Friday, October 31, 2008

Two, the Other "Eight"

California's Proposition 8, and Anti-Marriage Amendment, has been much discussed on the Internets Tubes and in the news media, but I've heard nary a peep about Florida's equivalent, Proposition 2. I know the reason for this: In Florida, unlike California, gay marriage is already illegal, so the amendment won't have any immediate impact on anyone. But still, it irks me. There have been no ads, for or against, on the radio. No discussion. I've seen a few "Yes on 2" bumper stickers, complete with a stick-figure man holding hands with a stick-figure woman -- we know they are a man and a woman because one is blue and the other is pink. How... stereotypical. And I seen even fewer "Yes on 2" signs in yards. But when I went looking for a "No on 2" sign for my yard, there were none to be found. No yard signs, no bumper stickers.

What's up, people?

Locally, the Young Democrats and PFLAG have mounted an anemic "No on 2" campaign on a couple of blogs, but somehow I expected a much larger effort. Isn't anyone interested? This is a question of basic civil rights, people!

I was especially peeved to get my sample ballot in the mail and see that this hideous amendment is titled the "Florida Marriage Protection Amendment." How did that happen? The state Supreme Court is supposed to review all ballot initiatives to make sure they are worded clearly and fairly. "Marriage Protection" is neither clear nor fair. How many people will vote for it just because of the title, when they have no idea what it actually says? I wouldn't have expected the Court to compel a title that was actually accurate -- something like "Florida Marriage Destruction Amendment" -- but I still would have thought they would have approved something more neutral. "Protection"? Get real, people.

So what we have is a despicable attempt by hateful bigots to enshrine the deprivation of basic civil rights in the state's constitution, and all it's managed to stir up is a lackluster movement to pass it and an even less lustrous movement to oppose it. As it yawns its way to election day, I think our only hope that right will previal is that in Florida, unlike California, a constitutional amendment requires 60% of the vote to pass. Will it fail to muster that?

Hope is all we got.

P.S. I've been planning this post all week, so it's a complete coincidence that Andrea posted about a similar subject -- Arizona's also-forgotten anti-marriage amendment -- on the same day. I think this is the second time Andrea and I have posted about similar subjects on the same day. Clearly, great minds think alike.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Abyss

The Northern Bro: It is fall in New England, and a beautiful fall it is. This particular one is special for me because at 2 ½ Evelyn is finally old enough to enjoy the season. Over the last few weeks I have taught her the joys of jumping in leaves, burying people (mostly me) in leaves, shuffling through leaves and making a scarecrow. She has loved all if it, and is becoming something of a scarecrow connoisseur. We have 4 small pumpkins on our porch railing and last evening she grabbed one and carried it around with her all night. The shorter days only serve to give us time to walk in the dark in the early morning and appreciate the sunsets, which finally come before her bedtime. This evening she and I were walking through the neighborhood when she pointed to the west and said ‘pretty sky’. I looked up to see the orange clouds of a sunset. It is enough to melt a father’s heart.

Nothing could be further from this scene than an experience of several weeks ago. One of my co-workers had a grandson just 5 months older than Evelyn. However, due to the inattentiveness of the attending physician during delivery the child’s brain was left without oxygen for many critical minutes. As a result, the poor child was left without the ability to move and the degree of his cognitive function was a matter of opinion. (yes, the attending physician lost her license to practice medicine over this). He held on for almost three years before finally succumbing to a respiratory infection a few weeks ago.

I was standing in line for the child’s calling hours the day before his funeral and the unspeakable tragedy of the situation was unavoidable (as was the profound strength of the people who loved and cared for this boy his whole life). I felt as I was standing on the edge of the abyss looking down into its depths.

You see, my wife and I live in different worlds. OK, so we live in the same house and have a happy life together. All the same, through some accident of either upbringing or chemistry in some ways we do not share the same world in at least one important sense. Deep in my heart I know that the world is basically sad. At its core is a place of despair I call the abyss. The only thing that keeps a person from falling into the abyss is hard work and a lot of luck. These days, especially with Linda and Evelyn, I go for long periods without glancing down into the abyss – such glances usually accompanied by a fear that I am about to fall into said abyss. My wife, on the other hand, lives in a world that is basically a good and safe place; sure bad things and sadness comes into and out of our lives, but in her world sadness is simply a condition we sometimes live with, not the stuff the world is made of. Although I joke with her that she lives in a ‘Disney’ world, I admit that it would be nice to live in a 'Disney' world.

As I was honoring the life of this young child who never knew what it was like to lift an arm, and the lives of the people who cared for him, I was reminded of how hard life can be, and how the lives of so many can turn from joy to sorrow in the blink of an eye. I love the joy that our daughter is and the laughter she brings to our lives. And I am grateful with every fiber of my being that she can move her toes.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Doin' the Hokey-Pokey

Twice in the past few months -- most recently just last night -- I have had dreams in the form of musicals. I don't mean Barbra Streisand was in my dreams, or that I dreamed about widowed matchmakers and half-a-millionaires. They were my normal dreams, in my usual settings, about my normal subjects, with my usual people. Except that everyone sang and danced their way through the dreams. Both dreams even had big production numbers with everyone singing and dancing together.

What's up with that?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Homo elivatoris

As long as I'm making observations about my workplace, I'd like to mention that the building that I've worked in for years has two stories. It also has an elevator. The elevator is next to one of the stairwells. Like most of my fellow employees, I have very seldom been in the elevator -- it's only one flight of stairs, and it's quicker to take the stairs than to wait for the elevator.

That is, until a couple months ago, when my right knee finally deteriorated to the point where I can no longer climb stairs. So now I ride in the elevator every day.

I work in a factory, and this is an industrial elevator. It's like a padded cell. Literally. All the walls are covered from ceiling to floor and edge to edge with furniture pads. I guess this is to keep the walls from being scratched by the carts carrying parts, product, and equipment between the floors, but what's the point is of having nice, unmarred walls if no one ever sees them. On the other hand, is protecting the walls the real purpose of the padding? Several Elevator People explained to me that the walls were padded to get us ready for the place we'll all be living in after twenty years of working here.

"Elevator People?" you ask. Yes. The Elevator People. There's a small group of people who always take the elevator, and I was surprised to find that they have their own hidden sub-culture, inside the larger culture of my workplace. I'm not making this up. The Elevator People have their own rituals, one of which, the Rite of Initiation, applied whenever a new Regular Elevator Rider appears (like me), is to Tell The Padded Cell Joke.

Another ritual keys on the elevator only serving two floors: Think up new and entertaining ways to ask the others in the elevator which floor they are going to. For example, when we get in on the first floor, the person closest to the button will turn to the others and say, "You're going to the Penthouse with me, right?" Or, "Would you like to go all the way to the sun deck?" My favorite was when I got in on the second floor, and the only other person in there turned to me before pushing "1" and asked, in a creepy voice, "Going to the dungeons with me, Mahster?"

Then there's the guy who calls out the "departments" on each floor, as though we were in Macy's or Fields: "First Floor: menswear, shoes, small appliances, winter coats." When we get to the second floor: "Second floor: accessories, cosmetics, jewelry, ladies lingerie." He declares different "departments" on different trips, but for some reason ladies lingerie is always on the second floor.

I'm glad to have stumbled upon the Elevator People. It makes me wonder what other hidden pockets of lunacy we might have.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This message brought to you by... me, I guess

Where I work, we've had television sets in the cafeteria for years. For a long time, all they ever displayed were plain text messages -- things like the cafeteria menu for the week, years of service awards, and helpful suggestions like "Keep extra blankets and food in your car in the winter, in case you're stranded by a snowstorm."

The messages originated, as you might guess, at our headquarters in Iowa, not here in Florida.

For years, no one paid any attention to these televisions. The cafeteria tables were in long rows diagonal to the walls, and during their breaks and lunch the employees sat around these tables and talked. They talked about their families, about the news, about their coworkers and bosses, about whatever.

Then we began building a new product, an in-flight entertainment system for airplanes that includes satellite television. To be able to test this product, we had to get a satellite television feed into our factory. Then it occurred to someone that as long as we had a satellite feed, it could be hooked into the televisions in the cafeteria, and instead of bland, silent text messages, we could have CNN. Live.

At first, the televisions were just a little distracting: People would turn their heads, crane their necks, to get a glimpse of CNN, and then turn back to their lunches and their coworkers. But then some people began rotating their chairs to better face a television, even if it meant sitting at an awkward angle to the table (and everyone else). And then, finally, the tables shifted. One day, instead of being diagonal to the walls, they were parallel. Parallel so that you could sit at a table and watch a TV. That is, as long as you sat on the right side of the table. And that's what everyone did. Instead of sitting along both sides of the table, facing each other and talking, everyone sat on one side of the table, like they were in seats in a theater, vacantly chewing their lunches, silently watching CNN.

As you may know, I don't have television at home. When people hear this, they ask, "Why? Don't you like TV?" I answer, "Yes, that's the problem. I like TV too much. If I had it, I'd watch it all the time, and I wouldn't get anything done." People tell me I'm crazy.

Now I think, maybe not so much.

Anyway, the other day we were having a thunderstorm. I don't know how much you know about satellite TV -- it may depend on the climate where you live -- but satellite reception doesn't work during thunderstorms. I was passing through the cafeteria on my way to somewhere, and all the employees eating their lunches where sitting behind their tables, as they now do every day, each in his own world, not talking, just silently chewing and watching, raptly...

...TV screens that displayed nothing more than the words, "Satellite signal has been lost."


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Haiku Tuesday

I don't usually give my haiku's titles (okay, I never have), because, like, does a title count towards the syllable count? And if not, is the title cheating? But I'm going to give this one a title. It's:


Horrified because
you should have saved him. Angel,
you did what you knew.

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Northern Exposure

My Blogger labeling frenzy has continued. As you hopefully are aware, my brother guest-posts here from time to time. If you want to see all his posts by themselves, with his unique perspective, they are tagged Northern Bro.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Follow the Butterflies

It seems that more people are visiting this blog for the butterfly posts. Since these visitors might not be interested in my non-butterfly posts, I've gone back and used Blogger's label feature to tag the ones about butterflies. If you just want to see all the butterfly posts in one big list, use this link:


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Butterfly Garden 3

Butterfly Garden #3 is open for business. It doesn't look like much, but the other gardens didn't either, when they started, and you've seen (if you've been following this blog) how overgrown they've become (click on any picture to see a larger version):

Butterfly Garden 3

The center section is devoted exclusively to native Florida plants, so this is the "Native Garden." Those tall stalks in the front are Rayless Sunflowers. Picture a sunflower... except without the yellow petals. Just the black seeds in the center. Yep, weird.

Oh, and that's Skye sunning herself in the mulch.

Judi's calling this "Garden #3" is a little bit of a stretch, since between Garden #2 and this garden we've had the Grass Garden:

Grass Garden

There's milkweed growing in among the tall grasses to give the caterpillars cover from predators while they grow.

And we've had the Herb Garden:

Herb Garden

More about those white things "growing" there in a minute. Because we've also had the Milkweed Garden:

Milkweed Garden

There are actually a ton of milkweeds -- about fifty -- in the Milkweed Garden, but most of them are only a couple of inches tall so far. More white thingies, too.

The "white thingies" are "socks." Not the kind you put on your feet. They're made of mesh and plastic, with drawstring openings, and you put them over plants or branches of plants that have caterpillars or butterfly eggs, and they protect the caterpillars from predators. All of the plants you saw "socked" in those pictures have actively feeding caterpillars. Judi currently has Gulf Fritillary caterpillars, Black Swallowtail caterpillars, Monarch caterpillars, Polydamus Swallowtail caterpillars, and caterpillars from what we think of are at least four, and maybe five, different species of Sulfur butterflies, all either under socks or in the Caterpillar Chateau.

You can see the Monarchs have been busy -- there are eight chrysalises pinned to the fence or hanging from inside-out socks in these pictures:

Monarch Chrysalises

Monarch Chrysalises

It's interesting to see what how different caterpillars form different chrysalises. In these stitched pictures, a Gulf Fritilliary makes his chrysalis:

Gulf Fritilliary making Chrysalis

When it's done, you'd swear the chrysalis was just a dried up, dead leaf. Good camouflage.

This Sulfur (species not yet known), makes a more flamboyant chrysalis. It's as beautiful as a piece of jewelry:

Sulfur Chrysalis

I'll let you know exactly what it is after it emerges.

We've also seen a Queen butterfly laying in the garden. Here are a couple of pictures. The second is a little fuzzy, but I included it anyway, because I wanted you to be able to see the beautiful deep orange background and the spots so blazingly white that they seem to be glowing -- this is one extraordinary butterfly:

Queen Underwings

Queen Overwings

I hope we get some Queen eggs that hatch.

Finally, I will leave you with this picture of a Sulfur caterpillar who has decided to embark on a journey (he was corralled and returned to his salad bar):

Sulfur Journeying

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Haiku Tuesday

Wrenching news for Liz;
But out of woe may come good.
Crossing our fingers!

(This isn't something the ancients addressed, but I'mpretty sure that when you include a hyperlink in a haiku, it doesn't count towards your seventeen syllables.)

(Also on a bookish note, "our" can be considered either one syllable -- "ahr" -- or two -- "ou-er." If you choose to join us in crossing fingers for Liz, please use the one-syllable version.)


With apologies to Mr. Paxton

I was walking the corridor minding my own business today when I suddenly thought of one of my favorite Tom Paxton songs (and there are many). It had been years since I had thought of "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler", and I hadn't thought about it in term of current events since, well, since it was current about 30 years ago immediately after the Chrysler bailout. For those who weren't around at the time: Chrysler was on the verge of going under due to years of poor management and bad business decisions. The head of the company, Lee Iacocca, went to Washington and pointed out what the failure would do to the national unemployment rate. Lo and behold the feds decided to throw money at the company to keep it afloat (at least until it could be sold to the Germans some years later). Sound familiar? The largest apparent difference, however, is that the Chrysler bailout - while it sent shivers down the spine of all of us who believe corporations should be responsible for their decisions - worked. The feds eventually got all of their money back plus interest and all those jobs were saved at least temporarily.

So, to resurrect the words of Tom Paxton, as it relates to the buffons who profited off of the credit mess:

"If you are a coporate titanic and your failure is gigantic down in Congress there's a safety net for you."

Of course, Mr. Paxton was more optimistic: "I'll tell some power broker what they did for Iacocca will be perfectly acceptable to me. I'm changing my name to Chrysler, I'm heading for that great receiving line. So when they hand a million grand out I'll be standing with my hand out. Yes sir, I'll get mine."

Where is Tom when you need him?


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Help Wanted

The Northern bro checking in:

I am married to a wonderful, intelligent woman. However, Linda is not the most politically involved person in the world. I am more in tune to politics than she, although there are signs it is rubbing off a bit. Suffice it to say that when we tune in to watch the Daily Show it is always a sure sign that I have dibs on the TV remote.

That is why I was surprised recently that Linda, without missing a beat, came up with the most appropriate response to one of the most bizarre statements to come out of the presidential campaign in recent weeks. A few weeks ago we were watching the aforementioned Daily Show as Mr. Stewart was reporting that Ms. Palin claims that her foreign policy experience includes being able to see Russia from Alaska. Linda immediately says ‘Well, I can see outer space from my back yard. I guess that means I can run NASA.’ It made me think of the possibilities. Given the choice, I think that since I have not only seen but actually stepped foot in several national parks I am best qualified to run the National Park Service. Heck, I still have my Yosemite coffee mug.


Friday, October 03, 2008

A breath of fresh air

Am I imagining things? Or have new car salesmen changed in the fifteen-or-so years since I last encountered them. They used to be aggressive, whiny, and nauseating. I felt dirty after dealing with one.

But now... the Volkswagon salesman just hovered in the background, answered every question, and gave us his card when we left. The Pontiac saleswoman was the same. Only the Toyota salesman asked, and only once, "What if I could get you a really good price on this car if you buy today?" When I said no, he took me at my word.

After leaving the dealers, I admit the Toyota salesman hounded me on the phone, but nary a peep from Mr. Volkswagon and Ms. Pontiac.

I liked it. Except for Mr. Toyota.

Oh... and another little Toyota thing I found hard to swallow: They had a single hybrid Camry on the lot, for about $35,000. Looking over the price sticker, I saw that Toyota's MSRP for the car was $30,000, and that $4,999 had been added on as "Dealer's Discretion," or something like that. I asked Mr. Toyota about that: "You guys just add an extra $5,000 because it's a hybrid and so you can?"

He answered by trying to explain that it was so the car would "stay on the lot for a few days, so more people have a chance to buy it."


Anyway, you may be wondering why I was making this round of car dealerships. My Chevy Sebring convertible, eleven years old and 170,000 miles on the odometer, has been costing me tons of money in repairs lately, so I finally decided to do what, if I had had any sense, I would have done a long time ago, and dump it.

So I did.

And what did I buy to replace it?

Click here to see

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