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Rumilluminations February 2013
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Fri, February 01 2013 - 10:10 am

February 28, 2013                                     Madison, IN

Ha, ha, February, you are almost gone!

You are going out with a vengeance here, rainy/snowy showers making cold feel more bitter.

I do not even have the heart to lure my partner out for a walk (although a check pick-up has!  Yay, payday!)

Valentine's Day is not enough to make the month warmer.

The obsession with the Pope's resignation chills me to the bone.  (How dare Catholics question it?  Isn't the Pope infallible?)  And does anyone else care?

(Ha, ha, it is funny, though, that they helicoptered him out of the Vatican.  Shades of the Ascension?)

Gunnists make my blood run cold.

Oh, February, February, can't you take them with you?  (Only to, say, the Antartic!)

You can leave the sweet-singing mockingbirds, and the new daffodils and the beautiful thick rich mauve Lenten roses that we saw yesterday.

We'll keep those!

February 27, 2013                                     Madison, IN

For three out of the last four days, Kentucky has seen a lot more of me than Madison, but I didn't write from there.

Saturday I drove down to Nashville, TN to visit my mom (94 on Friday!) via I65 without incident.

Thought I could come back Sunday by I65 and maybe visit Mammoth Caves (always wanted to since I was a little tyke living in NW Indiana.)

No such luck.  The traffic on I65 was so brutal I abandoned it and went through Portland, TN to 31E, the Lincoln Heritage Highway.

I've been on it before, and it was a joy.  Before I even got to 31E, though, the drive from the Interstate to it was like sunshine after a rain.

I still can't figure out, though, why a section of virtually untravelled road four lanes wide has a speed limit of 45 mph when the crowded Interstate's limit of 70 is routinely disregarded by double-digit numbers.

Anyway, I drove home to Madison, on smaller highways except for a peaceful stint on the Bluegrass Parkway.  Beautiful!

Then yesterday we went back the same way to Lincoln's birthplace, took 84 south of Elizabethtown and curved up to cross the Ohio River at Brandenburg, KY.  Beautiful drive also, but without as much craggy rock outcropping as a little farther east.

Makes me think that the route might be another practical alternative to I65.  I'll have to see what routes to Nashville are available south of 84.

If you live in Kentucky and haven't prowled around much, it is well worth it to see such varied and lovely country.  (I wonder why Kentucky has so many black barns?  And did you know there is a memorial to Lincoln, and do you know what is inside???)

Yesterday was rainy, so we didn't hike.  We just drove through our personal Kentucky movie!

February 23, 2013                                    Madison, IN

I don't know who said, "Religion is the opiate of the people," but I think that was unfair.

To me it seems as if religion is the solace of the people.  When do religious movements rise and shine and take on real power and the force of multitudes?

I'm willing to bet it happens when there is a huge population of the poor.

If you don't have the money or transportation to access the drama, music, culinary delights and other benefits of your culture, you go hang out in the woods (or by the river) and experiment with other pastimes.

If the pyramid of material social success is so steep that very few have the climbing skills to even find a comfortable ledge to perch on, the human race (ha, ha, have I ever noticed before that particular pun?) contrives to set up alternative realities.

The intelligent, inventive and ambitious among us, when excluded from one club, will likely organize another.

Eventually that becomes way too bad for the exclusives, who find themselves either ignored or worse yet, destroyed by the formerly deprived masses.

I hate to be having the historically(hysterically?)-inspired forebodings I am having.

Ah!  Maybe it is just that I have now been subjected to over three weeks of... (in the voice of Doom)


My, that word even looks dark and cold, doesn't it!

February 22, 2013                                    Madison, IN

Lately I have seen a good many posts on Facebook which link a plea for sharing the post with some kind of admonition:

If you care about ...  Any decent human would ...  I'm sure my friends will be glad to post this....

I find these appeals to be on the same level with the threats of bad fortune if you don't participate in a chain letter.

They are all obnoxious.

One of the things I strive for in my maturity is that systems, habits, and voluntary actions I choose to engage in have some meaning.  That meaning might range from giving myself a little jolt of pleasure (say, with a cup of good coffee or dark chocolate) to making a life decision with an eye to a "best for all concerned" decision.

Although I listen to others, I'm going to be the one taking responsibility for my choice.  I try to keep my vision wide, but I also have to feel I can live with myself and the consequences.

Any attempt at coercion by others throws me off base.  If I suspect nasty or selfish ulterior motives on the part of those whose feelings I am trying to consider, my interest in their happiness takes a steep plunge.

So to go back to Facebook: if I share a post, it is because it means something to me.

I might share a sentiment, but if the expression of it is stupid, (in my humble opinion!) I won't share the post.

At other times I am in wholehearted agreement with whatever is on offer, but will be turned off totally from participation by the implied threat of loss of respect from the person who posted it if I don't share.

I'm asking.  Am I in the vast minority?  Are most of you so intimidated by others, or so complacent about being emotionally pushed around by them, that you are willing to put up with that kind of social pressure?

Do posts with that kind of guilt-trip-laden appeal get further with it than they do without it?

Of course I am talking about more than just Facebook posts.

I'm talking about life in general.  Am I very unusual in being pretty damn immune from emotional blackmail?

February 21, 2013                                      Madison, IN

Just saw a piece of video in which scientists were giving a "genius" a brain scan while presenting him with a calendar calculation:  what day of the week is blah blah blah.

Isn't that a better calculation for an idiot savant (which is I guess a low-class politically incorrect term for some kind of autism, but since I am too ignorant to know the proper terminology, that is what I am left with - you know what I mean.)

Is that what "genius" is supposed to measure?  Something a computer could answer within seconds?

Are they kidding?  And how would the brain activity while calculating that answer mean anything?  I can just imagine the subject thinking, "They have ME here to ask me anything they want, and this is what they are asking me?"

I can imagine all sorts of emotional neon lighting up his man's prodigious intellect that wouldn't have anything to do with thought patterns - which is what I have read is true, anyway.

Have these scientists come to the conclusion that our thoughts and opinions are based on emotional responses because of tests like these?

Ha, ha, it is definitely worth some study.  I'll have to do some research.

It's really discouraging, though, that the level of intelligence that asked a genius such a question for research purposes might be typical of the researchers.

Kind of makes me hope that the geniuses in other such tests are the ones posing the (hopefully different) questions instead of the subjects answering them.

If you gave me a question like that, I'd probably fall asleep - and it wouldn't mean that I'm brain-dead.

February 20, 2013                                      Madison, IN

On the seventeenth of February I saw the first flowers of Spring!  Little white crocuses about 2 inches tall.

During my walk today I resolved to observe what those poor little minis looked like after this cold spell, but forgot because I was too anxious to get out of the low 20's temperatures (accompanied by a stiff breeze!) and go inside to read and snooze.

Knowing crocuses, they probably look just the same.

There weren't too many people walking downtown today, by the river - none.

I'm trying to figure out how I got into the rut I'm in.  It seems that I used to cook with more variety (although my children would probably snort and say, "Not much!")

Then I start to enumerate my erstwhile favorites:  fish chowder, too creamy.  Chicken pot pie - too much fat.  Ironic that when I was a child I didn't like the crust and was encouraged to eat it. 

How much of what we are addicted to now was originally added to our diets as filler and beautification?  The undesireable necessary is now the sine qua non.

Well, not for me.  Even "bread is the staff of life" is now not only a broken rule, but an abandoned one.

The expression was probably invented when the human race was short of meat.

February 18, 2013                                      Madison, IN

The first ageism biased against older people I ever noticed was probably in the sixties:  "Don't trust anyone over 30."

Well, who would pay any attention to that?  I knew plenty of untrustworthy people way younger than that!

The next time I felt it was when I went to work at a pediatrics clinic.  I noticed it, but didn't take it too seriously once the initial shock wore off.  After all, this whole place was focused on the young.  (It was also not my imagination; an older person I knew from working with her at an internal medicine practice commented on it.  She said she was thoroughly ignored in the same office.)

The worst insult yet was when I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by that little brat whats-his-name in which anyone with gray in his or her hair was instantly hated by the author.

A decade later, when I was in my mid-fifties, I was working at a garden center.  A nineteen-year-old female employee was wondering why anyone would want to live to be that old anyway.  "That old" was not defined by her, but the context led me to believe she was talking about the advanced age of 65 or so.  "I already have physical problems," she stated, as if that should settle the issue.

Now that I am "entitled" to social security, I feel as if society (especially the Republican Party) is trying to make me feel guilty for being on "the dole" and worse yet, that they would love to take it away from me.

I don't get it.  If I had died at thirty-five, my social security would not have been given to my parents, my husband or my children.  Many people put into the system, and only some of them get the payout.  Kind of like, you know, insurance.

Until I arrived in Valparaiso to help out my parents, it never occurred to me to resent their benefits.  It wasn't until after my father died that I became eligible for social security and realized that in spite of my years of hard work both in and away from home I was getting much less than my stay-at-home housewife mother that I began to feel resentment about the system.

Even now I'm not angry with the system.  I made my choices and live with the consequences.

It does mightily irritate me, though, that so many people say that these are unearned "entitlements."

They are doing their best to try to put me and millions of others "in our place" and it takes a pretty strong will to deny them the pleasure.

After all, maybe we see ourselves in a vastly different light - bathed in a glow of modesty and lacking the accoutrements of consummate greed!


February 17, 2013                                       Madison, IN

I know I always feel like sermonizing on Sunday - as I have joked before, it is probably because in my youth I was victim of many a sermon.

That doesn't give proper credit to all I learned from those sermons.

God knows (heh) that I have learned more from sermons than debates.

For some reason I have no appetite for fights unless I feel attacked.

Whether physical or verbal, I've never been all that good at contests.

Is it cowardice, ineptitude... or boredom?

A friend of mine said "Boredom is anger."  Do the other parties' tactics leave me angry, or am I just too lazy to try to convince?

This attitude protects me.  I turn away from the conflict and walk out into the world.

I'd rather watch an ant walk through grass than fight, I think.

So why do I so often rise to the bait?

February 15, 2013                                    Madison, IN

Yesterday I gave another Valentine to the world in the form of trash pickup along the Ohio River.  After seeing the trailer about the island 2000 miles from anywhere I wanted to pick up the plastic before the birdies did.

I had only one big plastic bag with me (snagged from the trash in the laundry room) and it did not take long to fill it.  It was heavier than I expected because along the river bank the plastic was filled with water or whatever.  Didn't want to deal with opening them, so I dealt with lifting them.

One bag practically filled one waste container (handily dispersed along the river park walk) but I found a big broken plastic bucket and used it to collect a lot more.  Of course when I quit there was still stuff to do, but I don't think the water will rise so high so fast that I won't have another chance to pick up trash.

Not only did I rationalize an hour's worth of my social security check, but I got blessed!  A woman passing by blessed me for picking up and told me she cursed people she saw littering.  Her standard curse for litterbugs is "May you stub your toe and lose your car keys!"

It occurred to me later I should have asked for equal specificity in her blessings! 

Having spent time picking up the great outdoors made me feel a little more responsible for the home front and I washed floors this morning.

Reminded me of a poem a friend of mine recited once, about a woman who spent her day cleaning and baking and washing clothes and at bedtime "thanked the Lord for a perfect day."

Ha!  I notice that poem was not written in the first person!

February 14, 2013                                     Madison, IN

After reading about his purported hair blow-drying, my partner said, "Just to set the record straight, I don't blow-dry my hair.  I blow-dry my body!"

Hmmm... I liked that image!

So this is my Valentine to you, dear world:

Imagine your beloved blow-drying his body - or better yet, yours!


February 13, 2013                                     Madison, IN

Ha!  Anyone who thinks English is one language is in a delusional state.

Dick Cheney, in an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS, talked about "the red line" at which interrogation becomes torture.

Ha, ha, ha, ha! (bitter laugh)

As defined by whom?  Hardened military men?   Ha, ha, ha!

Waterboarding not torture?  I would accept it as grounds for divorce, along with intentional sleep deprivation and a host of other interrogation techniques used not only by the military but by metropolitan police.

I had the idea that it would be great to have interactive meetings between military personnel and specialists in the field of psychology so that perhaps the military men would be forced to see that individuals are not interchangeable units.

They would be forced to hear the voices (yeah, even opinions!) of others!

Then the discouraging thought came to me:  such meetings probably would not work.  The only thing that these military men have been taught is how to be tough.  Listening well is not one of their skills.

Even if they can listen, in the context of their own hierarchy and daily assignments, it wouldn't matter much to the rest of us.

We could try to persuade, argue, cajole, impress - use A through Z in the language of individual differences, psychological principle, and compassion.  All these attempts would fall on deaf ears.

They would fall on deaf ears because, you see, these groups do not speak the same language.

Maybe the analogy with marriage might work, though, to set things straight.

Maybe the same physical and emotional doings that constitute grounds for divorce might also constitute grounds for the accusation of inhumanity.


February 12, 2013                                      Madison, IN

This morning I was listening to my partner blow-drying his hair and thought back to other men I have known who blow-dried their hair.  I remembered a man who once came into a downtown Santa Fe law office where I worked.  He was fashionable and groomed to perfection.  I bet he blow-dried his hair.

Later my boss came in and we spoke very briefly of the gentleman.  I was exceedingly articulate, I must say.  I said, "He was so..."

Before I could finish my thought, my boss looked at me disapprovingly and said, "I didn't know you were like that!" and left the room.

I sat alone, nonplussed.  Like what?  I simply admired our visitor's sartorial finesse.  Did my boss think I was instantly seduced by it?  Or overly impressed by appearances?

While washing dishes today for the first time it hit me:   My boss, married and also possibly homosexual, might have thought I meant so... effeminate - as in gay.

Now that I think of it, our relationship might have started its downward course from that time.

My fall in his esteem could have been because I played computer solitaire in my downtime - I can only be expected to dust and vaccuum so much, I rationalized in the slow weeks of summer - but I used to wonder if it was partly because he thought I was easy.

Now, almost twenty years later, it occurs to me he thought I was anti-gay.

One of my life's little unanswered mysteries, as if it mattered now!  Such musings are a good reason, I think, to spend as little time washing dishes or cleaning as possible, which reminds me that today I really should tackle the layer of dust that is beginning to tickle our noses and make us sneeze.  It's scary, though.  What piece of the perilous and unfathomed past will my mind feel free to conjure up next?

Maybe I'd better not clean house after all.  Therein lies the path to insanity!

February 10, 2013                                   Madison, IN

This Dorner episode has all the pro-gun-control people going again.  Every day, in fact, something happens to support the side of these folks, but this man is a perfect example of why we do need fewer, not more, guns.

Look at his old photos.  Happy, well-adjusted - he's the nicest guy in the world, seemingly.

But let the world (or LA, as the case may be) treat him unfairly and all that virtue goes out the window.

His case is being investigated, to "reassure the public" that the process of justice in LA is open and transparent.

All another investigation reassures me of is that more money is being wasted.

Dorner's response to the world that did him wrong should make any expenditure with regards to him moot - excepting, of course, the huge bills that will come along with his apprehension and trials.

Whatever the world did to him is not as bad as what he has done for revenge.

How do I know that?  Easy.  When he started his rampage, he was still active, alive and breathing.  

February 8, 2013                                    Madison, IN

Last night I was trying to tell my mate about seeing another p-something woodpecker.

"You know" - finger snap - "I know this isn't right, but a peripatetic one."

"A piebald one..."  "perioscopic", snuggling into my recliner and turning my head as if to sleep... "Idomeneo"...

"I know what it was.  I said it several times today.  I know it isn't prismatic or pediatric or perioscopic or idiomatic... something like that!  You know.  Remember when we (or rather, I) saw it from the car on the other side of the power plant?

"....mmm, pelated..." he suggested tentatively.

"That's it!  Pileated!  From the Heritage Trail I saw a pilated woodpecker today, messing around a fallen rotten log.  He really used that long neck to crane around and find what he was looking for."

But my enthusiasm for my tale was greatly diminished.

I could see the A-word looming.  What was it?  Not Asbergers...or Anaheim... or Altenbach... whatever...

I may be laughing (helplessly) but it is no laughing matter.


February 7, 2013                                 Madison, IN

Ha!  I saw a news story last night talking about "Facebook envy."

Maybe I have felt that once in a while, a little, when people talk about the gourmet foods they eat which I literally could not stomach!  I do love good food.

What I feel more often, though, is Facebook relief!

Relief that I don't have quite so many of the activities, obligations, and onerous chores involved in having "fun."

Don't get me wrong.  I do enjoy social gatherings and have spent many hours in the past cooking, manning booths, and cleaning up after them.

I'm still, at least theoretically, willing to do some of those things for a worthy cause, and yes, I would for the most part enjoy them.

I would not have been without family gatherings and still look forward to them.  If I could teletransport I would be zapping back and forth to many more.  They have been often both fun and memorable.

But so is dressing for the weather, walking out the front door, and seeing for the first time a cuckoo peering cautiously from behind a tree trunk.

So is riding a bike solo to another town and smelling the recently harvested mint in the air.

So is the putting down of one book and picking up of another, looking out the window and once outside, choosing on a moment's notice what direction to pursue.  The snowy hills or the laid-back, small-town Main Street?  The choppy river, or the landscaped gardens of the big and small houses in nearby neighborhoods?  Woods or waterside?

I have always felt the pull of that long-ago underappreciated line of the Beatles:

"Oh, that magic feeling - nowhere to go."

February 6, 2013                                 Madison, IN

How much should we go by instinct?  Should we listen to our instincts or logical reasoning?  Are instincts infallible, like the Pope is supposed to be?  Or do they include prejudices, jumbled up emotions, and evolutionary errors (as I suppose the Pope to be!)  Is logical reasoning even possible, or is it too subject to distortion by emotional and simply confused errors which make it fallible?

Is one of these choosing techniques more appropriate than another in different areas of life like, say, eating?

Almost every morning I have oatmeal (half rolled and half steel-cut) for breakfast.  I'm not always enthusiastic about it.  Sometimes I'm downright sluggish, even rebellious in attitude toward my daily "health" habit.  Am I correct to ignore the what-might-be-the-little-kid in me because all she likes is fat and sugar?  Or is my body instinctively trying to tell me something constructive?

My father had oatmeal every day of his life during the Depression, he said, and once he attained independence he vowed never to eat it again.  He subsequently lived a quite lively life, I think, and eventually suffered a certain amount of cardiovascular disease and a good deal of dementia, dying at the age of 86.

Not bad at all.  Am I really going to do much better than that by eating what I have read is an optimum of oatmeal every day?  Will I live longer by scrubbing the plaque off my teeth and out of my arteries and out of my brain?  (Plaque, by the way, has a different composition depending on where it is found - at least within the body - so will eating oatmeal even help scrub out my brain?)

I'm not at all sure I want to optimize my cardiovascular health if I don't also optimize my mental health and brain functioning!

Otherwise, I might forget to eat ... now what is that stuff called... you know, that stuff I always eat for breakfast...

Oh what the hell, I'm going for a walk!

February 5, 2013                                 Madison, IN

Okay, okay, I see on the news that background checks can take a long time.

But couldn't they be done privately more quickly?

On a related subject, I'm always amazed to see how often criminals and the criminally insane don't have fingerprints represented in the data bases.

I first had a routine set of fingerprint taken, along with the rest of my class, when I was in grade school!

Then when I got a job at the Visitor Hospitality Center at the Penitentiary of New Mexico (a liaison agency between the Pen and the inmates' visitors) I had them taken again.

Once more when I tried for a volunteer position in an adolescent group home in Corvallis, OR they took 'em again.  For a volunteer position!  (Which, by the way, I did not get.  It seems now (well, make that eight years ago) it was harder to get a volunteer position than it had been in the past to get a job.

Not that a body would want a job, anyway, with the likes of Walmart or Kroger.  Apropos of which, why does Walmart get all the bad press?  I saw complaints of an employee who was "only" getting $11.00 an hour.  My mate would be delighted to be getting that much per hour from a Kroger company for which he works part time (that being practically all they offer.)

People were able to get milk from the Kroger store near here for 99 cents a gallon.  I used to see folks carrying gallon upon gallon out to their cars.  "What are they doing with it all?" I wondered.  "Are they buying it for their whole rural community?"

Turns out that they were - their community of livestock!  Yep, their lucky animals were getting whole milk added to their feed - a wonderful hit of protein.

The other day when a Walmart ad came on claiming to match prices my partner, raising an exhausted finger toward the screen, gasped, "It's not true."

Evidently their customers tried to get the local Walmart to match Kroger's Ruler Store's price for milk and the manager refused.

A few days later the prices for milk at the ruler store started climbing again.  They are still cheap, though.

A meandering from a Meanderthal (me!) on a February day that is still quite mean.

The temperature is looking to climb starting this afternoon, though.

Meanwhile it's just mean.  February, I mean!


February 4, 2013                                 Madison, IN

Why did NRA's LaPierre back off from his past stance that requiring background checks for all gun-buyers is a good idea?

Now is the time that doing so even at travelling gunshows would be feasible thanks to smartphones.

If most people participating in used sales can't afford a smartphone (which I have trouble believing!) providing the service of quickie background checks might be a great business for some enterprising, courageous person.

It would take some of what my junior high school English teacher called "intestinal fortitude" to check someone's background at an event as bristling with guns as a porcupine with quills!

Still, it could be done.  I talked with a teenager at the farmer's market last summer who planned to be able to accept credit card payments via smartphone this year.

Last week I got a haircut and paid by credit card through my hair stylist's personal phone.  I got a receipt in my email.

Why couldn't this be done with background checks?  Come to think of it, the provider of this service could be unseen by the customer.

Gee.  This could be done by someone of any age or degree of cowardice, come to think of it.

I wonder how long it actually takes to run such a check?


P.S.  And what is with this argument, "Criminals can always get guns..." as a reason not to have gun laws?  Does the NRA also advocate no speed limits on our nation's roadways just because "criminals" will go too fast anyway?

Ooops!  I guess I shouldn't be putting such ideas into anyone's head!


February 3, 2013                                 Madison, IN

Lately I have seen quotes from articles like:  "What is so bad about slavery, anyway?"

That is a very slippery path to follow, insane people!

Unless you are joking and I'm clueless.  Even if it is a joke, it is a tasteless one.  Effective racial slavery having continued well into the 20th century, it is still no laughing matter.  Unless you are being clever as well, and I don't see anything clever about the comments I've seen.

But supposing the people who express this sentiment are serious.  After all, where conspiracy theories abound all things are probably permitted.

Do you want your sister sold into slavery as a sex object?  (That kind of stuff is still going on right now into the 21st century.)

Or your mother?

Or - I have an idea.  How about you?  We'll sell you into slavery.  Just call it a learning experience that ends when you escape or die.

February 2, 2013                                  Madison, IN

Grunt.  Growl.  Bold, italic, February.

Actually, this morning I did some sweeping of the walk and stairs down to the laundry room, the temperature around twenty.  It wasn't bad.

I realized that this is the only the second time I have swept snow this winter and it is February!

In Valparaiso I would probably have shoveled snow a dozen or more times by now and I would be reaching shoveling fatigue.

So what is my problem with February?

It's gray and gloomy and bleak, that's what!

The light hasn't come back enough yet.  The snow reflects more light, but that doesn't make up for the gloom at noon.

The river is high again!  This seems to happen very quickly.

Today crows were cawin' and geese were honkin.'

Sounded as if they were whining at least as loudly as I!

February 1, 2013                                        Madison, Indiana

Good Lord, it is 8 degrees out at ten o'clock in the morning.  In Southern Indiana.

Small consolation it is probably 3 degrees in Northern IN.

The other day I was wondering if I should pull up the shades on a sunny day - whether the solar gain would offset the thermal effect of the double layer of blinds.  Silly me.

Of course!  In New Mexico the Great Outdoors at a high altitude is warmed by the sun!  Eight degrees outside at ten o'clock in the morning didn't happen in Santa Fe while I was living there, I don't think.

At last!  I was in the middle of writing this when I had trouble with my website and lost the rest of my piece.

I pressed save - and was locked out.

Oh well, I was merely going to exult that I was correct - it was three degrees in Northern IN.

I was going to mention coming to the north side of our apartment to write, and finding ice on the inside of our windows - something I don't think I have experienced for decades.

I was going to talk about - oh well, it doesn't matter now.  All past and gone, the freshness of observation and expression caput.

Now the sun is shining brightly.  The river is sparkling silver.

Oooo... it is now 18 degrees.   Balmy!

Welcome to February.

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