act in particular ways. To speak in a specific fashion. To dress ourselves just so. To do and to be what others expect.

First at home, and then at school. Especially when others are watching.

There could be a high correlation between the seeming lack of confidence exhibited by students repressed by societal norms and the degree to which they let loose, get rowdy, and party hearty when they’re not being watched.

IMG_4061.JPG Or being controlled.

Eventually, they escape if they really want to.

Klinkenborg concludes by stating that when “a young woman suddenly [understands] the power of her perceptions, ready to look at the world unapologetically — I realize how much has been lost because of the culture of polite, self-negating silence in which they were raised.”

Lost as writers, or lost as humans with life to experience?

I’m still ambivalent…

Birthdays Boys and Paradoxical Sunsets

I could mull over the paradox that is “America’s Finest City,” or what I lovingly refer to as Paradise:

palm trees and NIMBY pettiness;

temperate climes and a questionable, tenacious city attorney;

luxury housing and chronic homelessness; or

cutting edge schools and an on-going disparity in achievement between African American and Latino students, and Caucasian and Asian students.

But I’d rather not. Well, not today, anyway.

It was the MS’s (Middle Son) birthday yesterday, and at his request, we moseyed on over to Joe’s Crab Shack to sit upstairs, squint and sweat in the setting sunlight, eat, drink, and listen to The MS’s good friend talk about techniques for meeting women. It seems he’s purchased quite a number of products on eBay on the subject and is very close to being a poster child of sorts, soon to hit the road and profess his new found wisdom. The MoH was enthralled, but only long enough to ask about the young man’s success rate.  Mmmm….numbers.

The RT remained mortified throughout the meal, especially since the MS’s friend directed a good bit of his commentary toward the RT, and encouraged him to “take notes,” because if he’d known at 15 what he knows today…well. The RT? A kid who couldn’t bring himself to walk down the “pink aisle” in Toys R Us when he was little? Uh, no. No note taking on the “how to snare women” lecture.  But graciously, the MS’s friend shifted his tutelage to that of something more closely related to the RT’s interests:  war games.

Before long, the two were discussing a way to profit from purchasing models, painting them, and then selling them.  Of course, with some financial padding from D-A-D to really get things going.  Great.  Headlines on Yahoo read:  “Teen makes fortune in garage.  You, too, can have a home-based business…”

But the MS was quiet — a rarity. He’s already familiar with his friend’s good-natured schtick, but still. It was his birthday and he’s been making his presence known verbally since he was born, earning him the nickname, “Cryin’ Ryan.” No, he’s never been a whiner.  Quite the opposite. He is much more quiet in his utterances now, but he always has something to say, always. Information, information, information.  So I found myself wondering whether he regretted inviting his friend, whom we all have known since the two were in junior high, and have enjoyed. Who knows.

Maybe he was mulling over being yet another year older. Uh, what about me, here?  Or rethinking Joe’s. They have been known to circle the table to howl a birthday ditty while urging the guest of honor to gallop around the restaurant, straddling a child’s pony on a stick. Really. Or, he could have been lamenting the lack of a Birthday Check at that point in the evening, which did surface later.

Perhaps it was the homemade card. Homely Mugs (No, it’s not snowing — that’s art.)

The MS’s Bday “Cake”

The birthday “cake?” (I had the peaches, okay? And those are blueberries, not raisins, so unscrew your nose. Besides, it’s not your “cake.”)

Note And the greeting for his arrival on our front door? (What’d you expect? Balloons? That’s so junior high.)

Aren’t you glad you’re not one of my offspring? It takes work to keep them humble, but they keep coming back for more.

We finished our dinner and beverage-ez right at the 7PM tourismo hour, walked across the street to the beach and headed toward Crystal Pier to enjoy the sunset. Various and assorted “night folk” were already gathering, others settling in for the night with blankets, bags full of worldly possessions, and a ragged novel in hand to squint at in the waning light. Welcome to my bedroom…Only one less than cogent fellow verbally accosted us, yelling something none of us could quite understand. But we weren’t special, because he seemed not to discriminate in his quest to let people know he was there. Yelling. And trying to get into the restroom, which was locked. So add that to my list above:

Blazing sunsets and incoherent drifters.

Yes, you might be able to see just why Paradise is a veritable paradox — a place where you never actually have to stick your head in the sand to be a card-carrying member of the “not my problem” club.

You can just allow yourself to be hypnotized by the pretty colors.
Sun Orange Glow in Paradise
Oh, and very handsome men. Whattahunkster. Nice guy, too. But he h-a-t-e-s having his photo taken, so this was a serious gift to me.

Birthday Boy

I’m surrounded by them.

Cheers, Dude.

But you won’t ever find me whining in the men’s room.

Whining in the Men’s Room

daily KOS A few days ago, our local paper ran Ellen Goodman’s piece on “The male-dominated blogosphere” where she spent three columns questioning why the “forceful, sometimes demagogic, message-monger organizing tool for the progressive end of the Democratic Party” has “chief messengers [who] are overwhelmingly men — white men, even angry white men.” Hmmm…sounds like nobody chose her for the kickball team.

The piece continues on to point out that “the typical political blog reader is a 43-year-old man with an $80,000 family income. Is it any surprise that Hillary gets only 9 percent in most online-activist polls, while garnering more than 40 percent in traditional polls?” She’s approaching that high-pitched whine and it sounds like she’s gearing up to blame someone else for something that matters to her.

Mention is made that “the blogosphere was supposed to be a place where gender didn’t matter and voice was all. So what happened?” Okay. She’s there. Wah-wah-wahhhhhh….

She finishes by asking, “when will the members of these netroots look more like the nation?” Huh?

There are so many comments I can make about this, I barely know where to start. So I’ll fudge by starting at the end. She’s kidding that she really expects the netroots (internet political activists) to look more like the nation, right?

Take a look at some of the characteristics of netroots (for example, those who visit DailyKos.com) taken from a 2006 source:

these internet users are perhaps more philosophical, financially savvy, and more engaged in online entertainment than the average internet user.Move People Up

  1. Let’s see. How does the routine go? You arrive at work with coffee in hand. You log in to your computer to check your email and your calendar for the day. Or, because you may have set your preferences to open to MSN or Yahoo, or any number of options that would allow you to personalize a homepage to include news, finance information and other snippets of information you’ve deemed important, you’re already “tuned in” for the day. And how long did that take?
  2. Now let’s compare. You don’t work in an office. You don’t have access to a computer that has internet access. Your boss most likely does, however. From the time you arrive at work, you are either in public, serving customers, or out and about taking care of whatever responsibilities your job expects of you. Yes, you may have already done the routine described above before you left for your shift. Maybe. But I doubt it. So perhaps you settle in during the evening after your shift. Hmmm…
  3. But what if you don’t have a computer. Or, what if you have a computer, but no internet access? What if your life is consumed with making ends meet and thinking about anything other than what goes on outside that singular goal, doesn’t matter? It’s too far away. Those people and what they’re campaigning for can’t possibly relate to you. In fact, you most likely don’t know who they are. Nor would you be able to recognize one of their names if questioned about it. Your world is as big as the block you live on.

Door number 1, door number 2, or door number 3? Chances are, if you’re reading this, you are seriously not someone behind door number 3. Now that I’ve blathered on to this point, here’s the real issue that people like Ellen Goodman completely know and understand, and yet they continue to print their opinions as if they woke up one morning and everything in the country was brand new. Blink. Blink.

The real issue is, what’s the ethnic, socio-economic break down of each individual in the scenarios I described above? There’s no way that number three involves any great number of whites. Sad, but true. Yes, there are areas of the country where it’s possible, but in what numbers? Remember that my rant is about Goodman’s question on internet political activists “looking” more like the nation.

I’m fascinated to know what she believes our nation “looks” like, and the extent to which she knows anything real about the people and their lives after she gets past the “looks.”

When you teach in public schools, you learn quite a bit about this country. I’ll try be completely objective, but will struggle with my sarcasm…You get to read and listen to all the crap that politicians and constituents, the media and supporters on one side or the other, throw back and forth. Spend some time in schools. No, not just an hour for a photo shoot, or for a visit that is prepared for. A real stay. Sit down and listen to the students, the teachers, the parents. No, I don’t mean interview them. I mean sit and immerse yourself in the day-to-day goings on. Listen. They are public schools. You are allowed to do this.
You learn that a shocking number of families don’t have a place for their children to do homework or have basic supplies like paper and a pencil to work with. There are no books in the home. None. There is no newspaper that comes in the morning. There is no computer — and if there is one, chances are that a few video games are played on it, but that’s all. Discussion about current events concerning the economy, politics, or new legislation? Most likely not. Often, family members can be illiterate in their own language, so helping, discussing what is important to the country — sometimes, not their country — is most likely not going to happen.

You also learn how many families sit down to eat a meal together. And if they do, whether it’s done without a television on that is tuned into anything but news. And what is news, anyway? Word of mouth information about the latest shooting a few streets over. Rumors of La Migra driving through the streets. Gossip about the new woman who has walked her children to school, and who acts like she’s too good for everyone else. About the man two houses down who is cheating on his wife. And the old man who urinates in the flowerless flowerbed right outside the office every single day in plain view of anyone who looks.

Yes, I suppose that country could be set up with their own blogs so Goodman will feel better about the netroot being more diverse — more representative of the nation. So why not begin with those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder? Because what I’ve been describing is an economic issue. A societal issue. A generational issue. Poverty. It “looks” a bit different that most think it does. Take a look at the bios listed at Daily Kos. Look at the backgrounds, the experiences, the opportunities. Then think about it.

Sure. You could probably find someone to fund a project like that. Maybe The National Endowment for the Humanities. I could make it work since there are humans somewhere in humanity, right? Or at least there are supposed to be. Because then, maybe, you’d have a chance of getting the lowest portion of the huddled masses to tune into what’s going on. To have a voice. To belong to a “growing power in politics.” The Netroot. But you’re going to have to get them desk jobs first. And if you can accomplish that, they’ll most likely feel much better about life in general, so may not have the number of complaints that others accustomed to their own rung on the ladder may have. That’s sure to piss everyone off. How dare they show up and like what I don’t like. What are they up to, anyway?

Correct me if I’m wrong. Don’t people have to want to be involved to um…be involved? And is it just about being involved, or actually believing you are directly affected by what is going on, and that being involved could change your circumstances. You can lead a horse to water… It all depends on what flavor the drink is. And much of the time, if you get even the smallest taste, the experience is powerful enough to change lives. That gets people involved.

Now, as for the gender side of this issue is concerned, women fit into the scenarios above just like men. Goodman discusses that with respect to the blogosphere, “half of all 96 million blogs are written by women.” But she also expresses concern that “what is touted as a fresh force for change looks an awful lot like a new-boy network.”

So fine. We’ve all learned that men do talk. Well, of course they talk. They just like to “talk” with their computers. Women can do both. And regardless of the number of political blogs authored by men, women do read, do have opinions, and do vote. Do women want to be in the thick of a new-boy network any more than they’ve really wanted to be part of the old-boy network? A few will, just as they always have.

And many will continue to rally around their own causes, raising public awareness on what matters to them, and to their families. But until someone figures out how to relieve an enormous number of women who have their own careers, and continuing primary responsibility for running their households and children, I’m thinking time for rolling up sleeves to dig into the arena of internet activisim isn’t going to happen any time soon.

Lots did take time to get away and attend Blogher, though. Clearly, women bloggers do think and blog about politics. So maybe Ellen Goodman needs to get her head out of the Men’s Room and pay attention to what women are doing.

Oh, and whining in print is even more unbecoming than in person.

The Sunshine Vacation Chronicles

I have been knighted, or princessed, or smacked upside the head with yet another honor. Phil at Thought Sparks, the extraordinary guy who helped save me from ripping out my eyeballs when I switched over to my own domain, has dubbed me “Inspirational,” and that is a very cool honor. It means that Phil is willing to weed through my writer’s moods, confusing musings, and contradictory thought trajectories enough to find glimmers of purpose. It’s kind of like a roller coaster ride from one post to the next, dipping and spinning. Then rolling along smoothly until a sudden drop you didn’t anticipate sends your stomach up into your throat. Like Phil said, Inspirational. Woot! Thanks, Phil. And thanks to Christy at Writer’s Reviews whose ingenuity gave birth to a variety of positive recognitions for those in Bloggsville. I will dub those I believe are inspirational, but plan to do so over a period of time as I get back into the saddle again after being on vacation. I’m evidence that one can actually not blog for more than five days…

And to celebrate my new accolade, I will launch into the first of “The Sunshine Vacation Chronicles.” Actually, they began last night in the wee hours, as I needed to flush my attitude a bit. And having dragged my rear end out of bed somewhere around 10am today to the scent of something….ahhh….smelling not quite right, and the steady roar of the exhaust fan over our stove, I am quite rested, and ready to roll — although I’m glad I missed breakfast. The MoH saved the evidence. Sunday Toast

Now, this is the part where you may want to take a seat in the back row and catch some zzz’s. You know. Like when you’re forced to watch a slide show of someone else’s vacation shots? Like that. Kay? For those of you inclined to stay, gird your loins and prepare for a glimpse of the more easily overlooked, but very best gems on our way to Tahoe.

High Points on the Trip Up.

We didn’t hit the road until 1:30. On a Friday. If that doesn’t sound the alarm, then you might as well give up, lay down and close your eyes. So Cal. Mid Day. The last week of July. Friday. So we’ll donate our brains to science, okay? Because no one in his or her right mind would actually PLAN to do this. But we’re the adventuresome sort. Right. So HP #1 is having ridiculously optimistic attitudes.

Downright giddy, actually.

We covered 70 miles before we had to stop on the parking lot that was supposed to be the I-15 North. We’d been driving 1 hour and 7 minutes. I could probably tell you how many gallons of gas we’d burned, the average speed, and miles per gallon our car was getting, but I’ll spare you. Yes, the MoH knows all of this and will report immediately upon request. You don’t even have to insert a quarter. Font of Information Oh. I forgot. The temperature was also being tracked: it was hovering at about 100 degrees. Swell, huh? Well, my ankles and wrists did, loving excessive heat the way they do. So HP #2 is managing to get out of San Diego county before parking on the freeway in scorching afternoon heat. This traffic jam was sponsored by a minivan that didn’t quite stop when the fast lane traffic must have, so veered off the road and flipped a few hundred times. There were no ambulances, so there must have been a flock of angels hovering in the vicinity. It caused just enough commotion to stop both sides of the freeway with rubberneckers gawking at the wreckage. Eyes not on road + heavy traffic = crash.

HP #3 is creatively busying ourselves with mindless activity and pithy games to keep from paying attention to the less than interesting, scrub-covered landscape that stretches to the horizon. We keep track of license plates. I know. It’s so ’50’s, but it passes the time. Kind of like when I was a kid on road trips, my brother, sister, and I would whack each other when we saw one of those pseudo wood paneled station cars and scream, “BEAVER CAR.” Uh, no, I don’t know why they were called that particular term. Then my dad would launch a low flying whack to the side of one of our heads in retaliation. We’d resort to stealth pinching or poking from that point on until my sister whined about it and we’d get whacked again. A father’s arm reaches pretty far in a VW Beetle. Far. If you try to escape the whack, you bonk your head into the side window, then you get whacked for moving away from the oncoming whack. I guess that means we were double whacked. This is true and today, I think it’s called child abuse. So the MoH, the RT and I count license plates. We aren’t quite June and Ward, but we garnered 20 of the 50 states with Massachusetts being the one from farthest away. Poor saps. They won’t even find Dorothy or Toto in this place.

Old 395 I also take note of strange things like small fenced areas in the middle of nowhere with nothing different inside the fence than what can be seen outside the fence. Areas with hand-painted signs that say, “Stop the FTAA dot org.” Hmmm… What could have been inside that crude fence at one time? And whose land was it? Only cars speeding anxiously toward the next passing lane and a series of enormous power lines were visible for miles. Whose attention could the organizers be wanting here? And why? I had to wonder about this for seven whole days until Google put me out of my misery. But I would have forgotten about it if I hadn’t seen it on the other side of the road on the way back, or been enthralled with our mindless activity. Of course, now I have to wonder about those folks and their campaign.
HP #4 was seeing all those solar collectors out in the high desert while we were racing up and over the ribbon-like road and thinking that someone had a freaking clue. According to Wikipedia,

Boron [near Four Corners] is also the home of the worlds largest solar power production facility. Florida Power and Light operates five thermal trough technology Solar Electric Generating Stations (SEGS) plants. These units generate enough electricity to provide the electrical needs of 30,000 to 40,000 homes without the use of fossil fuels.

Four Corners Collectors There must have been a million of them shining in the searing heat and sending power back to a sort of conversion station at Four Corners (which had the most unbelievably long traffic light and endless number of semis mixed with racing cars waiting to pass through.) Sorry. I missed the photo of the Ferrari. But seeing the collectors just stirs up my attitude about why, why, why there can’t be more. About why it’s so difficult to push those who keep steering us toward the use of non-renewable energy. Four Corners Traffic

Oh, how foolish of me. It’s money — just not ours. Their Money

Well, it was ours, and now it’s theirs. Funny how that works, don’t you think?
HP #5 was staying overnight at Mammoth. We juiced up at Starbucks in Bishop (no, there wasn’t a mom & pop coffee place open…) at about 9PM in the still sweltering heat before ending our day at a condo kindly offered by an acquaintance at the last minute. So no motels in lonely places for us. It made for a restful night, and a seriously cool trip up Mammoth Mountain on the gondolas the next day to gawk at the view and gasp in the thin air. Literally breathtaking up there on that humongous chunk of volcanic rock more than 11,ooo feet in the air.

Mammoth Mountain

HP #6 was thanking our lucky stars that my car managed the dirt road to Bodie, CA, a bonafide ghost town left over from the gold rush. What a stark, but beautiful place. I’m still wondering why that particular area was where Bodie decided to dig for gold at an altitude of 8400 ft., with daytime temperatures peaking in the 80’s and plummeting into the 30’s even at this time of the year. Desolate. A bit creepy even with visitors walking among the decaying buildings on a sunny day. I suppose I should read the guide we bought, huh? I was too busy taking photos.

Bodie Ghost Town

HP #7 is that we actually made it to Lake Tahoe without a map. This was by design since it was one very long road all the way there. How hard could that be? A total of five turns were made. The bummer is that maps often can explain strange things you see on the side of the road. Like odd black rocks that rise up from the earth and gather into a formidable ridge that just ends after reaching a height of hundreds of feet. What the hell were those things, and how old were they? If it was an ancient lava flow, where the hell was the volcano? I somewhat recognized the basalt structure thanks to that geology professor at SDSU, I think. Maybe. And that very odd looking red hill jutting from the earth. Was that a fissure, or something. What was the redness about? Iron? Simply stimulating, don’t you think? Rocks completely fascinate me. Of course, so does Google, because thanks to this intelligent source, I now “get it.” Simply spectacular. Truly. You can tell I’m a nerd, right?

HP #8 is that my VBF was already at the rental in Tahoe when we arrived at 5PM and was getting chicken and sausage kabobs ready for the grill. The wine was cold, and a hammock was waiting between two pines just behind the house.  And in less than another day, my VGF was due to arrive.

Gentle folk….start your engines…Hammock upon Arrival