August blogging

I am on vacation, in an “undisclosed location”  – here in Vermont. This is supposed to be the relaxing part of the vacation, where we lie around the rented lake house, read, go out kayaking, do a little yoga, do a little walking, do a little cooking, and regenerate. As my mother says, “I don’t want to think or talk about that MAN while we’re here: it’s too upsetting.”

But Charlottesville happened, a deeply disturbing show of force by the neo Nazi movement (white supremacists, lovers of the Confederacy, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them: the nightmare of our country, America’s worst underpinnings), and it was barely denounced with a “both sides are bad” remark by He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. And reality intrudes on our escape. Forces one to sit up and take notice. Fills one with disgust.

There is something about August flashpoints: Mike Brown was shot in August, now the show of strength by the “Confederacy Should Have Won” Club. What is it about the month of August that emboldens the racists? Is it warm weather? Are they counting on good people being on vacation and checked out? (Could I come up with more examples if I googled? Maybe. But I’m on vacation and don’t want to, so my point will remain as thin as a whine …).

On the other hand, there is a little wooden sailboat next door this year, and someone takes it out and sails periodically – that person just sailed in to the dock with strong winds right now. And there are kayaks on the lake, and not too many motorboats (and no jet skis so far! yea!).  The violence here is perpetrated by a mink on passing ducklings.

In the world outside of here plenty of people are speaking out. And I am allowed a vacation once in a while.





Seeing Paul McCartney

I got to see Paul McCartney in concert the other night.  We drove out to the middle of nowhere, to an amphitheater built into a fake hill, and watched one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen.  I’ve been to rock shows where the audience sings every word of the songs of favorite songs; but by the end of this show, the audience seemed mostly in tune, harmonizing, and he had us singing the words to a song we didn’t know and had never heard before …

Paul looks amazing. He moves like a guy who is maybe 45, tops. He played a 3+ hour show without stopping. His voice is very strong, and only started getting scratchy/wobbly near the end … after the songs where he screams a bit.

It was like going to church, when church is good and how it should be. Everyone — all 28,000 of us — was there in the moment, enjoying it, uplifted by the music, feeling like we were in a special moment in time. Feeling grateful to be there, and that life had given us this gift.

He is a pure showman, is Paul, knowing what the audience wants and delivering it, with a mix of new stuff to keep himself from getting bored, and to stretch the audience’s imagination as well. He tells good, short stories from time to time, and the audience loves each one of them.

This show was one of the best-crafted rock-n-roll spectacles I have seen. The sets and lights and videography and camera work and fireworks were all beautiful and inspiring; even the photos of the Beatles managed to be nostalgic without being sentimental or saccharine. The back-up band was very good and having a good time. Paul is Paul.

I’m grateful to have a kid who said “we should go. How much is the limit to spend on tickets?” and organized us into going. I hate the process of buying tickets, but he manages it without anxiety.  I’m also grateful for a boyfriend willing to drive us there and back even though it was way past his bedtime by the time it came to drive home.

Good times.

Time it flies

It’s already mid-July.  Actually, nearer the end.  How did that happen? I looked and I last wrote an outraged post about Trump on May 27, and have written nothing since.

It’s not that Trump has done nothing outrageous since then. Almost daily you look at the news and go “wait what? what did he say?” along with a heaping of “no, surely he’s not that dumb oh god he’s that dumb” and “who could possibly believe anything this guy says?”

Work got busy. I became a candidate for a party office (i.e., not something that will bring me a paycheck should I be fortunate enough to win, and probably there will be no glory either). My health thing meandered through several doctors to a diagnosis (I’ll live).

It feels like there hasn’t been a lot of room for breathing. Or doing anything but breathe in one’s spare time (watching an entire season of Dr. Who was important … and if you are watching an entire season of the Doctor, maybe there isn’t that much time for other things).

So, updates:

  1. I’ll live in terms of my health.  I need to get more of the right kind of exercise (and who doesn’t, really?).  And probably lose some weight (always).
  2. I’ve read some books. Some were better than others. Most were life-affirming in some ways. And reading some light mysteries is good for my stress levels.
  3. Other people around me went/are going through their own health things. Those are their stories; but I care.  That goes for cats too.
  4. There’s a lot of politics going on right now. Maybe not where you are, but here in Illinois several important things have gone on a) they passed a budget which the governor vetoed and then they overrode — first time in 2 years we’ve had a budget; and b) governor candidates are all over the place wanting attention. Some are better than others; all deserve some attention.
  5. I’m running for state central committee.  This is the committee that votes to make Mike Madigan chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Put like that, it sounds fun, eh?
  6. My kid has a summer job. Yea! He has to apply for college next fall. (wait, what?)
  7. Saw Wonder Woman: loved it. My favorite comic book character, despite my current fondness for the Marvel cinematic universe.
  8. Work takes up a lot of time. Becoming a fan of universal basic income and universal health coverage.  A part-time job would work for me.
  9. Why is it so hard to think of things to cook for dinner?
  10. Trump and his coterie are still evil. So is Rauner. Why we think putting the wealthy in charge is a good idea is beyond me. Evil and incompetent, all in one. Blech.


Sickness and the government

I am not feeling particularly well. Something with my lungs, the doctors haven’t figured it out, and I don’t know when they will. Maybe they won’t. Maybe it will go away on it’s own. Maybe this will be an ongoing saga of me going to various doctors and doing research on my own until we figure out what’s wrong. Initial tests show nothing.

It’s the beginning of May now, and the next appointment to see the specialist I need to see is at the end of June, but I already had one with him for early July … so I kept that one. The horrors of waiting for appointments in a capitalist system of healthcare. Supply of doctors is kept artificially low by 1) lack of medical college slots and b) prohibitive expense of training. The result: doctor’s wages are very high, and you can’t get in to see the right one when you need to.

And then there’s my government, which seems to be working really hard to make me a pre-existing condition.  Well, since I’m female I already was. Now I have this thing, which may be nothing and may not be, and I’m sure down the line the Republicans in Congress will decide to make unknown pre-existing conditions subject to penalties as well. Because it’s not cost-effective if health insurance actually covers any of the diseases people actually have.

Although, to be fair, everyone hated this bill, insurance companies included. Doctors, nurses, health insurance companies (which have been thriving quite nicely under ACA, thank you very much), many religious communities, patients, constituents, governors, hospitals …. all hated it. So who was the intended audience? Crazy people? (and by crazy people I do not mean the mentally ill, who as far as I know also hated this bill since it cut their coverage for needed services as well).

I think the unintended consequence — one the insurance companies could foresee as well as anyone else — will be a huge push for a single-payer system. Medicare for all. Universal health care. Socialized medicine. All of it. And the insurance companies will be cut right out of the pie, and all because of Republicans in Congress who let greed overcome their common sense.

And maybe they felt backed into a corner: they had to repeal the ACA because they had said they were going to and they had tried so many times before. They spent so much time on their talking points about how evil it was they believed it themselves.

But the reaction of people back home should have been a tell. People are rising up, defending the ACA. People need to have pre-existing conditions covered. People need to have no caps on medical care. People like being able to keep their kids on their health insurance. There are many things people really like about the ACA, despite it’s faults. They want it fixed, not repealed.

They also didn’t want it replaced with a bill that is going to make their healthcare awful. They don’t want it replaced with something that is going to cause more deaths. They don’t want to go into bankruptcy just to pay for their health care.

The Republicans are severely underestimating the anger that is out there. The ACA isn’t perfect. Many people still can’t afford insurance. The premiums on the marketplace are still to high for many people, who fall in a gap between making enough money to afford it and making too much money to qualify for subsidies. But it made life a lot easier for a lot of people. A lot of the things that don’t work in the plan were trade-offs put in to appease Republicans, who then didn’t vote for it. Others were parts that the courts struck down, making the system much clunkier than designed.

What it isn’t, is universal health care. What it doesn’t fix is the problem of having a middle man between you and your health care, an insurance company who needs to make a profit off of denying health care to people who need it.

And the Republicans just took a step in pushing us toward it at a faster rate. Democrats who are looking to move up are talking about moving toward a universal health care/single payer system.  Democrats who are entrenched, who aren’t thinking about moving up the ladder, are resistant to the calls for single-payer — but Democrats who are ambitious have noticed declaring support for single-payer is an applause line.

Good luck with that healthcare bill you just passed and hung around your necks for the next election cycle, Republicans. You’re already afraid of your constituents in town halls — and really, finding people waving red cards at you threatening is beyond cowardly.

Stuck in your own bubble, what will you do when it bursts? Oh, right. You’ll be out of a job.

March for Science Chicago

Went to the March for Science Chicago today.  Saw many great signs — in fact, here’s one observation: scientists are big on clever signs, and not particularly into chanting.  So it was a quiet, polite, and civilized march.  Not as many came out as for the March for Women — but then, so much else is going on right now ….

Once again, a glorious day in Chicago for a protest march. Couldn’t ask for nicer. And we actually marched: it wasn’t just a stand. Marching is nice: a lovely walk with several thousand of your closest friends concerned about the same thing: data, the planet, evidence-based decision-making, climate change, the weather, new cures for whatever ails us, and so forth.

The fact that these marches happened all over the world is not just dismay over the current political situation in the United States — though that is a large part of it. It’s a global dismay that our dear leaders are not valuing science to any great degree. What is valued is money and corporate power.  Art and science are getting left behind.  And our world may not survive that choice.

When we can’t do anything about climate change at a governmental level, it’s left to individuals to make choices to protect the environment: and while individuals can do a lot, they cannot do it all. It is more powerful when the governments come in and prevent corporate entities (and themselves) from pushing harmful emissions into the air — and when the push for non-harmful, green efficiencies come not just from consumers but from government standards.

Plus, what good does cutting funds to the Center for Disease Control bring? More people dying from preventable illnesses, less tracking of epidemics, less support for communities experience epidemics: more death.

Add in the EPA, the NIH, the NSF, NOAA, NASA … and the consequences are damning.  More people will die who needn’t have died. More people will have less quality of life than need be.

Bottom line, this world is going to suck if we don’t do something.  Stand up and march, write your legislators, stop using plastic bags, take public transportation, ride your bike — but we need to keep funding research and we need to have government regulation to prevent disaster.

The Dark Ages were not man’s finest hour. Let’s not return to them.

MFS 4 22 2017 DATA


There really isn’t enough time to read all the books, is there? There are so many books I would like to read, and then there are the books I think I should read … but there isn’t time. The books I should read get left on the shelf, because I have too little time to do anything but read for pleasure.

Books are always a guilty pleasure. Guilt because somehow we are always that child reading in the dark, after being put to bed, crawling out of bed to read by a night light or the light from the hall, or a flashlight under the covers. It’s that time you are supposed to be socializing, but would rather be in a corner with a book.

As a child, I brought a book with me everywhere. Just in case. Just in case there was a chance to read. Just in case I needed to have something to do while the adults talked. Just in case there was waiting time. Just in case I was bored and could retreat into a much more interesting world. I read in class (I finished my work early, so there was always time to read while others continued to work).  I read as much as possible. I found libraries, I frequented used book shops, I finally found a part-time job in a local bookstore as a teenager.

As an adult, you are expected to socialize at parties rather than retreat into a corner with a book. It’s one of the disappointments of adult life (indeed, there are many). And I can’t finish my work early and sit there and read the rest of the day: I have to figure out something else to do for my employer so my salary is justified …

As I did not find a job that pays me to read (oh, to be a researcher … to spend time in libraries during the day during the week … ), I have only my “free” time to read. Free of work, free of social life, free of political work, free of household maintenance, free to retreat into another world.

And so I read for pleasure. And I parse books by how much comfort they will bring my life, whether my mind will be stretched in good ways or beyond what I can bear at this juncture. I begrudge the time: I look at my bookshelves, at the unread books, at the old friends I would like to re-read, and at the ones that would teach me something new – and I would like the time to read and re-read them all.

Where can I get a job that pays me to read the lovely books I don’t have time to read?

Snow day

So I worked from home today.

I didn’t intend to. I got up, showered, dressed, put on boots, got my kid up, made two lunches, and went outside.

I cleared about 4 inches of snow off my car. Maybe 5, if we’re generous. The kid came along, got in, and we drove to the bus stop. I did not have to shovel the car out of the parking space. There just wasn’t that much snow.

Drove out of the hood on the sketchy side streets. This is fine: side streets are the last to be plowed, that makes sense. Least traffic, last plowed.  But then I got to the main roads: and they did not seem to be plowed or salted either. Lots of cars on them, just after 7 am, but no plows, no salt trucks.

I was hearing on the radio the Kennedy was over 2 hours in from O’Hare. That is absurd. It’s a ridiculous time. I thought to myself, well take local roads, maybe go southeast on Milwaukee. It’s got to be moving faster, right?

Every major road I was on was a mess. The great northwest side of Chicago had no roads plowed.  I saw one truck out: going north on Pulaski as I was going south. That’s it.

At some point as I was white-knuckling it down a major artery of the great city of Chicago I thought: I’m not going to make it in. I have to turn around and go home, or I’ll be on the road ALL day trying to get to the southside.  What is it, about 17 or so miles from home? Yeah, not going to make it.

So I spent two hours on the roads this morning, during rush hour, to get as far as Belmont before heading home. Not quite three miles. And back. So … six miles in two hours.

Now the really horrible part of this was that it was completely unnecessary. I have made it into work in far more snow than this, in far colder temperatures than this, in far worse conditions. The roads weren’t bad because of the snow.

The roads were bad because of choices made by our elected officials. There was a dearth of snowplows not because Chicago – a northern city – doesn’t have snowplows. Nor do we lack salt at this point in the season: we had no snow at all in January and February which is exceedingly rare (and very weird and unsettling).  The weather forecast was dead on: there was plenty of warning that the weather would be exactly what it was.

No, there were no snow removal trucks out because our Mayor is awful. Maybe he didn’t want to spend the money on overtime for the Streets and Sanitation guys, because if he got them up before dawn to take care of the roads before rush hour, the city would pay overtime.

Or maybe he’s getting back at the aldermen of the northwest side (and south side, and west side, and …) for not supporting him enough and raising questions about budgets.

Or maybe he’s just incompetent and hired incompetent people to run Streets and San. He doesn’t really care about actually making the city livable for it’s people. It’s not what he considers an important part of his job portfolio.

But wait, you say. The city isn’t responsible for the Kennedy and that was terrible. Yes, the expressways are under the purview of the State of Illinois, and the responsibility of IDOT, so not the Mayor’s fault there.

So let’s move on to our stubborn governor, who can’t get a budget passed in Springfield because he is too bone-headed to know you have to compromise with legislatures, equal branches of government being what they are and all. He is not a CEO, he is a governor. Not the same thing. State government is not a business, and can’t be run like one.

I’m guessing that IDOT has a cash-flow problem, like every other state agency, and wasn’t prepared for this snowstorm. Or perhaps, like the mayor, the governor put incompetent people in charge. Being a Republican, there’s no reason to suppose he believes government should work for the people. But you’d think he’d care that his buddies in the northern and very wealthy suburbs could drive their BMW’s into the City to get to the office …

Or maybe not. Maybe he just wants to ram home how disfunctional state government is, so he can continue to dismantle it.

I’ve gotten to work plenty of times in worse weather than this. The fact that we had the worst travel times EVER this morning was no accident and not a result of the relatively minor snowfall we had (4-5 inches? In Chicago? Pah. Trivial). That was a direct result of the choices made by the Mayor and the Governor.  Equally incompetent, equally smug and ego-driven.

The Twin Disasters.


Life feels a bit unhinged lately.  This starts at the top – Our current president, whether or not he is personally unhinged, leads in a very chaotic and unhinged manner. Chaotic evil, one might say, if one were using Dungeons and Dragons terminology. His view of the world seems dark and nightmarish, easily startled by the shadows in the night.  Or in his mind.  Or both.

His team would probably have an easier time of it if they could wean him from TV.  I think there’s a metaphor in there somewhere: we’ve worried so much about how much TV is good for our children, it turns out that the real problem is in how much TV we allow our elders. It seems to be rotting any number of brains.

The executive orders coming out of the White House are nuts. The way ICE is acting, rounding up law-abiding folks, interrogating people as they step off planes – it’s like a whole bevy of stupid bullies suddenly got the green light to act out their tough guy fantasies. None of this has anything to do with keeping us safe: it’s all about pretending to be macho.

And it’s not rational. It’s not based on anything other than a vigilante instinct, and a desire to seem more masculine. So sad.





And I’m not even talking about politics

Some days it all seems like a bit much.

When it doesn’t seem possible to make one’s step count.

When your ankles hurt.

When you didn’t sleep well last night.

When your diet isn’t as pristine and perfect as you would wish, and the desire to eat right, eat sustainably, ea healthy, and shed pounds is a constant reminder of imperfection.

When the next thing on your list is either cleaning the cat box – or paying bills. Hmm: which to do?

When it’s your only brother’s birthday, and you have not gotten him a gift or wished him a happy birthday as of yet.

When you are worried about the kid, and what happens next.

When your blog post won’t save and won’t post, and won’t tell you why …

When the weather sucks, with that cold rain and snow vibe.  Well, it’s March, what did you expect? Except we didn’t really get February, what with that whole global warming thing – so it feels a bit depressing that we’re getting the blah of March.

And you try to be grateful about not driving to work today, and having a nice warm house, and an evening of precious alone time to oneself: to eat for just oneself, to read, perchance to watch just what you want without reference to others desires and needs ….

And still … blah. Blah.

Tomorrow is another day. Right?

The things you do to survive

I think somewhere out there there’s a triad of needs (and my kid, who is taking “adulting 101” at his high school, probably knows the answer to who dreamt it up and what the real theory is) – first comes the most basic: food and shelter and companionship. Then comes the other needs: the things that feed our souls, like art (for some), religion (for some), and service to others (the fine art of being needed). After that, on the pyramid of needs, comes all the STUFF we want and for which our real need is dubious at best.

I find myself thinking about this lately, because in this first year of Trump as our President, there is a need to do it all, to be constantly outraged, to be on the alert, to not let them get away with ANYTHING without protest – their ideas are so mean, so cruel, and so useless – it feels like it all has to be resisted at every moment.

But we can’t resist constantly: we’ll burn out.  And so there are the things you do to live another day and fight – the things that revive one and bring back the energy.

For me, there are a few things that are sustaining me: reading (preferably fiction), cooking and thinking about transforming my eating to a more plant-based diet, and art.

I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” which is about her family retreating to a family farm and making a vow to eat local for a year – preferably from their own farm, but also supporting local farms for the things they didn’t grow themselves.  It’s a fact-filled book that will fill you with both joy and fear – but this isn’t a book review.

Living in the city, as I do, I don’t have garden space — I do have a porch, but my porch is more suitable to flowers than vegetables, between the west-facing aspect and the marauding squirrels (the squirrels are fierce in my ‘hood). Herbs are really the edible of choice, and I grow them and horde them  until they flower …

Her descriptions of the joy of cooking food, cooking as a communal activity fill me with some kind of nostalgia – for me, cooking is a solitary activity, mostly because my own kitchen is so small. And I get crabby when there is an other who gets in the way. But I do like to talk to folks when I cook – as long as that other is out of the way.

And her book is clarifying some problems with the way most of us consume food, and why Americans are so fat and unhealthy – and why family farms are dying off. So, I’m resolving to spend more time at the farmer’s market, and trying to eat more locally, and cook more.

Tonight a ward committeeman who I like and admire is hosting an event discussing immigration, and has a great panel.  Instead, I am going to a panel at the library featuring black playwrights – opting for the politics of art over the politics of deportation. Why? Because the art will feed the soul a bit as it brings up issues we need to wrestle with.

Since January, I have found my involvement with art and artists to be the most sustaining work I do: whether it is performing myself (rare these days) or going to see others perform or talk about art. Even though it is frequently political – it is NOT escapism – the performative nature allows for a communal engagement and response that is somehow more affirming.

The point is: there are many forms of being engaged. Supporting local artists, like supporting local food, is an act of resistance in and of itself – as this administration moves to cut all funding to the arts (like it would like to do to science as well), local artists will need our support more than ever.