Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

Consent, Consensual, Consensus

Friday, December 1st, 2017

In The News

I’ve been reading with great interest – no, make that ‘with great dismay’ – all of the commentary in the news and even on FaceBook about sexual harassment.  As the percentages of women who claim they have been sexually harassed have escalated – I think it’s up to 60% now – my first reaction was, “I wonder why I’ve never had that problem.”  In a perverse sort of way, I almost felt left out.

But, as I read more and more of what women are ‘revealing’ on sites such as #MeToo, my thoughts have changed yet again.  What I think of as ‘sexual harassment’ (Wikipedia: typically of a woman – in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks) is apparently only part of the issue.

Long-Ago Standards?

For one thing, the standard ‘workplace/professional’ piece of the equation no longer seems to matter – unless you count activities such as attending a fraternity party to be ‘work’ – and the woman’s own behavior/condition (such as being too drunk to walk) also seems to be but a minor factor.  Consensual no longer appears to be a biggee except if agreement is explicit and verbal – maybe even written!

So… what happened to good old-fashioned “flirting” as we called it in the olden days?  I always thought that was a two-way street.  If it led to advances that were unwanted, you said so.  If saying so was overridden, then (and only then), you had a legitimate complaint.  Granted, in those olden days, few women under such circumstances actually spoke out and, if they did, they weren’t taken seriously.   Which brings us to now…

So… where is the line?  If it’s closer to the ‘harmless’ flirtation now that it was forty years ago, do women have the right to speak out?  Are today’s standards retroactive?  Should good men’s reputations and careers be put on the line because we women now feel that we can speak out?

Today’s Fashions?

That seems to be the consensus.  I think there is a basic flaw here but I’m confused as to what it is.  Perhaps there is more than one piece of skewed thinking.  I’m still stuck back at the decision of my own alma mater to follow the (then) current trend and make dormitories co-ed.  That happened a few years after I graduated.  I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now. At a time in young people’s lives when their hormones are raging and they are still actively trying to develop their minds and characters… why would such a decision be made?

And don’t get me started on women’s fashions…  In what universe is showing cleavage and nipples not an invitation of some sort?  It’s all very confusing to me and I have no answers at all.  But from my old lady perspective, what’s happening does seem to a sort of mass hysteria with retrospective overtones.  I wonder how my many-times forbear, Salem Witch Mary Esty, would view it.

Coming in January

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017 Online Photo

Nyel isn’t a guffawing sorta guy.  He isn’t even a chuckler.  So, when I woke up at 5:15 this morning to the sound of a true belly laugh from the hospital bed a few feet away, I was more than curious.

As it turned out, he was catching up on the early a.m. news on his cell phone and a headline story from the UK’s Daily had set him off: Want to know how good you are in bed? Smart condom will rate sexual performance including speed of thrusts and duration.

The article went on to say: Makers of the world’s first ‘smart condom’ have finally revealed a look at the ‘game-changing’ new device, which boasts the ability to detect STIs, assess performance, and even calculate how many calories you burned during sex.

A “smart” condom!  Why am I not surprised?  With smart cars, smart phones, and a lot of smartass inventors, it was only a matter of time.  The wearable (or wearable tech), as it is called, costs $80 and, according to its makers, British Condoms, it’s lightweight and water resistant – and, with a nano-chip and Bluetooth capabilities built in, it can provide a range of statistics to help improve the wearer’s sex life.

And, in case you wondered: The device also records the amount of calories burned, different positions, and can detect chlamydia and syphilis. All information will be kept anonymous – but users ‘will have the option to share their recent data with friends, or, indeed the world.’


As interesting as the article, itself, were some of the online comments.  Is it reusable? was right at the top of the list.  Why? and Who cares? were right up there, too – probably from female readers. But, the makers say, they’ve already had 900,000 inquiries.  Unfortunately, the i.Con will not be available for this year’s man who has everything… Perhaps for a Happy Valentines Day instead?


Have I turned into an ostrich yet?

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

A few weeks back, the front-page headline in our local paper said, “County’s cost of living up 66% in 10 years” – not a surprising fact to this household, given our diminishing ‘disposable’ income.  Still, it made me wonder what the cumulative cost of living increase had been in our Social Security payments.  When you are on a fixed income, those teeny tiny yearly increases make all the difference.

So, I added up the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) we’ve been allowed since 2006 and find that our income has actually gone up 25% in the same amount of time – a net loss in buying power of 41% (unless my math has lapsed into one of those sacks of apples and oranges.)  My reaction is two-fold:  on the one hand, why am I not surprised; on the other, no wonder I’ve gradually stopped thinking about traveling – even those trips that are for the elderly and infirmed.  It’s probably a good thing that the ‘extras’ in life are gradually dropping off our radar anyway.

It also occurs to me that this is yet another example of looking the other way as life envelops you.  I can’t quite think of how to remedy the situation – sign-carrying and letter-writing don’t do much good when it comes to government-anything.  Waste of energy and stamps.  So, maybe I should just bury my head in the ever-present beach sand like the proverbial ostrich.

But, wait!  I just learned that ostriches don’t do that at all.  According to the San Diego Zoo site, “Animals and Plants” – Contrary to the popular myth, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand! When an ostrich senses danger and cannot run away, it flops to the ground and remains still, with its head and neck flat on the ground in front of it.  Because the head and neck are lightly colored, they blend in with the color of the soil. From a distance, it just looks like the ostrich has buried its head in the sand, because only the body is visible.

Yikes!  Unfortunately, that sounds about right.  Many’s the time I’ve had to quell the urge to throw myself on the ground and lie perfectly still until it all goes away.   Maybe we should all try it.  It could be the newest form of protest…

Columbus Day and Other Stuff We’ve Ruined

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Christopher Columbus Day

Tomorrow is Columbus Day.  In the parts of California where I grew up – Alameda in elementary grades and San Rafael in middle and high school – October 12th was school as usual.  But it was a holiday complete with parades and no school in nearby San Francisco, a fact that we kids always felt was unfair.  We were told it was because of the large Italian population in The City which, of course, made no sense at all to me and my friends.

So, if the October 12th fell on a weekday, we who were school-bound were provided with forty minutes or so of activities centering around the old rhyme “Columbus sailed the ocean blue, In fourteen hundred ninety-two.”  Somehow, the teachers managed, through skits or stories or bulletin boards, to give us a sense of pride in our  country’s beginnings.  I, for one, loved Columbus Day and all the history that went with it.

Indigeneous Peoples Day

Little did I know that the history, or at least the versions of it we were taught, was all wrong.  Now that more than 500 years have passed since he sailed the ocean blue, Columbus is disparaged as much as he is praised. Beginning in 1992 in Berkeley, California, cities started renaming the second Monday in October “Indigenous People’s Day” to shift focus from the conqueror to the conquered.

And, of course, the new awakening of our consciousness did not stop with Columbus. In 1995, James W. Loewen’s book, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, reviewed the common misstatements and misrepresentations in the retelling of American history in high school history texts. Not only did Loewen, a sociologist and history professor, point out the often deceptive and inaccurate teachings about America’s history, but he criticized the texts for a tendency to elevate American historical figures to the status of heroes, unintentionally giving students the impression that these figures were superhumans who live in the irretrievable past.

Wonder Woman

Damn!  Who knew?  No more heroes like Columbus or Massasoit or Paul Revere?  Not to mention George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or Sacagawea?  Next, they’ll be telling me that we have to turn those historical personages in for the ‘real’ superheroes like Spiderman or Wonder Woman.  I despair.

I’m still thinking about celebrating Columbus Day tomorrow… I wonder if Jayne is back to making sandwiches at Bailey’s Café.  I think having one of her fabulous “Italians” would be the perfect tribute!

Not Even Close!

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Thank Goodness

After the ‘usual’ depressing state-of-the-world discussion with friends yesterday afternoon, I re-read Shelley Pollock’s even more depressing column in last week’s Observer:  “Hold on to your hats… I mean your wallets! Painful changes ahead for Washington insurance customers.”

Her commentary was about health insurance for 2018 – in particular, individual health insurance and, even more particularly, individual health insurance for those under the age of 65 in Pacific County.  Her information in one word:  Scary!

I have long been grateful that, in addition to Medicare,  we have coverage – excellent, affordable coverage – under the Washington State Teachers’ Retirement System.  I am even more thankful that, during the many years I was a public-school teacher and was part of the negotiations process, our bargaining teams never lost sight of our retired teachers.  Otherwise…  But I can hardly bear to consider ‘otherwise.’

Thank Goodness Some More!

Shelley’s column was enlightening in other ways, too.  Take the income requirements, tax credits, and out-of-pocket maximums she talks about for two 64-year-olds.  Not that we are, or have been, that young for a long time.  But, I got stuck on the income amount in her example – “$6,000 a month combined.”  Say what?  I had to pause in my reading for a bit.  My mind just stalled out.  All I could think of was “not even close” and “thank goodness for all those years I taught and paid into our future coverage.”

We think of ourselves as ‘middle class’ income-wise.  If that $6,000 figure is what middle class incomes are these days, it would appear that we are not in that category.  So, I went to Google and asked, “What is middle class?’  Apparently, there could be as many as five qualifiers:  income, wealth, consumption, aspiration, and demographics.  I wish I could say, “Bingo!  Two out of three!”  But, according to the information Google had for me…’not even close’ remains the way it is for this household.

Tevye and Golda’s lyrics from “Fiddler on the Roof” come to mind – It doesn’t change a thing, but even so…  Only, it’s not really very ‘nice to know.’  Not even close.

Excuses and Reasons and Cop-outs, Oh My!

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

In Long Beach, WA

The front-page headline in yesterday’s Chinook ObserverFireworks flip-flop unlikely after survey.  The subheading:  Not a Ban, a Better Plan’s survey doesn’t sway Peninsula’s leaders.

Why am I not surprised?  Same old, same old.  Lots of rhetoric but no action by the leadership of our county.  Despite a 76.7 percent support for some sort of limits according to the informal survey by the local ‘Not a Ban, a Better Plan’ group, our leaders are not planning to take any action.

It seems to all boil down to the fact that there is “…no simple solution” according to one of our County Commissioners.  I don’t remember that the survey had anything to do with “simple.”  Once again, our leadership seems to be flummoxed by the complexities of ‘just say no.’

In Long Beach, CA

I am reminded of our County’s Comprehensive Zoning hearing that my folks attended back in the 1970s.  One of the proposals (which ultimately passed) was to number and alphabetize the streets on the Long Beach Peninsula.  My mother was appalled.  She hated the idea of getting rid of all the many traditional names like “Huckleberry Lane” and “Skating Lake Road.”  And she said so.

But, of course, our leadership prevailed.  “To make it easier for our EMTs” they said.  (That was in the days before we used fancy terms like ‘first responders.’)  “I just moved back to Oysterville from the San Francisco Bay Area,” my mom argued.  “San Francisco, as you might know, is quite a bit larger than the Peninsula.  They have never found a need to change their charming, old-fashioned street names, nor have there been any complaints from their emergency personnel.  Are you saying that our EMTs are not as smart as their EMTs?”

Successful Gun Amnesty Campaign, Austrailia

Well… there you have it.  The beat goes on.  Perhaps we need to wait until a real disaster occurs – like all the homes on the beach front go up in flames – for anything to change.  Although… maybe not.  Our national leadership certainly hasn’t pointed the way in the matter of disasters and law-making.  “1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days” here in America according to theguardian.  Meanwhile, Congress hasn’t passed a single piece of gun control legislation, beyond voting in 2013 to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms, which could potentially bypass security checkpoints at airports and other locations.

But, I digress.

When public pools were not an option…

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

FDR, October 27, 1944

I don’t remember if there was more than one public swimming pool in Alameda when I was growing up.  All I know is that I wasn’t allowed to go.  Not in all the years we lived there – from 1941 to 1947.  The reason I couldn’t go, no matter how hot it was in the summer, all boiled (ahem!) down to one word: polio.  Or, if you wanted to sound important, two words:  infantile paralysis.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was our president when we moved to Alameda, just a few months ‘before Pearl Harbor.’  (That’s how we marked time in those years:  ‘before Pearl Harbor’ or ‘during the Depression’ or ‘after World War Two.)  President Roosevelt was a polio victim and, in an effort uncover its mysteries and to lend a helping hand to Americans suffering from the disease, he founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938.

Football Fans in Indiana

Every school child knew of his Foundation.  We called it “The March of Dimes.  And until Jonas Salk, a grantee of some of the Foundation’s funding, developed his famous vaccine and it became available to the public in 1955, we gave our pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters to the effort.  And, in my case anyway, no going to public swimming pools.  That’s where (I was taught) you were most likely to catch the dreaded disease.

I thought about that a lot yesterday.  I wondered if our present-day ‘concert culture’ will change now that it seems to be a focal point for shooters.  I have never gone to a concert – never even been tempted. (Oh.  Maybe that’s a lie.  Maybe I went to a Grateful Dead concert at the Fillmore Auditorium in the 1960s.  If so, it wasn’t that memorable…) Nor have I gone to a football game since I graduated from college – or, indeed to any other venue where thousands of people gather.  I think I was adversely imprinted during my childhood – no public pools, no public gatherings. I wonder if I’m wrong not to feel deprived…

University of Michigan – Photo by Andrew Home

I’m also beginning to feel uncomfortable about going to malls, college campuses, government buildings and on and on.  And, I’m sick to the point of revulsion at the gun debates.  It took almost no time at all for the government and the airlines to put in massive security measures at airports all over the United States after 9/11.  Were there huge arguments then about our second amendment rights?  If there were, we seem to have gotten over it.  Why is it taking so long to solve the assault weapon problem?  There is absolutely no rhetoric/excuse/reason/argument that I’m willing to listen to anymore.  It’s no longer up for ‘discussion’ in my book.

Oh.  And BTW.  If you are tempted to tell (again!) ‘the other side’ of the gun story, do it on your own blog or your own FB site.  Not on mine.

Thou shalt not…

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

Painting by Hunter Esmon

I know that this knot in my stomach is a shared condition.  It’s the knot I wake up with every morning.  The knot that gets bigger every time I see or hear any news about America and its so-called ‘leadership’.  The knot that may never go away in my lifetime.  It’s not exactly that it’s contagious, but it’s a condition that many of us are experiencing these days.

It is a dense gathering there in the pit of my being – made up of despair and horror, of disbelief and outrage, and… of hate.  Yes, hate.  That may be the worst part of it.  There is no doubt in my mind that hate is an unhealthy emotion.

Not that there is a commandment about it.  There are ten clear ‘thou shalt nots’ but there is no “Thou shalt not hate.”  Even so, I was taught that hating is wrong.  Trying to fix a bad situation is right.  Trying to understand another’s point of view is right.  But… hating is wrong. I grew up and grew old in the belief that hating is wrong.

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch, 1893

Hate festers I was told.  It foments and gathers and leads to nothing good.  I still believe that.  But that knot of hate in my stomach not only persists – it grows.  It grows with each mention of “investigation” or promise of “plan to impeach” or commentary on “disarray.”  It grows with each tick of my grandfather’s clock and with each new and darker dawn that arrives.

Psychologists tell us that the antidote to hate is forgiveness.  Really?  I, for one, have no desire to forgive the perpetrators and perpetuators of the evils in our current Other Washington Leadership.  I don’t know the solution and I don’t buy into platitudes about being part of the problem if you aren’t working to solve it.  Unless you believe that speaking out helps.  Which I don’t but will no doubt continue to do.

And FYI – perhaps you remember those those letters I wrote to Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell on June 25th regarding the plight of our Hispanic neighbors (  I have never received an answer from either of those women.  Not from the Senator.  Not from the Representative.  Not a whisper.  Just sayin’…

Deferring Judgement

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Time and time again, I have found that my first knee-jerk impressions of things should be kept to myself.  And, time and time again, I have ignored that little voice in my head that says, “If you act on this impulse, Sydney, you will be sorry.”  I don’t know why I go ahead and act anyway.  It is a curse.

So… here I go again.  This time it’s about the invitation to an exhibition received a day or so ago from the venerable Washington State Historical Society.  I truly have no idea what the exhibit will be about beyond what the (to me) very startling announcement said:  “GLASNOST & GOODWILL:  Citizen Diplomacy in the Northwest.”

On the reverse, an explanation to “Dear Members and Friends:  You are invited to a special evening preview of our newest exhibit…an in-depth exploration of how citizen diplomacy in Washington and the greater Northwest contributed to the thaw of the Cold War.”

Say what?!?  They’ve got to be kidding!  I really couldn’t give a fig about the contribution of the NW or any other place to the thawing of the Cold War – not right now.  Not when things look to be pretty dicey with Russia.  What is this all about, anyway?  A plea for us Northwesterners to be diplomatic once again?  Is it a commentary on our present-day difficulties with our democratic voting process and it’s apparent interference by Russia?  What…?

Like most people born around the time of World War II, I lived through the Cold War years.  I remember the bomb shelter our neighbors built.  I remember the faculty meetings when I was first teaching during which we were told that if worse-came-to-worse during school hours, our place was with the children until each and every one could be collected by a parent.  Since my husband and I were both teachers… what of our own children?  Oh yes… I well remember the anxieties of the Cold War.  Years and years and years of wondering about that red telephone at the White House.

The invitation further says, “Join us for [a] presentation by special guest Dr. Richard Scheuerman,  Professor Emeritus at Seattle Pacific University, about the remarkable 200 year history of friendship between the peoples of Russia and America.”  All very well and good, say I.  But, what about that old standby, “timing is everything”?

I know I should go and see, first-hand, what the exhibit and the presentation are all about.  Will I?  Maybe.  It depends what else is happening on October 5th…  I’m not feeling very compelled to learn about our historic relationship with Russia.  Maybe later when we’ve managed to sort out a few pressing domestic problems.  Maybe.

Better Late Than Never!

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

At 9:30 yesterday morning, we were in the midst of an appointment with Nyel’s cardiologist in Portland.  We were listening to the cardio-team’s plan for the next few months which, all things being equal, will lead to a mitral valve replacement before Christmas.  The last thing on my mind was “Perspectives” – Joan Herman’s KMUN radio show which was airing at that very moment – the program for which Erin Glenn and I had been interviewed ten days previously.

I confess that the program has entirely escaped my mind until I did some “catch-up” in mid-afternoon. We had reached home and I was checking on phone, email, and FaceBook messages.  In the latter category was one from my friend Linda in Seattle:  ” I just listened to your interview on KMUN…well done! You’ve inspired me to get involved.”  Wow!

Joan Herman

It wasn’t until this morning, though, that I found time to go to the link and listen, myself, to what we had talked about on Joan’s show.  If you missed it, I highly recommend it, even though it is one of those “if I do say so, myself” situations.  The half hour show is well organized (Thanks, Joan!) and informative (Thanks, Erin!) and, despite my role as a participant, I thoroughly enjoyed being a listener!  You can catch it at:

I’ve been trying to find a way to also give readers links to my “Stories From The Heart” that are running weekly in the Chinook Observer but I could only locate a link that works for the current week’s story and sidebar:

Either my techie skills are too limited, or you have to be a subscriber in order for the links to the previous six stories to work.  Sorry about that!  I’d love for them to find a wider readership! The overwhelming positive response from many folks here on the Peninsula has been gratifying.  As for those who are not so positive – all I can do is urge readers and writers to research their “facts” before they embarrass themselves by responding publicly.  A robust dialogue on big issues is great, but perpetuating rumors and misinformation… not so much.