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Rumilluminations July 2012
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sun, July 01 2012 - 8:48 pm

July 30, 2012                                      Madison, IN

How many ways do we get involuntarily terminated?  I am talking here about firing, not death.  Let me count the ways:

1.  Fired 

2.  Lost the position

3.  Laid off  (This could be temporary, but still)

4.  Job outsourced

5.  Made redundant

6.  Rendered obsolete

7.  Dismissed

8.  Let go

9.  Retired

10.  Replaced

10.  Effectively terminated

11.  Resigned

12.  Forced out

13.  Suspended (often precedes permanent dismissal)

14.  Season ended

15.  Contract completed

16.  Unrenewed contract

17.  Expiration of grant

18.  Terminated

I think there are probably more ways to get fired than there are to be loved!

July 29, 2012                                       Madison, IN

A thunderstorm the other day relieved the drought a little, but all the lawns nearby are mostly yellow - except for the weeds, of course.

The flowers at one house we walked by today looked very little diminished by the heat, thanks to the man assiduously watering them.

Big gigantic pots of towering canna lilies surrounded by cascading petunias fronted the street, and a yard full of curiosities and interest - with at least four different arbors and gazebos to protect one from the sun with the just-right amount of shelter - made this property spectacular.

It has some historical interest also, as it turns out.  Originally built by a doctor, it fell into the hands of a nearby Catholic church, which used it to house the parish nuns.  One of the amenities was an underground tunnel which the nuns used to go to their church up the street protected from the weather!

When I asked the gentleman if the tunnel was also used for the underground railroad, he could not speculate as to that.

If we have made life so much easier for ourselves these days, why don't we have the leisure and energy for such labor-intensive projects as underground pedestrian pathways?

July 27, 2012                                       Madison, IN

My partner made a funny observation this morning.  On hearing that the Chic-Fil-et (or whatever it's called) CEO expressed the opinion that God told us marriage was for a man and a woman and that people were boycotting the business, he snorted, "I wouldn't boycott them for an opinion, I'd boycott them for what they're serving!" (the fat.)

Gee, I do my best to boycott a lot of places all the time for the simple reason that I don't think they are good for me, although maybe one individual does not a boycott make.

I always think it is funny when people talk about what "God said."  Even the "sacred" texts of the Bible were written by men.

I don't remember a whole lot of talk in scripture or even in the church ceremonies about a man and a woman.  I seem to remember more references to man and wife or man and his spouse.

Men had so much control, it seems, that they could perhaps have called anyone they wanted "wife."  Who are we to say what practices occurred in a time when women were robed from head to toe?  Interesting to think that more "wives" might have been men than we know.

As for the Chic-Fil-et chain, my partner never went there for food anyway.  He thought it was a dumb name.

Me, judging from the amount of shushing I have experienced as a lowly homemaker and file clerk, I think such louding off of a CEO about something so irrelevant to his business was just plain dumb.

Ha, ha!  All you naive bigots who feel the same as this CEO can go there and eat eat eat yourselves fat.

Oh, and here is where my cynicism comes out.  He probably said it just to create a furor.  Look at all the name recognition (or at least approximation) he is getting out of this!

 

July 25, 2012                                      Madison, IN

Sunday we went on a hike up Heritage Trail and stopped at the clearing with the memorial.  It has a great view of the river, and is an ideal birdwatching place because you can see birds at all levels.

This time I had my first sighting of an indigo bunting.  This is supposed to be a common bird, but I had never seen it before.  A red-letter day even without binoculars!

We also saw a pair of hummingbirds, but they are so small and quick that we couldn't tell what kind from twenty feet away.

Today we walked up Hatcher Hill Road and saw the most beautifully marked turtle.  It reminded me of some African batik work I have seen.   Hmmm... I wonder where they got their inspiration?  Any turtles in Africa?

Answer - yes!  But of course, he looked like a North American box turtle!  I wonder why.

One ironic note:  We are always trying to keep turtles from getting run over in the road, and I walked within one step of this six inch specimen without seeing him!  A combo of his wonderful protective coloration and my habit of craning my head upward on the lookout for birds.

No bird sightings of interest.  Just goes to show one shouldn't get too narrowly obsessive!  My partner spotted the turtle - luckily before I stepped on it.

July 24, 2012                                      Madison, IN

The necessity for specialization in the modern world is kind of a truism.

I'm reading a novel by Thomas Hardy right now in which one of his main characters does a sarcastic riff about the nature of city work as opposed to working in the country:  basically that in the country a builder does a lot of different jobs, but in the city even a painter has to specialize, e.g. working only "in purple paint."

Jung said that a man who does not specialize is "worth nothing to himself or anyone else."

But in a book I lately read the probable extinction of the ivory-billed woodpecker was explained as the result of overspecialization.

Is extreme specialization in humans only advantageous to the individual and his dependents?

Could it be that the species itself will most likely be saved by generalists, or at least that it is only the existence of myriads of specialties that will ultimately contribute to enough general knowledge to survive as a species?

Kind of a fun speculation for an generalist like myself!

July 23, 2012                                       Madison, IN

I wonder how many people use their mute buttons every time there is an ad.  It is my belief that the rising volume level and noisy sound effects we endure every time we watch TV ads could be a major source of stress - not to our psyches, maybe, but just to our nervous systems.

When I worked at the pediatrics clinic with a coworker who wanted the radio on all the time I found myself getting more irritable even before I realized why.  That is because of the stress.

Countless new machines outside make loud noises all day, and people who watch TV get bombarded with sound inside.

Maybe the health effects aren't solely from sitting down and not getting enough exercise.

Maybe our auditory nervous systems are getting too much exercise!

I'll tell you one thing - I muted my volume for Mahjongg Dark Dimensions and my scores improved.  When I have played Bejeweled 3 my highest scores have been "earned" while playing the game with the sound off.

Hmm... kind of makes you realize that "rewards" aren't always the best thing for improving performance.  How much of our younger generations' confusion is noise-induced?

July 22, 2012                                        Madison, IN

Why do we hold our politicians to a higher standard in their personal lives than we ourselves can maintain?

Or I should say, ha ha, try to hold them to a higher standard?

If ordinary people cannot be expected to never be unfaithful, never get divorced - if that is not even an ideal (in that dysfunctional situations cannot be considered successful even if they are enduring - all the worse, as a matter of fact) - why do we expect it of elected officials?  Presumably their lives are even more stressful than ours.

I don't understand this attitude on the part of the American population.  50% of marriages in this country end in divorce, so roughly 50% of Presidents' marriages should theoretically end in divorce.  Yet a divorcee has little chance of becoming President of the U.S.

Does that mean that when it comes to sexual issues we are still overwhelmingly conservative?

If we judge others so harshly when they make the same mistakes we have made (unfortunate marriages, for example, or sloppy sexual escapade) does that really reflect our judgment of ourselves?

In Situations Matter Sam Sommers affirms that, to the contrary, we judge other groups more harshly than our own.  It is truly unfortunate if no one with a rugged patch in her past could ever become President just because we all judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves.

Talk about projecting our own evils onto others!  That would make winning the candidacy for President a real owie!

 

July 20, 2012                                         Madison, IN

Americans, according to an Atlantic Monthly article quoted in The Week, suffer more anxiety than many other people around the world - five times the percentage of populations in third world countries (from a World Health Organization study).

This is attributed to work and financial pressures and pressures to succeed.  Is that what the people who undergo stress are reporting?

It may be true, but there are other causes of stress, too, in which we Americans abound.

We move around a lot - probably more than most other people.  Stressful.  And when we move, we are likely to move farther because the U.S. is a big country.

We go on lots of vacations.  Stressful.

We have so much bounty we have to make lots of shopping decisions instead of just accepting what we are given or taking our one choice off the shelf.  We have lots of options.  Stressful.

We have to deal with insurance companies and all kinds of providers and goods (eg. cars) we are lucky to have.  Stressful.

We have freedom!  Yay!  Wouldn't give it up for the world!

Too bad stress kills.

Anxiety attacks usually don't.  But they sure make you wish you were dead.

 

July 18, 2012                                         Madison, IN

I just read that conservatives are happier than liberals.

Well, duh.  People who see things in black and white have a real easy life - until all of a sudden they are plunged into misfortune or moral issues shading into gray and suddenly perceive that life really isn't that simple.

Maybe ostriches have a real good coping response to external threat when they hide their heads in the sand.  Maybe their wild predators really are so dumb that when they don't see a bird of a certain height, say - or don't see those gigantic eyes - just don't see the prey at all.

I'm willing to believe that putting your head in the sand has some survival value:  less stress, for humans.  Re stress I can't speak for the ostriches, but the species has survived!  How many ostriches live through terrifying head-in-the-sand experiences?  Must be lots.

Conservatives feel they have more power over their lives, I see reported in The Week.

The choice of conservative and liberal affiliations, though, might have more to do with experience than with some childhood training or ideological stance.  So what do these conclusions about the nature of conservatives vs. liberals really indicate?

Probably the best individuals are ones who have elements of both conservative and liberal ideals.  An optimistic and self-starting nature combined with compassion towards others sounds like a good combo to me!

July 16, 2012                                         Madison, IN

Too bad not everything switches from vice to virtue as fast as coffee does.

"I stole something last week and got arrested for it, but this week it has been proven to be healthy for the psyche to steal now and then, so I think I'll go pick up a thing or two - quick - before theft becomes a vice again!"

"Yeah, I had the same thing happen to me with adultery.  First it's bad, then it's good - you can't keep up with these social theorists!"

Hmmm... maybe it is just as well not everything swings back from vice to virtue like chocolate and coffee.

What do you think about vigorous exercise?  Is it good for us this week?

July 15, 2012                                          Madison, IN

We watch a lot of movies on DVD and I've noticed something curious lately.  Whereas coming-of-age books and movies used to be about children in their teens, lately they seem to be more about young'uns in their late twenties!

Our parents are attaining longer life spans from my generation to two or three generations since.  Are we failing to grow up as fast because our parents are around longer to (potentially) take care of us?

Have humans in general always grown up when they damn well had to and not much before?

Or does the very presence of the older generation and all they have tried to drum into us prevent us from really seizing life for ourselves on our own terms?

A little of both, maybe.

Probably the older generation in any parent/child set would say the kids are just immature and self-indulgent - while the sons and daughters know that the reverse is true!

Ha, ha, ha!  Isn't life wonderful.

July 13, 2012                                          Madison, IN

For those of you who resent the time you have to spend on tooth care - don't be discouraged.

When I first started flossing it took me twenty minutes to do a complete job.  It was a struggle getting between all those tight teeth.

Now, it's a snap!  It only takes me five minutes to brush and floss my tooth!

July 12, 2012                                           Madison, IN

We got up and outside just a little earlier the other morning - about 6:30 a.m. - and were rewarded with birds we usually miss.

A great blue heron was fishing at the edge of the water.  Finally we got a little too close and he flew across the river, legs dangling.

A little farther down the river we saw a kingfisher on a log sticking out of the water, but he didn't even let us get as close as the heron.

On our hike I saw a slender form trying to ease out of sight at the side of the trail.  I realized those skinny legs had to be a deer.  Our peering was rewarded with a lovely view of a female.

How come she let us get closer than the birds?  Maybe because she is bigger than we are!

This morning we just walked a little way down the river and saw a highly unusual sighting.  A bill floating out of reach in the water!  My partner used the binoculars to see the denomination - it was a five dollar bill.

Glad we had the binoculars!  Otherwise we might be telling stories about the big one that got away!

July 11, 2012                                           Madison, IN

Unconditional love - an interesting concept, but what does it really mean?

If you love another unconditionally and they disappoint you - or even if they don't disappoint you, come to think of it - is that the kind of love they really want?

Doesn't the act of unconditional love put us above and beyond the realm of those we love?

Jesus supposedly loved everyone unconditionally - and died for humans - whereupon he (in spite of his power to be with us, as God is theoretically omnipotent) removed himself from our sphere.  "Lo, I am with you always" except in any way that counts besides imagination.

Who in nature are we most likely to love unconditionally?  Our children, who are not at our level for years.

Do we really want our lovers to love us unconditionally?  Wouldn't we rather feel deservedly loved?

If we disappoint others and drive them to love us unconditionally despite our unbearable faults, we have also driven them to a level at a remove from our own.  Is that the way we really want to be loved?

So what is unconditional love, anyway?  Compassion, maybe - or charity.  Christian love.

Fun.

July 10, 2012                                            Madison, IN

News and weather channels are using viewers' contributions a lot more than they used to.  In what senses, I wonder, are they contributions?

Are any of the people who give videos and still shots to TV channels getting any remuneration?  Are some of them getting any?  Does it depend on whether (I almost said "weather" ha-ha) they have an agent?

It seems to me that if an individual's telephone calls and creative products of all kinds are used to entertain the rest of us and the TV stations get paid for advertising that supports these forums, then the individual should share some of the spoils.

If the TV stations think they are doing us a favor by giving us publicity, then maybe we should pay them for putting our stuff up there.  Ha!  As if we had the dough.

(You notice I have gone from "an individual" to "we" even though I have never submitted anything to TV.  I'm just empathizing.)

What is happening in entertainment on TV and the Internet is really interesting.  Are all of us who are not concerned enough with our self-interest to study it just left out of the financial equation?

I'm not saying it would be wrong.  I'm just asking.

After all, my health and survival might well depend on my studying my insurance forms - and I haven't brought myself to do it so far.

Something to consider again, though, (I'll keep trying!) is a minimum income for everybody - because we all do contribute mightily in one way or another to this society - even if it is just providing occupations for others like police officers and psychologists.

Hmmm... that would be an interesting experiment.  Give everybody enough money to live on and see if the amount spent on policemen and psychiatric workers plummets.

July 8, 2012                                              Madison, IN

Have to write a postscript about "aerobatic pilot" Brett Hunter whom I raved about yesterday.

He flies an American Eagle airplane and is subjected to a huge range of pressures, from seven Gs pushing him backwards to seven Gs thrusting him forward in a very short span of time.  He wears a really tight harness, I'm told!

I was enthusiastic about him yesterday, but I had not seen the half of his show.  He was out again yesterday evening and as far as I am concerned, his best display here so far, this morning.

He tears along near the surface of the water at what looks from the balcony at a steeper than 45 degree angle.  He flies straight up into the sky and hovers... and hovers....  He flies upside down straight down the river, begins to make a circle, and at the top of it he is rightside-up again.

Executing one series of spins in the air, he created eight loops in a spiral of white exhaust - we counted!

All this we could witness from our balconey.  After Brett Hunter's show, we cooled off inside until the fireworks, which were also worthy of note.  A town larger than Madison could take pride in them.

I look forward to seeing more of the actual races next year, but I'll tell you one thing:  Madison puts on a great Regatta - even without the boats! 

July 7, 2012                                              Madison, IN

If you want to get into the Regatta grounds you have to pay $25 at the entrance, or buy tickets at least a week or two ahead for $20.  We are watching the budget (and the thermometer climb!) and thinking maybe next year.

Our view of the show is chiefly catching glimpses of boats speeding by sounding like a cross between a jet and a bumblebee, or a big old plane depending, I guess, on the kind of boat. 

This morning, however, when I heard a plane overhead and looked out at the river for the brassy buzzy boats making that noise - there was nothing in the water!

I looked up and saw a biplane speeding up and down the river high and low, doing somersaults and spins and swoops and other death-defying maneuvers.

Now that's something to watch from your own balcony in suffocating weather!  Enjoy five minutes of fabulous entertainment, then duck back into the air conditioning.

July 6, 2012                                              Madison, IN

What do we learn from our media these days?

Cooking contest shows would have us believe that there are "experts" who can tell us what tastes good to us.  "Chopped," a show I admit I really enjoy, has a panel of judges who are almost clamoring for "more salt."  This drives me crazy.  At least three or four times in my life after eating out I have resolved never to eat at that location because of too much salt.

No expert can tell you what you like.  If the opinion you defer to is that of a fashionista, book critic, or chef and it is bad for your health (e.g. high heels, serial-killer stories (for some of us) or two much salt) the experts are wrong.

My partner talks about what a crazy world it would be if there were an all-powerful someone who could dictate that 68.5 degrees F were "the perfect temperature" so the rest of us would just have to endure it because he said so.  In the same way, he said, the "salt thermostat" is not to be dictated by anyone.  Not even experts!  (Although "too much salt" pronounced by an M.D. might be a good critique to attend!

If I paid any attention to the praise I receive from the computer games, I would believe I had done a "GOOD JOB!" if I started a timed game, got up from my chair, and stood on my head yodeling a Swiss folk tune!  Well, come to think of it that might be a good trick - but my computer isn't watching!

No wonder some people seem to think that they are doing a good job just by showing up to work and punching in.  At the end of the day when they punch out they expect their time card to say "GOOD JOB!  SEE YOU TOMORROW" even if their only accomplishment was aggravating their fellow employees.

The dying of the newspapers has taught me if I didn't know before that the publication of the truth doesn't matter much.  Admittedly there are websites that are known for publishing good analyses of the news and breaking new stories about what is really happening, but those accomplishments per se are not going to pay the reporters directly as they used to.

Of course, I admit I am out of it.  I have a rough idea of how the Internet can pay in some instances, but maybe that is what I like least about the lessons current media teach me:

that I am really out of it!

July 5, 2012                                              Madison, IN

I think people really secretly like extremes.

We are dragged down, even horrified by the very high and very low temperatures, but they give us something to mark time.  Aha!  We have broken a record (in this case of heat) made almost seventy years ago!

Sometimes I think we think anything is better than boredom.

It is only after we rock the boat that we start thinking maybe seasickness isn't worth it.

Animals don't seem to feel the need to do this - although horses respond to challenges and I guess dogs do too.  Watching birds confound and upstage each other seems to contradict my comment about animals, also.

Maybe animals have their own ways of going to extremes.

I'm imagining a groundhog on a boat:  How much wood would a woodchuck upchuck if a woodchuck could upchuck wood?

Can groundhogs vomit?  Horses can't.

July 4, 2012                                              Madison, IN

A very satisfactory Fourth of July in spite of the fact that we hardly went out at all.

We started the day with a morning walk, and spent as much of the rest of the day inside as possible.

I have spent the last two days feeling grateful that I didn't have to do all the things that I would have felt deprived of if I had missed them as a much younger person.

No playing with the community band!  Yay!  We tried to sit down and listen to them after a brief stroll down the river yesterday and I couldn't even handle that.  They played nice scales, though!  When I played with the Valparaiso Community Band as a girl, did we really play in such scorching heat?

No outdoor sunny picnics!  Yay!  We hung around in the air-conditioning all day eating picnic food, reading, and watching DVD movies.

Fireworks displays as seen on TV from New York City remind me of Herman Hesse's Magister Ludi - they seem to be inspired by a wide range of subjects - planets (especially Saturn!) mitosis, gyroscopes, and spiny creatures of the sea I've seen in pictures lately.

At 10:00 p.m. or so someone started shooting off fireworks here that we hadn't expected - the official fireworks are scheduled on the seventh as part of the Regatta festivities.  We went out on the balcony to enjoy these boat-launched offerings, and my scalp began crawling with sweat.  Never in my life before have I been hot during fireworks - let alone sweating!  Is this a function of location or this unusual heat wave?

Tomorrow I have an appointment at 1:00 that I don't want to cancel.  But my horror of getting into my car in 100 degrees is substantial.

Is this advancing age or an increased tendency to indulge my comfort-loving self?  Well, it is good to know I won't spoil in the heat - but it may well cook me!

July 2, 2012                                               Madison, IN

A walk early in the morning took us closer to the bridge, which superficially looks no different than it has for days now, but other changes have occurred along Vaughn Street.

Territories are being staked out - for sales booths?  For Regatta viewing sections?

For the first time since we moved here we saw a young man sleeping on a bench along the walk.

The boat races, we understand, are the biggest event in the year in Madison, Indiana.  We are told the boats will be noisy and the partying boisterous!

Not being too fond of loud engine noises, we are still a little infected with the buoyancy and excitement which is entering the atmosphere in spite of all this oppressive heat.

At the same time that plans for the races are being shaped up, branches blown down by yesterday's sudden winds are being chain-sawed into manageable pieces and cleaned off the streets and sidewalks.

This extreme weather is enough to make me speculate that perhaps our view of the river could be enlarged at any time!  So far, though, the big catalpas and other smaller trees between us and the river have escaped too much damage.

It was fun to speculate on how far up and down the river the boats will range.  We should find out before long.

Meanwhile a hundred or so geese have the run of the river.

July 1, 2012                                                Madison, IN

It is the weirdest thing.  Everywhere else I have lived, my bangs grew.  Two or three weeks after I would trim them, they would be getting into my eyes again like a toddler into a cookie jar.

At first I was happy about it.  Sure, I had cut them a little short to avoid trimming them again for a couple of weeks.  They don't quite hide the fact that my eyebrows thin out at the outside ends, the way good bangs should, but what the hell - my glasses frames hide my eyebrows, too.  Who needs bangs?

But weeks after I cut them, my bangs seem to be getting shorter rather than longer.  I remember hearing about people's hair just stalling out in growth at a certain age or stage of decrepitude - surely my hair hasn't come to that!

Are they curling up more and more with the summer's increase in heat and humidity?  Will my bangs never meet my eyebrows again?  Will I have to go around with my eyebrows lifted in an eternally questioning expression in order to hide my disappearing brows?

Come to think of it, my brows seem to be lightening and thinning also.  Is this a function of age or Sheer Blonde shampoo and conditioner?

Don't tell me about eyebrow pencil.  My hands shake so bad I could only paint on a quizzical expression.

Well, questioning, quizzical - what difference would it make?  My lifted eyebrows will be well-hidden by my bangs.

 

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