Saturday, January 30, 2010

Financial Crisis: Consider This

I came across this editorial in the current weekly digital edition of U.S. News and World Report:

Who to Blame for the Financial Crisis by Mortimer B. Zuckerman


You might not agree with every detail in this editorial. But I think his overall point -- that there are no innocent players in this mess -- is well worth considering.

I read this magazine instead of Time and Newsweek because it seems to me a little more balanced and fair-minded.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Drama At the Bus Stop

I really wish I'd had my camera with me this afternoon. I'd love to share a picture of what I saw at the bus stop in front of my workplace. Well, I can describe it, anyway.

First, some background. The bus stop is on the north side of the building where I work. It's a cutout curb alongside a busy 4-lane city throughfare, with just enough room for two city busses. It's very clearly marked, with seats, a "Bus Stop" sign, and a "No Parking" sign. I don't know how anyone could mistake it for anything other than what it is.

Problem is, many employees use it as a drop-off and pickup point. A lot of the time there are private vehicles parked there, often several of them. Many times the busses can't use the bus stop the way they're supposed to. They can't pull up to the curb, so they have to stop in the traffic lane next to it. Result: blocked traffic, people walking in front of cars, riders struggling to get up and down from high steps that were designed to fit curbs.

And wheelchair users who need help boarding because they can't get down from the curb themselves. That's what I watched this afternoon. There's this one guy, an employee who uses a wheelchair because he's missing part of a leg. This afternoon two cars were in the way and his bus was forced to stop a whole lane away from the curb. I watched as another passenger helped him get his wheelchair down into the street and the driver put the bus's wheelchair ramp down right in front of a parked car. Then after he boarded, the driver had to get out — into the traffic lane on the other side of the bus — to manually start the ramp before he could get it to fold back into the bus.

Can you see the safety hazards here? Traffic, a blocked lane, parked cars that could move at the wrong moment, possible damage to the wheelchair when it went off the curb, possible injuries from several potential sources. I'm sure that isn't an exhaustive list.

At least this guy was in a basic wheelchair, relatively lightweight, and could help move himself. We have a couple of other employees who are even more disabled. They use heavy electric wheelchairs.

This is all because of people abusing a bus stop with a clearly posted "No parking" sign. They're supposed to go use the public garage across the street. Most of them know that — management has reminded them repeatedly. Sure, it requires a little bit of a walk, but they can go through a perfectly safe tunnel under the street, out of the weather and away from traffic. There are a few disabled employees who would have a real problem making that trip, and I don't begrudge them using the bus stop instead. But the rest? Hm?

Puh-leeze, folks! "No parking" signs are up there for a reason. Honor them! Park somewhere else. That little bit of extra exercise will be good for you. And you don't know what kind of trouble you won't be causing for someone else.

Monday, January 18, 2010

An Eyewitness Account From Haiti

My Sunday School teacher, Dan Hurst, sent out an email with this link today:

The Apparent Project Blog: "Everything that can be shaken will be shaken"

He said a friend sent it to him, and he wanted to share insight from it. I agree, it's very astute.

A comment from me: It seems to me the United States should sit up and take note of the warnings in the author's comments about why this happened. We're no better than Haiti, and no more immune to such things than they are. These things could happen to us? Darn right they could!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Meet My Boys

Here's a picture of my two little boys on their playgym in my office:



On the left is 5-year-old Joey. I got him when he was 4 months old, a rambunctious baby who got into everything. He still is! The one on the right is 10-year-old Petree. I got him when he was 5 years old. His previous owner named him after the flying dinosaur in the movie The Land Before Time. He's a reserved, dignified little character.

Both of them are Pied (or Harlequin) cockatiels. These are a type of parrot, native to Australia and related to the larger cockatoos. From beak to tip of tail, they're around a foot long.

These guys' personalities and intelligence are amazing! Anyone who uses "bird brain" derogatively to mean "stupid" has probably never gotten to know a parrot. And they're so different from each other. Petree is definitely an introvert. I think of him as a CPA — a certified public accountant — and imagine him dressed in a black suit and tie, carrying a black leather briefcase. He'd be happy crunching numbers in an office. Joey, on the other hand, is an adventurous extrovert and can be aggressive at times. He's also my little cuddlebun, wanting lots of attention and petting -- except near bedtime, when it seems he wants to avoid being put back in his cage. I sometimes think of him as a car salesman, complete with an orange plaid suit.

I've heard of cockatiels being described as perpetual two-year-olds. That sounds about right. I'm eternally amazed at how childlike animals are. These guys are generally sweet, but I've known them to have occasional tantrums, especially at bedtime!

Joey, by the way, is proof that aspirin is for the birds. Look at how he's climbed up and perched on that high seed dish. He couldn't do that last summer. His vet, an avian (bird) specialist named Julie, doesn't know what's wrong with him. Blood tests indicated inflammation, but that can come from a whole array of underlying causes and really didn't tell her anything. Some sort of autoimmune problem, maybe?

Julie suggested trying aspirin for a few days while she gave it some thought. The dosage: one standard unbuffered tablet dissolved in two cups of water, given in his water dish daily. The results were dramatic! He was showing marked improvement in less than 24 hours. After several months of daily aspirin, we agreed to reduce it to every other day. He seems to be doing fine with that. He still isn't 100%, but acts so much more like a normal bird.

We were going to reduce the aspirin further in December, but I couldn't tell for certain that he doesn't feel the difference on the days when he's off, so we decided to leave him on this dose permanently unless he starts having problems with it. Julie tells me that, as far as she can tell from the available literature, birds don't seem to have the kind of problems with aspirin that humans have.

Here are a few bird care pointers I've learned over the years:

  • Yes, definitely do keep their wings clipped! And even then, watch them -- they may still be able to fly enough to get into trouble. Petree in particular is smallish for a cockatiel, and therefore amazingly aerodynamic. I know, I know... They were made to fly. But so many birds escape because of this, and often the results are tragic. Besides, have you ever chased a flighted parrot that didn't want to come down off those high perches?

  • When you let them out of their cages, make sure you know where they are at all times. And let them know the floor is off limits. Yes, they're smart enough to learn that, and you don't have to make them understand why. If you lose sight of them, be very careful. It's too easy for a parrot, especially a small one like a cockatiel, to get stepped on or caught in the footrest of a recliner.

  • Let them out of their cages when you can. They like their freedom too! I've known my birds to get frustrated and angry when they didn't get enough out-of-cage time.

  • Parrots like to chew and destroy things. Don't try to stop them — that's their idea of play, and it's good for their beaks. Be very careful to keep them away from unsafe items, such as electrical cords, jewelry, and toxic plants. And watch out for your windowsills. You can find lots of safe bird toys at pet stores — lava rock, rope and string, leather, soft wood... Also look for toys that provide mental stimulation. One of Joey's favorites is a birdie noisemaker where he has to push buttons that light up.

  • Give them attention! And don't give up if a bird isn't tame. Gentle persistence will usually win out eventually. Petree wasn't used to being handled when I first got him, but now he likes to be petted as much as Joey does — sometimes — and has begun to ask for attention. Believe me, those neck feathers are wonderfully soft. And birds appreciate having the plastic-like coating rubbed off their new head feathers, which they can't reach to preen themselves. Just be careful not to be too aggressive. Those new feathers are tender when they first come in.

  • Yes, they bite. But often it's a means of self-expression, not aggression, and shouldn't be punished. Birds don't have hands, so they use their beaks as tools instead. Learn to know when your bird is expressing itself and when it really means to bite.


The Bird Channel and its Bird Talk Magazine are great sources for more information and news about birds and bird care.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another Blogger's Thoughts: Jealousy

I've been following Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Freelancer's Survival Guide blog for a few months now. Today she has an entry on "Professional Jealousy." It's incisive, with wise advice. It applies to any kind of jealousy, not just professional jealousy.

Freelancer’s Survival Guide: Professional Jealousy

There were a couple of things that came into my mind as I was reading this:
  • Jealousy is included in pride. And pride plus rebellion was what turned Lucifer into Satan.
  • I've long suspected that the current tendency to expeect the government to play Robin Hood is, in many cases, really just jealousy masquerading as social justice.
At any rate, I think Rusch has given us a post that's worth thinking about!

Live long and prosper.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I've Been Using What?!

I was just about out of hand lotion — I'd been procrastinating and then forgetting when I was at the store. And it was too cold and dry for middle-aged skin to do without. So finally I grabbed something during a Saturday grocery shopping trip. I do mean grabbed — I was in a hurry and barely glanced at it. I saw "Olay," "Shea," and "Moisture," and that was all I needed. I hadn't used that product before, but I knew I liked Olay and I liked shea butter. Off to the checkout counter I went.

I started using it that night. Funny, it came out very liquid but then thickened and became hard to spread as soon as it hit the air. Note to self: I don't like this stuff, so get something else next time I'm in the store. But lotion is lotion, and I really didn't have anything else on hand, so I continued to use it.

It wasn't long before my skin let me know, in no uncertain terms, that it didn't like the stuff either. It rebelled. It turned red and angry. I popped into the drugstore to get something else first chance I got.

This was horrible stuff! How could a reputable company like Olay be selling something so terrible? Everyone needed to be warned! So I went to my favorite online drugstore site, Drugstore.com, intending to write a scathing review.

That's when I finally took a good look at the bottle the stuff came in:


Body... WASH?!

I've been leaving... soap... on my skin?!

No wonder my skin's so unhappy. I'd have done better to use nothing at all.

Lesson relearned. Pay attention to labels. I know that, of course, but needed a reminder... A strong reminder.

I didn't post that scathing review. Actually, judging by other people's reviews, this is a popular product. But I don't intend to give it another chance either. I don't use body wash, not on purpose anyway. Besides, I'd have bad memories about it.

Talk about feeling like an idiot! I hope I'm not the only person who's done something so dumb...

The photo is from Olay's site, http://www.olay.com.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Uh... Pink?

If you're a member of the African Violet Society of America,then you may have seen the semi-miniature "Irish Flirt" on its Honor Roll. That means this little beauty, with its white and green flowers, is widely considered to be one of the best African violet varieties available.

I bought a couple of Irish Flirt leaves last summer and grew a litter of babies from them. As usual, I've given most of them to friends, keeping just one for myself. Well, my little Flirt has recently had its first blooms. Here's a picture of what it looks like:



Pink and green? Hmmm...

African violets are known to sometimes sport, or mutate. And I'd heard of named sports. So I did a Web search to see if there's one for Irish Flirt. Sure enough, there is. It's called "Sassy Sister" and it looks just like mine.

So apparently what I have is a Sassy Sister, not an Irish Flirt. Will it stay that way? My guess is yes, but it'll be interesting to watch this plant in the months ahead.

I do like my Sassy Sister, but I still want a real Irish Flirt. I think I'll try again this spring.

By the way, the AVSA also has a list of named African violet sports. I notice several of my other plants are on this list. None of them have bloomed yet. I'll be watching to see if I have any more varieties-that-aren't.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Brrr!

Where I live in the Midwest, we normally get some snow every winter. But I have to say that what we've been getting since Christmas Eve is definitely more than "some"! Five or six inches at a time isn't too unusual, but we started with seven plus through Christmas Day, and have had several additional snowfalls since. No one seems to know the total, but I'm guessing somewhere around 18 inches. I've built up a fort around my driveway, trying to keep it cleared.

We did get one day of above-freezing temperatures early last week, though. Here's a picture showing one result at my place.



Someone told me that's the biggest difference between our area and places further north. They just get snow. We get a lot of ice. Is that true? Hm. Well, then, maybe Northerners shouldn't laugh when we Midwesterners whine about a few inches of the white stuff!

And the whining really has settled in. I've noticed on Facebook that quite a few of my family and friends are calling for spring already. I'm with them. Don't blame us — some years we don't get a whole 18 inches all winter! It makes me want to ask "What global warming?!"

I'm eyeballing the weather forecasts. If they pan out, maybe we'll get to see the grass again next week...

Keep warm and safe!

Friday, January 1, 2010

He Ain't Fussy!

It's a new year, and I'm making a fresh start at reading the New Testament. Last year I used one of those through-the-Bible-in-one-year Bibles, and found it a bit overwhelming to keep up with that much reading every day. So this year I'll try just the New Testament.

Today I started with Matt. 1:1-10, where Matthew gives Jesus' genealogy beginning with Abraham. Yep, that's one of those lists of "begats," except that in the New Living Translation the "begats" are updated to modern English. Not the most interesting stuff to read... usually.

I paid attention this time, though, and noted some interesting names on the list:


  • Tamar. She committed incest with her father-in-law, Judah, because he wouldn't marry her to his youngest son in fulfillment of his family responsibilities. (Gen. 38)

  • Rahab. She was a prostitute. She was the one who protected Joshua's two spies from the Canaanites, and was later spared when Jericho was destroyed. (Josh. 2, 6)

  • Ruth. She was a gentile, meaning not a Jew, not one of God's "chosen people". She herself was obviously a very fine lady. But she was from Moab, a highly idolatrous tribe descended from Lot's son / grandson Moab, who was the product of incest. (Book of Ruth; Gen. 19)

  • Manasseh. A descendent of David, he was probably the most evil king in the kingdom of Judah. God punished him and he did repent, but later the entire kingdom of Judah suffered because his sin was so great. (2 Kings 20, 21, 24:2-4)


That's the kind of people Jesus had in his lineage. A lot of the others were imperfect too. One thing I find particularly interesting is that, with the exception of Solomon's mother Bathsheba — who had issues of her own — the above three ladies are the only women mentioned in the list. Remember, this was a highly male-oriented society, and ancestry was mainly traced through the father.

Just think... That Almighty God, the most superior Being in all the universe, would join the human race at all is astounding enough. But to descend from such people? He could have arranged for his Son to have only top-quality people in his ancestry, but he didn't. He used ordinary folks, and folks who, even today, would still be considered low class. He ain't fussy!

I've asked God many times to show his love to me, and he really seems to have made quite a project out of that for about the last decade. He's brought myriad little things to my attention, things just like this. Sometimes he takes my breath away.

Well, folks, time to go. Happy New Year, and I hope you have a blessed 2010!