In a shoe box of my grandmother’s photographs, I found a photo my father had taken of himself. With his camera on tripod, and a shutter release in his hand, my dad took a photograph of himself in the bathroom mirror. His tie is askew, and his mouth open slightly, his gaze says, “Okay, let’s try it.” There is no mugging for the camera. No posing. For Dad, this was pure experimentation. And as an amateur photographer myself, I completely understand that compulsion. And that was Dad: Infinitely curious, always wanting to learn something new and expand his world.

My father was a whistler, and sitting on his lap while he watched the Friday night fights, he taught me to whistle too. My daughter, Alison, inherited the “whistle while you work” gene from Dad.

My dad taught me to ride a bike. And he also taught me to be brave. If something in life knocks you down, get back up. Try again. Keep going. And yet, he never exactly said that to us. He just lived it. And he expected us to do the same.

But when I think of my dad, I keep coming back to this word: Special.

As some of you know, and many of you don’t, I did not have the privilege of spending a lot of my childhood years in my father’s presence. So the moments I did have feel like precious jewels to me.

Special. My father always managed to make me feel special.

When he carried me around the hospital after I got my tonsils out, and he showed me the place where I was born, I felt special. And even though I demonstrated my life-long sensitivity to anesthesia by tossing my breakfast all over him, he did not get upset.

Special. Even when I’d done something to disappoint him.

When I was about five or so, Kurt and I got in trouble for doing something we’d specifically been told NOT to do. A neighbor’s yard had a fence that butted right up against a concrete drainage ditch. A tumble off the wrong side of that fence meant the difference between a broken arm and something far more serious. We had been told, in no uncertain terms, to stay off that fence. Needless to say, Kurt and I didn’t listen, and Dad caught Kurt and me red-handed. He blew his stack and marched us home. First up for the spanking was Kurt, and then came my turn. My first, and only, spanking from my father.

Afterward, he sat me on his lap, we talked . . . probably about the seriousness of the crime. I’m really not sure. But what I do remember is that, rather than releasing me to sniffle in my shame, my Dad taught me how to tell time. No really! He got a clock, and moved the hands around, and taught me. I don’t know how long it took. But I walked out of that room with the feeling that though I’d really messed up, all was forgiven, and in my little girl heart, I knew Dad thought I was smart.

When we’d take a picture together, and he’d wrap his arm around me, I felt special. When he called me “sister” when he spoke of me to my four brothers, I felt special. When he walked me down the aisle, and danced with me to Frank Sinatra’s “The Second Time Around,” I felt so very special. For us, second chances meant so much.

I loved the way his face would light up when I would see him again after a long absence, and the way he would look at me and blow me a kiss when we said good-bye. Oh man, did that make me feel special.

As a little girl, I wanted to believe, because I was his only daughter, that I held a special place in my father’s heart. I realize now that Dad’s heart was so big, that there was always room for all of us. And always room for one more, and another, and another.

As I tried to teach my daughter: Love is not a pie. When you give your love to one, it does not diminish your capacity to love another. Love is an ever-expanding force that grows as we give it away.

My father lived that every day of his life.

Social Security and the CPI Cuts: A Solution to a Bogus Non-Crisis

Originally posted on Mike the Mad Biologist:


Very few scientists or science writers are so wealthy that they can ignore what happens to Social Security, so you might want to read this. Once again, despite its immense unpopularity, our political betters including some Democrats and the Obama administration, are talking about long-term cuts in Social Security. Essentially, by switching to a new cost-of-living formula, the chained CPI, in real dollar terms, Social Security payments twenty years from now would be about twenty percent lower. Keep in mind that the average monthly benefit is $1,203.72, so have fun knocking twenty percent off of that. The maximum monthly benefit is $2,513. By the way, to receive the maximum benefit you have to retire at seventy, not sixty five.

So if we’re going to cut what are pretty meager benefits, we better have a damn good reason. If you follow this at all, you’ve probably read…

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Five Reasons Senator Heller’s Vote Is No Surprise


Dean Heller has GOT to go.

Originally posted on Desert Beacon:

Heller 2Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) was one of 18 members of the United States Senate to vote against a bill to end the government shutdown, and to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of default. [roll call 219] This comes as no surprise. Absolutely no surprise.

For all of Senator Heller’s posturing as Mr. Moderate, his voting record has been indicative of a banner representative of Tea Party America.

#1.NO on the bill to avoid default and end the government shutdown. (H.R. 2775)  Roll Call 219.  Why would anyone be  surprised? Senator Heller also voted against the bill to end the 2011 stalemate.  [RGJ 8/11] In the 2011 vote Senator Heller was one of 26 members voting to dive over the edge; in 2013 he was one of 18.

#2.  NO on the TARP bill.  Otherwise known as the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, and…

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My letter to Mark Amodei

Dear Representative Amodei,

I feel like I shouldn’t even bother writing this letter, because while you are technically my “representative” I don’t feel that you represent me, or most of the people in your district. You do represent the most extreme of your party, but the average Nevadan, who values their privacy and independence, you do not.  You call for smaller government, except where it concerns women’s most private and intimate and heartbreaking decisions. So I fear this appeal will fall on deaf ears.

But I’m going to try anyway. I am writing to ask that you vote NO on the Trent Franks bills banning abortion nationwide after 20-weeks.

These are not decisions that politicians should be making. These are decisions that should be done privately, not with the state sitting in the room.

That’s it. I’m not going to go into anything else. Please be the small-government conservative you claim to be. Keep your eyes and laws out of our doctor’s offices and out of our wombs.

No need to reply. I’ll see your vote. That will be all the answer I need.

We tried to tell you

Hey, anyone remember back in 2001, when a lot of us objected to the Patriot Act being ramrodded through Congress, and only ONE (1) senator (Russ Feingold) voted against it? And then again, when it came up for renewal (twice – 2006 and 2011) and “expanded” and AGAIN, a bunch of us screamed bloody murder? Y’all remember that?

You remember librarians refusing to turn over library borrowing records? You remember shrugging and saying, “I’ve got nothing to hide?”

NSA letters?

Warrant-less wiretaps?

Well, don’t be surprised by this. You let government step on “others” civil liberties, they’re gonna step on yours as well.

White House defends NSA phone records collection as ‘critical tool’

Some related posts from the archives:

Where were you? UPDATED

We do?

Transparency my ass

Of Straw Men and Human Rights

Honestly, I could link all day! I have 112 posts in the “Civil Liberties” category.

A Teacher’s Life | Diane Ravitch’s blog

The difference between accountability in private industry and the way teachers are evaluated in our public schools, from a teacher who has been in both places:

I was evaluated once per year in my previous job and had the option to join a union but was not required. I signed a contract each year which I had to negotiate with my immediate superior and the corporate lawyers. That was not easy and I got eaten alive on a few occasions by their New York lawyers. I was evaluated by my superior strictly on my performance in my job and how he as a professional in the same field thought I did.

If I had to base my pay and job security on one test given to a group of 7th and 8th graders who knew nothing about how I did my job, I would have left sooner. I watch my students take some of the state mandated tests and cringe when I see them drawing dot to dot puzzles on a scantron or sleeping during a timed portion of the test. That’s supposed to be a fair evaluation of my performance? No parent, no administrator  no other teacher will see that student’s indifference because I’m the one proctoring the test and I can’t influence them in my room while they are testing. They will only see the final numbers or the media spin on the scores.

via A Teacher’s Life | Diane Ravitch’s blog.

Mother’s Day wasn’t meant to honor mothers, but to end war

The original intent of Mother’s Day wasn’t about brunch, flowers, or Kay’s Jewelers.


Note: I originally posted this in 2010. As our leaders rattle the sabers once more (Syria, North Korea), and the glorification of war appears to go on unabated, I think this bears repeating. 

Original post: 

As a mother, and a human being who is weary of war, how I wish that on Mother’s Day we would, for at least one day of the year, remember the ravages of war.

The original Mother’s Day was proclaimed by Julia Ward Howe in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

The horrors of the Civil War even changed those the conflict made famous. Speaking to a graduating class of military cadets years later, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman uttered his famous truth about the nature of warfare as part of a rebuke to the era’s “chicken-hawks,” people who call for war without having experienced it.

“I confess without shame that I am tired and sick of war,” Sherman said. “Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded, who cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is Hell.”

By 1870, Julia Ward Howe had been deeply affected both by the ongoing agonies of Civil War veterans and the carnage occurring overseas in the Franco-Prussian War. Though very short, that war resulted in almost 100,000 killed in action plus another 100,000 lethally wounded or sickened.

The First Mother’s Day

So, as a humanist who cared about suffering people – as well as a feminist and a suffragette who advocated social justice – Howe penned her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870 as an appeal to mothers to spare their sons and the sons of others from the depredations of war.

The Mother’s Day Proclamation was partly a lament for the useless deaths and partly a call to action to stop future wars. The call was directed, not to men, many of whom may have felt proud for their “service,” but to women, who often have proved more thoughtful and humane about issues of human suffering.

Then, on June 2, 1872, in New York City, Julia Ward Howe held the first “Mother’s Day” as an anti-war observance, a practice Howe continued in Boston for the next decade before it died out.

The modern Mother’s Day, with its apolitical message, emerged in the early Twentieth Century, with Howe’s original intent largely erased from the mainstream consciousness. Howe’s vision of an antiwar mother’s call to action was watered-down into an annual expression of sentimentality.

[ . . . ]

Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870:

Arise then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!

Say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.

Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.’

“From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, ‘Disarm, disarm!’

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor does violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Please read.

Posted in War