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Rumilluminations Feb. 2009
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sun, February 01 2009 - 4:30 pm

February 28, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN

My partner drove across country in a U-Haul with four birds in a cage and nine fish, hefting them into and out of a motel room every night in cold weather.

He didn't lose a single pet, but a little amber bottle that a beautiful blue beta liked to hang around in got broken.  My partner was upset.  For some reason that fish just liked to hang around in that bottle inside his bigger tank and now it was ruined.

We didn't know why fishie liked to hang there.  The beta was blue - did he like complementary colors?  Did the color of the bottle help his mood?

I thought it would be fun to look out for a new, similar bottle for the fish to enjoy.  It didn't take long.  My mom had an unused amber salt-shaker that seemed almost perfect for the job.

We washed it and put it in the same spot in the tank.  A few days later the fish started hanging around the bottle, lining up alongside it.  A week after we added the bottle to the tank, he got up the courage to enter it and now has a new little bedroom.

Maybe he feels more secure in there!

February 27, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN

A few years ago I tried to get jobs in a couple of chain supermarkets that allowed you to apply via computer in the store.  I was shocked and horrified the first time I was required to take a psychological test as part of the application.  (If you didn't take the test, your application would not go through.)  I never saw a real person and I never received a phone call.

This year my partner applied for a job at a local supermarket (which also is part of a chain.)  He took a six-page psychological test and knew right then he would get no response.  He hasn't.  Evidently corporations feel that even low-level employees like night stocker and the guys that bring in the shopping carts from the parking lot must meet some very high standard of - something - social skills, maybe?  Affinity to slavery?  Masochistic love of no control on the job?

(I don't know if managerial candidates have to take the same kinds of psychological tests.  Maybe they are following some alternative career track, like employment agencies or something that exempts them from screening that the really important employees like checkers have to clear to get a job.)

Now I'm wondering.  Do the managers of agencies like FEMA in New Orleans have to take a psychological test to determine say, whether they are so risk averse that they will diddle the deserving recipients of flood and hurricane damage and stall for years to keep their (the managers') $100,000-a-year jobs as long as possible?  It seems that maybe they could be psychologically tested for the combination of compassion and love of an adrenalin rush and insecurity that would allow them to efficiently work themselves out of a job!

Some companies make everyone take a drug test before they can begin a job.  Does that happen to presidents of corporations?  My partner wonders whether potential bank CEOs are given lie detector tests before they are even interviewed by their prospective employers to see if they have ever cheated, embezzled, or indulged in creative accounting on or off the job!  That would be a good thing, don't you think?

February 26, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

Why do people expect President Obama to "know" how to save the economy?  Nobody knows how to save the economy!

Obama is brilliant.  He has a passle of brilliant economists around to help him come up with a solution to our economic woes.  That's about the best we can do.

That the citizenry of the United States is sitting around expecting Obama to be like a God (also an idea that provides a false sense of comfort and security) and know the future - this is a concept I don't buy.

I'm all for the stimulus package, but in addition everybody better be putting on his/her own thinking cap to find a personal solution to his own situation.  If we all do that, we will, I believe, have a good resolution to our crisis.  That is the advice that Obama is giving, and it is good advice.

P.S.  After all, George Bush said with the utmost confidence that he knew the direction that the economy should take for success.  Remember that?  Who wants more of that?

February 25, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN

It turns out that the other quote from Jesus that I was going to mention yesterday was not Jesus at all, but John (?) who wrote the Revelations chapter of the Bible.

Well, no wonder.  The Revelations are full of nonsense!

The quote I am talking about is, "I know your works!  You are neither cold nor hot!  ...  So, because you are neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth."

I'm glad Jesus didn't say that one, because I think that is not a good admonition!  Fanaticism is not a good thing!

Sure, maybe spiritual heat has its virtues, but not when it is too attached to any particular religion.

In fact, I would go so far as to say, "Tepid is tolerable!  In ambivalence is the salvation of the world!"

Thus sayeth Esther, the Queen of Introspection!

February 24, 2009                           Valparaiso, IN

I've spoken in the past about the fact that we value Jesus for some of the things he has said.  By the same token, however, I don't think Jesus is perfect (thus speaking blasphemy according to some Christians, I guess) because of some of the things he said.

Where was he getting off when he said, "The poor are always with us," while Mary poured costly oils over his feet?

Sure, I know that he also said that the rich couldn't find salvation.  But what did he mean by these things?

How do we define rich and poor?  If we have enough, are the rich those who have more?  Are "the poor" the ones we feel guilty about?

"The poor you have always with you."  What a callous statement, really!

Personally, I think the rich we always have with us!  They sure live a lot longer (if they don't kill themselves with expensive toys!  (Or struggles for power.))

(Oops, I just remembered.  By most of the world's standards, I am rich!)

Another thing Jesus said that I think is far from perfect is - I forgot what I was going to say.  How imperfect of me!

If I remember I'll bring it up tomorrow.

Meanwhile, yes, yes, Jesus was perfect.  Perfectly Jesus!  Just like you are perfectly you and I am perfectly me.

Hmmm.  I kind of like being perfect!

February 23, 2009                           Valparaiso, IN

Why are people so hard on the octuplet mom?  Here she is, nobly trying to keep the economy afloat, single-handedly creating jobs and providing the need for multiple products - spending galore!

Why is everybody so ungrateful?

A friend suggests she is trying to save the banks!  The sperm banks, that is.  Multiple deposits, multiple withdrawals!

February 22, 2009                           Valparaiso, IN

I never heard of Alan Keyes.  Now I see him on TV saying that if President Obama isn't stopped he is going to destroy America.  Sounds like incitement to violence to me.  (You know - in the movies someone says, "He has to be stopped!" and the next thing you know "he"is dead.)

(I won't even mention Keyes' trying to say troops should not to obey the President because he's not really the President!  Treason?)

If I understand correctly, Keyes lost an Illinois congressional legislation post to Obama years ago.

Talk about projecting!  I think he is projecting the harm Obama inflicted to Keyes' political career onto America.  But such irresponsible talk explains everything except why anyone is listening to him at all.

It's not amazing that small people feel threatened by someone with more intelligence, more generosity, and more heart than they have.  What is a mystery to me is that they can't separate the threat to their own self-concept from their fears for the United States.

Years ago I knew a poet like that.  He was convinced that the world was in imminent danger of coming to an end.  I was equally convinced that he was drinking himself to death and transmuting his fear of self-annihilation to concern for the planet.

Actually, as far as I know, neither has come to pass!  So much for doomsday prophecies and fear-mongering.

Why does the media feel the need to give a weirdo like Keyes attention?  And that sick NY Post chimpanzee cartoon - I would never have known about this stuff if the television news media hadn't talked about it - thus spreading the sick messages a million times farther!

Well, and now I have, with my minute contribution, added to the spread.  Will the projection idea make up for it?

Yours to judge - it's my bedtime. 


February 21, 2009                          Valparaiso, IN

I had an odd thought this morning.  What if many men seem to view women as sex objects because that is how their own primary sex organ strikes them?

A penis is almost like another being.  People sometimes refer to it as a "little man" or "him."  It certainly seems to have a mind of its own, and to a certain extent, be uncontrollable.

Sure a penis is also to pee with.  But that particular function does not arouse nearly as much as anxiety and excitement in men as its sexual function.

So maybe the way some men view women is just a projection of how they feel about their penis.  Women are often uncontrollable and have minds of their own, too.

Dang!  How frustrating!

February 20, 2009                          Valparaiso, IN

The other day a television program spoke about scientists speculating that a billion planets might exist that could support magnificent us.

This is, of course, not the same as giving rise to humans.

The very factors that make our world diverse and interesting (night and day lengths, seasons, seemingly extreme but bearable hot and cold, and suchlike) may be the very conditions responsible for the evolution of us humans.

Without all those demands on our genes and intellect, we might never have emerged from the proverbial primordial ooze.

Even if we had, we might have suffered mass extinction - from boredom! 

February 19, 2009                                Valparaiso, IN

My whole town is in a state of denial.

It began last night when the guy who usually laughs at me for looking at the official temperature predictions ("I go outside and feel the air") assured me there would only be a "dusting" even though it was snowing Pegasuses and unicorns.

It continued this morning when the boys going to wait for the school bus were wearing sweatshirts.  Right now it is 12 degrees with a wind chill of negative 6, and the high today is supposed to be 21 degrees!  (Well, maybe they were wearing high-tech winter jackets designed to look like sweatshirts (which is a whole different level of denial) but I don't think so.)

I was the only one outside shoveling the walks, which is only a little unusual, but still....

The professionals, it is true, are not in denial.  The snowplows have been by.  But professionals are trained to look truth in the face.  That is what they are paid for - and six inches of snow is kind of hard to ignore.

And I, alas, am beginning to emerge from the state of denial in which I am able to imagine that the college students living to my north and west are ever going to pick up the shoveling habit!

Oh, well.  Tomorrow it is supposed to go all the way up to 34* degrees.  Maybe the snow will all melt away!*

*Denial.  I just looked at the weather channel.  The  high temperature is expected to be in the twenties for days. 

February 18, 2009                               Valparaiso, IN

I have to admit I am of the old fogey generation now.

From my response to a telephonic "customer service representative" who told me some practice was "No big deal" ("Well, it may be no big deal to your generation, but it is a big deal to mine!") to

being completely mystified how a generation which obviously likes to have fun can perceive txt msging  (probably not grammatically correct in txtspk) as "fun" to

perennially getting lost in a maze of driveways, turning lanes, and too-fast traffic when trying to enter a strip or mall full of businesses to

losing whatever I was going to say next.

Yep, I must be an old fogey.

February 17, 2009                               Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday, at the risk of appearing flippant, I talked about the octuplet mom in terms of the affect of her actions on other adults.

In doing so, I did not mean to downplay the most important aspect of the case, which is, of course, the welfare of the children.

Having had three children, when I hear her talking about going to school in the fall after having had eight babies in addition to another six, I know she is not living in the real world.

I think she should take money for her stories and interviews.  Millions!  How else is she going to support those children?

Of course, she will find people who will help her take care of them, for the sake of the kids.

I knew a woman when I was young who was an only child.  She didn't like it, so she herself had more children - four.  I didn't think anything of it.  That was about average in those days.  I think she took good care of them.

More than six?  Some of whom had handicaps before the last, final pregnancy?  Sounds like reckless disregard to me!

Or lunacy.  Take your pick!

February 16, 2009                                    Valparaiso, IN

Maybe the woman with fourteen children isn't guilty of a big crime, but it is at least on a level with PDA.  I think the reason that public displays of affection are offensive to many is that they slap many single and unhappily married people in the face with what they don't have in their lives.

In some places it is the height of rudeness to eat on the street:  too many hungry people around.

For a woman to have fourteen children (or even seven, for that matter) when there are many people who can't have children;  for her to have multiple multiple births when a whole nation of people are allowed only one child per couple;  for her to intentionally create so many potential energy consumers in an era when so many couples have consciously limited themselves to two children here in the U.S.; to raise all our taxes to pay for her affection addiction:

Well - inconsiderate to say the least.

February 15, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN

Last night's celebration of my mother's 90th birthday ( a little early) was quite a bash.  She didn't really want such a big party.  I told her, "Well, you know sis likes to celebrate the big 0 birthdays."

Mom responded plaintively, "Couldn't she wait for the 100th?"

So, my mom, and to a certain extent I, had to go along with this well-planned party.

I hope everybody has such people in their lives, willing to push them, kicking and screaming, into having a great time!

February 14, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

Combine family reunions with Valentine's Day and hear reports of what you did and said to your kids in the past.

Spend the whole day running around preparing food and washing dishes and shopping.

Even when it is full of love and you are surrounded by loved ones, Valentine's Day is difficult!

If it is true St. Valentine died for helping ill-starred couples marry in secret, is this such a good day to celebrate?

If we are celebrating love, is it only secret love we are historically (if unkowingly) celebrating?

Is the next big holy day we have to look forward to "Good" Friday, when Christ died on the cross?

Good Lord, no wonder I don't like February!

Gee, maybe my mom had a bad Valentine's Day when she was pregnant with me!

February 13, 2009                               Valparaiso, IN

My parents used to squabble a lot.

I don't like squabbling any more.  I think it is a bad habit.

Now I am stepping back a little and saying:  why is it that people squabble so much?

Ego?  Is it about who is right?  There is so much that can be answered so quickly these days via the internet!  Why fight? Go to resources!

Is it laziness?  Is it about what has to be done and who has to do it?  One person thinks it should be done and is too lazy to do it?  If I want something done I go ahead and do it.  If someone else wants me to do something and I think it is too stupid or unnecessary, I just put my foot down and refuse.  (There are liberating aspects to being in your sixties!)

Is it a power trip?  Ay, that is a difficult one to solve.  But it is sure an icky question!

I say, let's pretend every day is Valentine's Day and try to forget the power struggles!  Especially by giving gifts which become an excuse to squabble....  and on and on.

Squabbles are really a boring way to entertain ourselves.  What are we, birds?  And I don't mean lovebirds!

February 12, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN

Whew!  I was going all day today and I admit I'm not used to that anymore.

It makes you understand why maybe people don't want to hire people who haven't been working lately.

It makes you understand why people who haven't been working lately don't care too much if they get back to work.

Still, a lovely day with a family visit and a lot of laughter at the end of it.

Tomorrow - more arrivals, hopefully more fun, and most of the work is already done!


February 11, 2009                          Valparaiso, IN

Just saw our $5 billion dollar embassy in Iraq on the Rachel Maddow Show - Iraq! A country about twice the size of Idaho!  This is supposedly now the largest U.S. embassy in the world.

The story of the hubris of the United States of America is just never-ending.

I'm trying to think how we will be able to afford that huge complex in the Green Zone of Bagdad.  It makes me curious to know how big our embassy in, say, Australia is.

It depresses the hell out of me to know that our (former) President and our lawmakers continue to think our inner cities and our struggling people are not worth a fraction of what our "face" to the outside world is worth.

I was not brought up to believe that pomp or display of wealth is really worth anything.  I know many people, like me, have not bothered to involve ourselves much in the government, figuring it would toddle along by itself.

Little did we know that it would betray our values so completely!  (Via jet - not baby steps!)

When it comes to government, I'm afraid that the population of our potentially fine country has been living in the ideal glorious past, unaware of the vainglory of the last eight years!

Obama will not need to be just a good President, he will need to be a magician to draw something viable out of Uncle Sam's ten-gallon tophat! 


February 10, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN

Anybody else having trouble with the impersonality of our present business world?  It has gotten difficult to even get people on the phone these days; businesses would much rather you communicated with their websites.

Tonight I heard that last September there was a electronic run on money market accounts which inspired the Federal Reserve to guarantee money market accounts for $250,000.  Billions of dollars were withdrawn in a matter of hours at the time of the failure of Lehman Brothers, threatening our whole financial system.  (Sure, I knew that there were problems of some kind in the financial sector, but I didn't hear until tonight on Keith Olbermann's Countdown about that!)

Remember the movie It's a Wonderful Life?  The character played by Jimmy Stewart persuades a mob of people trying to take their money out of the bank that it is not a smart thing to do.  He saves the bank.

As I see the scenario in September, there was no voice of reason to dissuade the investors, sitting alone in front of their computers, from panicking and withdrawing their money.  Evidently, if it had gone unchecked, this mass run on money markets would have destroyed the economy.

No increased traffic in the streets, no mobs in front of banks, just quiet implosion.

Silent, impersonal - and devastating.

February 9, 2009                              Valparaiso, IN

Day before yesterday, there were over two feet of snow all over the ground.  Yesterday morning you could see the lawn again for the first time in weeks (months?)

Today, the snow is in fast retreat.

Things can happen really fast in nature.  I would like to think that people can change as fast as the weather can.  What is to stop us?  Only ourselves - and other people who would hold us too fast to their perceptions of us.

My hero God these days is Proteus, I think.

Try to hold me in a cage, and I'll change from bird to snake and slither out.  Watch out!  I might bite!

Put me under water, I'll grow gills.

Put me in the fire and I will turn into ice, melt, and kill it.

Try to force me to be a weeping willow, and I'll monkey around and grow bananas.

Go, Pro, go!

February 8, 2009                              Valparaiso, IN

Congress mystifies me.  The Senate mystifies me.  I understand that those guys want to get re-elected, but isn't the economy of the whole country more important than their own personal careers?

The answer seems to be no.

For Obama's own party members to be failing to support him 100% on this bill is simply too bad.  Representatives and senators of both parties squawking about the expense of it is ridiculous.

Why didn't they squawk about the price of the war?  Why didn't they squawk about the Bush-era spending?  We spent 599 billion dollars interfering in another country, and now we are balking at spending 800 billion to save our own?

Now that the countinghouse is empty, our lawmakers want to let it burn down, too.

The only comfort that the American people can take from their reduced circumstances is that they are probably happier than the egocentric, driven individuals that have put us into this financial mess in the first place.

Small comfort indeed.

February 7, 2009                              Valparaiso, IN

What gives with former Vice President Cheney?

I admit, for twenty-odd years I had no TV set.  I also had small children.  Later I had a TV set and a 45-hour-a-week job.  Let's face it, I didn't watch political news much.

But it seems to me that once a President was voted out of office, that was it.  He was out.  Vice Presidents were not even much news when they were in office.  After their term was over, they were out.  Gone.  Maybe they did good work, but they were no longer in the public eye.

(Well, sure, Al Gore has been in the public eye, but doing different work.)

Why doesn't Cheney just go away?  Who is interested in his spook stories and his weird warnings?  He is like a ghost of doom out of a Victorian novel.

Isn't there some sort of media-life zombie term for the likes of Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and Governor Blagojevich, who have joined the ranks of the ought-to-be-dead but are still un-dead?

They keep coming back like the sequels of an already bad horror movie, eating the flesh of the still politically viable.

Eeeew!  They smell rotten!  Bury them already! 

February 5, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

What I can't get my head around is why the heads of banks and investment corporations that tanked are considered to be so valuable.  Under their watch these businesses went under!

Why are we supposed to care if they go to other industries?  Why would other businesses want to hire them?  Under their watch their firms went kaplooey!

If you play a musical instrument and ruin a performance, you can't be expected to be considered quite so talented as perhaps you were before.

If you are a medical records person (watch out, your job is in danger, threatened with computerization!) and you lose charts, fail to convey messages, and cannot alphabetize or spell you ought to lose your job.

If you work in a nursery and kill plants, you will not be the most valuable employee - and probably won't be brought back next season.

Why is it different in business?  How can someone be so talented if they blew it so badly?  Those MBAs are supposed to know their business!

Maybe they were great at making millions in the way nobody should be making millions.  So they have a lot in common with the mafia, it seems to me.

Why are they considered so dynamite?

I just can't get my head around it.

Oh, of course.  It is because I'm not smart enough!


February 4, 2009                              Valparaiso, IN

On Monday when my mom and I went food shopping, I looked at the six foot high piles of brown-studded snow and said, "My, it's looking ugly out here."

From my lips to Mother Nature's ear.  "Why, you are right!" she said. " Time for another layer.  My, I'm feeling unaccountably energetic today!"

I think 18 inches worth.  This is the most snow I have ever experienced in over twenty years in the Midwest.  I went out today and shoveled off sometimes three layers before hitting sidewalk.  (Shoveling the top six inches off a fifteen-inch light airy snowfall is like sliding a spoon through the fluffiest mousse.  Heavenly!)  Still...

It is a testament to my pure-mindedness (or repression, whatever) that I had never, before my sixty-first birthday, thought about the fact that Lake Michigan looks very phallic.  But recently the weather maps, showing the snowfall coming straight from the North right through the southern tip of the lake and right onto us makes me feel that we Northern Indianans are getting royally fucked.  Or something!

Thanks, Mother (er, Father?) Nature!

February 3, 2009                          Valparaiso, IN

From what I have heard and read, nonbelievers (for want of a better word) live in the USA in greater numbers than the Jewish, Muslim and Buddhists combined.

Why aren't we heard from more?  Because we are a threatened minority, that's why!  What happened to Maryanne Moore (was that her name?) is a cautionary tale.

If you think your soul needs saving, go for a religion.  But if you want to save the environment, other people, and animal life go to the "nonbelievers."

Some of the most unChristian people I know call themselves Christians.

And a lot of people who think God disposes just don't want to take care of anything themselves.

February 2, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN

Oh, all those poor pathetic Statesmen who can't do their income taxes right!  They make so many "mistakes" and then have to grovel before all of us in repentence.

I think I'll just "forget" to pay my taxes!

Oh.  I just remembered.

I don't have any taxable income.

I guess I don't have any standing to be a rabblerouser!

The only way you can not pay sales tax is to not buy anything.

Well, hell, I'm getting pretty good at that, too!

February 1, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN

What is it about the magic three wishes of genies and lamps?  I think it is an admonition to wish carefully, because some things are more valuable than others.

It seems as if wealth is often high on the lists of people in fairy tales and real life.  But I'm thinking... if you have health, and love and equilibrium in your life, won't everything else you need follow?  Maybe not great wealth, but enough.

Alas, I'm talking about the USA only.  If I were living in some other countries, wealth might be my first wish, too!  In fact most of us Americans should figure we already have wealth.  Yep, we do.  So what should my three wishes be?  Hmm....

I think one of my wishes is to see something red and beautiful every day.  Yesterday I heard a cardinal singing his "Cheer, up up up up up" song and spotted him on a TV antenna.  He was a burning red splash in an all-white environment.

Today one of my pathetic barely green hibiscus plants bloomed a big bright red flower!  Way to go!  I guess the birds and the blooms can tell that the light is coming back!

Me too!  Maybe I'll put on a red sweater.  Wish I had one -

Oops!  There went one of my wishes.  At least I'll see red every day - if only in my closet!

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