It IS summertime…FINALLY!!

My inner sun-worshipper is elated – we’ve finally gotten some real summertime weather!  Temperatures have hit 80 degrees for the past three days, and the forecast shows that we can expect at least another full week of the same.  Aaaaaahhhh…it’s refreshing!  My solar batteries needed some serious recharging, LOL

http://www.kgw.com/weather/7-day-forecast?radar=86422607&img=0&c=y

Time to hop on the Harley and cruise around!  The coast is only a two-hour ride away, and there’s a great campsite that I love to stay at – Barview Jetty, which is between Tillamook and Cannon Beach.  The Columbia River Gorge is fun to ride through as well; if you start out in Portland, OR, take the Historic Columbia River Highway up to Vista House at Crown Point, then roll down to the Bridge of the Gods and cross over to Washington State and cruise Highway 14 in either direction.  If you head east, you’ll end up at Maryhill Winery – just past that is the Stonehenge replica and war memorial, which overlooks some beautiful scenery on a clear summer day.

Image, 2004, Crown Point and Vista House, click to enlarge

I’m thinking of heading to the ‘Allure of the Automobile’ show at the Portland Art Museum – 13 beautiful cars on display through September 11th, and they’re worth checking out!

Have a great weekend, dear readers!

Talkin’ sports: Football AND baseball!

Yes, I love sports!  Football (American) and baseball mainly, but I’ve been seen at a couple of hockey games, and plan on taking in a couple of European football (soccer) matches in the near future.  Watching rugby and Aussie rules football is also a treat – when the New Zealand All-Blacks do the haka, I stand up and scream!

First, the baseball update – the Seattle Mariners have FINALLY ended their 17-game losing streak, with a fantastic win over the New York Yankees yesterday!  Final score was 9 – 2; Mariners’ box score was 9 runs on 17 hits, with one error.  Yankees had 2 runs on 6 hits, with one error.  ‘King’ Felix Hernandez came through on the mound with his pitching, while the bats of Ichiro Suzuki and Dustin Ackley, among others, were exploding and on fire!  True, it won’t help the Mariners as far as their playoff hopes go; those were dashed when the streak was at 10.  They had been only 2 – 1/2 games out of first place back at the beginning of July, now they’re near (if not in) last place in the American League West.  Still, the win was beautiful!

http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2011_07_27_seamlb_nyamlb_1&mode=wrap&c_id=sea

Now, on to (American) football!  There had been talk swirling around about a football strike and the fact that the football season may start late, if at all – fortunately, negotiations were successful and the season will begin per usual…life is sweet!  Since football begins around the same time that baseball is ending, I didn’t want too much of a lapse between the two sports.  I will be interesting to see who makes it to the World Series!

Public Assistance Fraud

Across the country, a number of people receive public / governmental assistance, in the form of food stamps – not really stamps at all; before being phased out, they were booklets of ‘food coupons’ that looked like Monopoly moneyand came in denominations of 5, 10, or 20 ‘dollars’.  The new food stamps are Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, which can be used at ATMs if they have cash benefits on them.  I worked at a county office here in Oregon a few years ago, and one of my duties was programming PINs and distributing these cards to qualified applicants.  The specific office I worked at is called the Aging & Disability Services (ADS) by the county administrative branch, which means that I dealt with the physically and mentally disabled of all ages, and elderly/retired persons who were drawing Social Security benefits.

One commonality I noticed in my 8 months of employment, was the frequency of certain individuals who, on the 1st of every month, would show up in the office with the claim that they had ‘lost’ their EBT card and needed a replacement – but, they always wanted to keep the same PIN – if their card had truly been lost or stolen, don’t you think they would have wanted a different one?  I guess if you’re handing over the card to your dealer, it makes it easy to just keep the same PIN!  I would give them the replacement card per Oregon law, as well as make an electronic note in their file regarding the date and time the replacement was issued, whether they wished the PIN changed or not, and the number of replacement cards issued to date.  I would make these notes in the hopes that their caseworker would see the pattern and keep tabs on it; I had always been under the impression that public employees were supposed to be on the front lines in fraud prevention.  Boy, was I wrong about that!  Even when I flat-out told the caseworker about their client’s activities, they didn’t seem interested in putting a stop to it.  Supervisors were even worse – they were always too busy to deal with the problem, and would pretty much say that the caseworkers were supposed to be monitoring things like that, but couldn’t really be expected to do so because they had such high caseloads.

Fast-forward to today: a food-stamp fraud ring has been broken up (not in the same area as the office that I worked at) with 28 people arrested so far.  Food-stamp fraud is a felony – it makes me wonder why a kibosh isn’t put on it at the beginning – in the offices, with the caseworkers, who are supposed to be screening out drug addicts and not giving them so much cash on an EBT card.  I could never fathom how or why a retired 65-year-old, drawing Social Security benefits, would be granted $25.00/month, food-only benefits, while some 20-something, drug-addled tweaker who had never worked a day in their life, would be granted $400/month cash benefits – basically, they’re given a bank card that can be used to buy alcohol and cigarettes, because all they have to do is use the card in an ATM and draw out the cash.  It’s a mystery…

Interesting that the ‘fiscally conservative’ Teabaggers have nothing to say about the prevalence of ‘white welfare queens’ in this country – as far as they’re concerned, the U. S. “Gub’mint” should only be bailing THEM out of any (and every) financial fiasco!  Only white amerikkkans should be the beneficiaries…crazy.

http://www.kgw.com/news/local/New-rules-after-welfare-aid-to-1M-Seattle-home-142931665.html

http://www.kptv.com/story/15145046/feds-portland-police-bust-food-stamp-fraud-ring

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2070787/Wealthy-couple-live-1-2m-home-drive-Jag-claiming-benefits-years.html

Tragedy in Norway

Horrific.  Astounding.  Heartbreaking.  Soul-numbing.  Mere words can’t convey the emotions I’ve felt as I watch the footage of the aftermath of the bombing and assassinations in Oslo, Norway.  A Norwegian, home-grown (in his country) terrorist with extremist right-wing, fundamentalist christian beliefs, targeted the ruling Labor Party with violence and bloodshed.  In his own words, he claims that his actions were justified and necessary, to combat the ‘multiculturalism’ that leaves him feeling ‘isolated’ and ‘disconnected’ in his own homeland.  In other words, he’s a white seperatist/supremacist who feels that his home country should only be populated by those who look like him (blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned) and have the same belief system (extremist, fundamentalist christian).

 

One thing that has disgusted me nearly as much as the crimes themselves, is the predictable, knee-jerk responses from other American citizens.  Commentaries and blogs filled with hatred towards the Muslim community.  The usual accusations of terrorism.  The galling exhortations for the Muslim community to “distance themselves from terrorists loudly and publicly”.  Muslims weren’t responsible for this!  Just like the Oklahoma City bombing, people blamed innocent citizens first – but, when the real terrorist was shown, there is suddenly deafening silence from those same knee-jerk reactionaries.  Nothing being said about fundamentalist christians; no screams for people to distance themselves from extremist, biblical  ideologies.  Nobody is publicly humiliating christians as they walk down the street, nor are they verbally abusing christians as they hand out religious pamphlets on city corners – but Muslims in America have these shameful, hateful things done to them on a daily basis.  It’s pathetic.

Personally, I’m agnostic – what one believes is their own choice; I can respect your views if you can respect mine.  I won’t shove my opinions or beliefs down your throat; please grant me the same courtesy.  For instance, I prefer books over movies – does that mean I won’t even associate with people who prefer movies over books?  Of course not!  That would be stupid and silly.  Yet, I’ve had people look at me strangely when I tell them my preference, as if preferring books is an oddity!  I will never be able to fathom those who feel the need to tell others what to do, how to dress, how to think, what books to read, what music to listen to, or what movies and/or television shows to watch.  When will the religious look to themselves and clean out their own minds, hearts, and souls?  Why do they feel entitled to control others?  I’ll never understand…

What’s really disgusting about this tragedy, is the way certain American politcos and talking heads have jumped on the bandwagon of the assassin!  From ThinkProgress, quotes from Pat Buchanan:

http://thinkprogress.org/media/2011/07/26/279171/pat-buchanan-breivik-may-be-right/

What a foul, hateful sack of male bovine excreta!  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though – this individual has shown great admiration for Adolf Hitler in the past; I sincerely doubt that his hatred and bile have mellowed.  More obviously, he has become more hateful and bitter with age…it’s a shame that ideologies such as his won’t die off with the older generation – the new generation of blind followers will see to that.

Is it summer yet?

The calendar says that summer is here – it supposedly arrived on June 21st, which is the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere.  Depending on which part of the USA you reside, however, summer is either in full blast-furnace mode, or it’s waiting in the wings like a nervous understudy before the curtain rises.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, the weather has been cooler and wetter than normal – July and August are supposed to be our driest months, yet it still feels like the middle of May!  Overcast mornings, temperatures barely reaching 70, gardens looking sad and soggy, and local farmer’s markets displaying a dearth of the usual seasonal fruits and vegetables.  I myself have gone so far as to get some Vitamin D tablets (1,000 I.U.s) and take them with my daily multivitamin, which also contains 1,000 I.U.s of Vitamin D.  Every little bit helps, I’d say!

I love to ride motorcycles, so this year’s riding season has been pretty limited!  We generally expect to get some decent riding weather after Memorial Day; if not then, then definitely after the 4th of July – not this year!  It’s to the point where we have kept the winter gear available for riding, because if we let the rain stop us, we’d never get outside.  I’m not a complete fair-weather rider, so it’s not uncommon for me to walk into work with rainwater dripping from my leathers and Frogg Toggs; it would just be nice to be able to remove the full-face cover from my helmet and catch a few bugs in my teeth!  How else can one determine that I’m a happy biker, eh?

I think I’ll put up some pictures of deserted tropical beaches at sunset, flop open a sunning chair, and lay under a sunlamp with a daquiri in hand – in my living room!  C’mon, summer…you can get here, I know you can!

Happy Birthday, Tata Madiba

Tata Madiba is the clan name of an iconic individual, Nelson Mandela.  He turns 93 today.

I admire this man for his courage, willpower and the ability to remain strong in the face of insurmountable odds and heavy adversity.  A man who was made a political prisoner for decades, who became president of his fractured home country four years after his release.  I look to him for inspiration on days when I feel low, because he has overcome much bigger obstacles than I can even dream of.  He is heroic.

Here are a couple of links from the BBC, celebrating this living legend:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14180630

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14191010

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14193902

Music – the Universal Language

I absolutely LOVE music – I adore it in many of its forms and genres.  When I was much younger, I could often be found curled up under our family’s baby grand piano while my grandmother or mother plinked away.  Both of my parents would play all sorts of music on cassette tapes or our LP vinyl player, so I was introduced to a lot of classical music (Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Wagner, Pachelbel, Vivaldi, and Ravel were prominent), Native American powwow chanting and drumming, Celtic bagpipes, zydeco, and soft rock.  By the time I was eight I had started memorizing and singing snippets of songs by the Beatles, KISS, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the Moody Blues.

The winter before I turned nine, we lived on a boat out in an inlet on an unihabited island, while my dad was building a fish hatchery from the ground up.  We only had a little 8-track player for music; our collection of 8-track cassettes included a book (Jonathan Livingston Seagull), while the music selection included the soundtracks for Hair and Jesus Christ: Superstar.  We also had Seals & Crofts, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Gordon Lightfoot, George Benson, and Creedence Clearwater Revival.  We finally moved ‘back to the mainland’ and into a house a month after the school year started (I was still eight and started fourth grade), I discovered the joys of our public radio broadcasting system, and was exposed to a wider variety of music than I knew existed!

Fast-forward to August 1, 1981 – the advent of Music Television, MTV!!


‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ by The Buggles was the premiere video, and at the time it seemed as though MTV played the same 20 videos over and over again!  Commercials were almost always muted by the network, so you knew to run back and plop your butt in front of the TV when the opening guitar chords began.  Since we didn’t have cable TV at the time, I could only watch MTV at the homes of friends or when I was child-sitting, but there were a small number of half-hour music video programs airing at the time, so I was still able to keep up with the latest hits from the newest stars:  Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Go-Gos, The Bangles, Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, Slade, Ratt, Blondie, The Sugarhill Gang, and scores of others.  I was hooked!  In school I began choir and band practice; I sang soprano in the former and played clarinet in the latter, although I’d really wanted to play the saxophone.  I also took piano lessons because I wanted to play for fun – sadly, my mother was a bit of a taskmaster and took all of the joy out of piano-playing for me.  I quit piano but continued in choir and band, and even got in on some school plays/musicals just so that I could sing.

My dad began working at the radio station in Wrangell when I turned 14, so I asked if I could go along with him and help out with sorting and organizing the music library.  He said that it was fine, so I got my first taste of on-air work, and began volunteering there shortly after that.  Since then I’ve worked at two other radio stations, and one day I would like to build my own studio in, and broadcast from, my own presonally custom-designed house.

Here’s “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles…enjoy!

Music – ‘Words’ by Missing Persons

This is a great song, which appears to have been written by the BeeGees but was made more popular in the 80s when Missing Persons modernized it and added video.  This song reflects how I feel about the world in general…I feel like I’m wasting my breath when I talk to people.  Nobody listens to me, even though I’m an intelligent, articulate, erudite woman who has plenty to say!  It gets very frustrating, to say the least…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlN3c_-oc3s

Missing Persons – ‘Words’
Do you hear me
Do you care
Do you hear me
Do you care

My lips are moving and the sound’s coming out
The words are audible but I have my doubts
That you realize what has been said
You look at me as if you’re in a daze
It’s like the feeling at the end of the page
when you realize you don’t know what you just read

What are words for when no one listens anymore
What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin at all

I might as well go up and talk to a wall
’cause all the words are having no effect at all
It’s a funny thing am I all alone

Something has to happen to change the direction
What little filters through is giving you the wrong impression
It’s a sorry state I say to myself

What are words for when no one listens anymore
What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin at all

Do you hear me
Do you care
Do you hear me
Do you care

Let me get by
Over your dead body
Hope to see you soon
When will I know
Doors three feet wide with no locks open
Walking always backwards in the faces of strangers
Time could be my friend
But it’s less than nowhere now
less than nowhere now
less than nowhere now
now
ow ow ow

Pursue it further and another thing you’ll find
Not only are they deaf and dumb they could be going blind and no one notices
I think I’ll dye my hair blue

Media overload bombarding you with action
It’s getting near impossible to cause distraction
Someone answer me before I pull out the plug

What are words for when no one listens anymore
What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin at all

What are words for when no one listens anymore
What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin at all

Do you hear me
Do you care
Do you hear me
Do you care
tell me what are words for
Do you hear me
tell me what are words for
Do you care
tell me what are words for
Do you hear me
so tell me what are words for
Do you care
so tell me what are words for
Do you hear me
tell me what are words for
so tell me what are words for
Do you care
so tell me what are words for
Do you hear me
tell me what are words for
so tell me what are words for
Do you care
so tell me what are words for

What is ‘beautiful’?

A blog I regularly enjoy reading has done many posts on the concept of human beauty.  I specify ‘human’ because there are many things in the world that I consider beautiful; humanity is but one aspect of those many things.  Here’s the topic that really got me thinking:
http://abagond.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/satoshi-kanazawa-why-are-black-women-ugly/

One of the laughable things is that Satoshi, as a psychologist, neglected to ask himself why he published a paper as a fact, instead of letting people know that it was his own personal opinion.  He didn’t do a factual poll of a large number of people, he merely spewed his hate and people blindly accepted it.  Consider the source, eh?  There’s nothing wrong with asking questions when the motives of someone seem suspect.  Do research and save the knee-jerk reactions, responses, and reflexes for when they’re needed.

An article on CNN asks, “What is beauty and who has it?”  I was interested because I’d done a study and report on a similar topic back in high school (late 80s/early 90s), and questioned the concept of beauty.  After all, beauty is one of many concepts that is mosty subjective; it varies from person to person, and is generally influenced by one’s upbringing.  Beauty ideals also vary by continent and country – even different eras maintain different ideals!  Overall, there really is no right or wrong as far as beauty is concerned, but many people seem to feel that one has to fit in a very narrow mold and conform to very strict standards to be considered ‘beautiful’.

The article is below, for your reading pleasure:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/LIVING/06/29/global.beauty.culture/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

I need to add a side note to this; every year over the 4th of July holiday, and on New Year’s, the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel airs a marathon of the original Twilight Zone series.  I’ve loved that show for as long as I can remember – I think I first saw some episodes when I was 10 or 11 and was hooked ever since!  Anyway, each marathon I watch introduces me to at least five episodes that I’ve never seen before.  One was called “Number 12 Looks Just Like You,” set in a futuristic USA where everyone undergoes “The Transformation” in their teen years.  From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_12_Looks_Just_Like_You

“Synopsis

In a future society, all young adults go through a process known as “the Transformation,” in which each person’s body and face are changed to mimic a physically attractive design chosen from a small selection of numbered models. The process gives everyone a beautiful appearance, slows deterioration due to age and extends a person’s lifespan, and makes the recipient immune to any kind of disease.

The motive of the Transformation is social harmony. According to Professor Sig, a psychologist with the Transformation service, “Years before, wiser men than I . . . saw that physical unattractiveness was one of the factors that made men hate, so they charged the finest scientific minds with the task of eliminating ugliness in mankind.”

18-year-old Marilyn Cuberle decides not to undergo the Transformation, seeing nothing wrong with her unaltered appearance. Nobody else can understand Marilyn’s decision, and those around her are confused by her displeasure with the conformity and shallowness of contemporary life. Her “radical” beliefs were fostered by her now-deceased father, who gave Marilyn banned books and came to regret his own Transformation years earlier (we learn that he committed suicide upon the loss of his identity).

Despite continued urging from family, doctors, and her best friend, Marilyn is still adamant about refusing the operation. She insists that the leaders of society don’t care whether people are beautiful or not, they just want everyone to be the same. Her pleas about the “dignity of the individual human spirit” and how “when everyone is beautiful, no one will be” have no impact. After being driven to tears by the inability of anyone to understand how she feels, she is put through the procedure and (like all the others) is enchanted with the beautiful result.

Dr. Rex, who operated on Marilyn, comments about how some people have problems with the idea of the Transformation but that “improvements” to the procedure now guarantee a positive result, thus indicating that there may be modifications made to the mind as well. Marilyn reappears, looking and thinking exactly like her best friend Valerie. “And the nicest part of all, Val,” she gushes, “I look just like you!” The last shots are of her, admiring herself in the mirror and smiling.”

One of the things I noted about this episode is how the psychologist stated that “physical unattractiveness was one of the factors that make men hate”.  It would also appear that, in this specific episode, any overt difference in appearance (skin color or obvious ethnicity) was a factor that also had to be removed to make it a ‘pure’ society – only white people are allowed.  To many people, it seems that pale skin, hair, and eyes are the epitome of beauty and they go overboard in their proclamations and defense of their beliefs.  Others, such as myself, see that there is beauty in all sorts of people, places, and things – I can’t really say that I have a specific, aesthetic ideal, and question those who have ‘preferences’.  How can one say that they don’t find something appealing if they’ve never been exposed to it?  I’ve always been mystified by personal biases, and wonder why people don’t question their own more often.

I also brought up this episode because of a discussion thread on one of many other blogs I read.  People were talking about celebrities, the so-called ‘Beautiful People’, and many stated how great it would be if all men looked like Vin Diesel or Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, and all women looked like Jessical Biel.  I would truly hate living in a world like that!  How stale and boring that would be – no variety in humanity, no difference in appearance.  It would be just like that ‘Twilight Zone’ episode mentioned above.  I’m of the opinion that the less intelligent one is, the more likely they are to limit themselves in all facets of their lives – music, food, books (if they read at all), recreational activites, and circle of friends/acquaintances.

So, back to my original question, the title of this post: what is ‘beauty’?  What is ‘beautiful’?  Easy – it resides in the eye of the beholder!

I always idolized Grace Jones…she gave me hope during my darkest times.  That, and the fact that a few people who I grew up with and went to school with, compared my looks to hers – and that was one hell of a compliment to me!  😎

 

Office politics

Office politics are a fascinating thing, aren’t they?  After many years of working in various offices, from public to private, I can safely say that there are a number of things they have in common, regardless of their respective rules, regulations, and personnel manual directives.

1.  The personnel manual is a GUIDELINE ONLY – the rules in them only apply to whomever upper management decides to apply them to.

2.  Kissing ass is the only way to get ahead or to get along with your so-called ‘co-workers’.  If a higher-up doesn’t like you, for whatever reason, don’t expect to get ahead in that company – you will be stuck in your position for the entire time you are employed there.  Any time or money you spend on furthering your education will be moot, since any higher-up will be invested in making certain someone else succeeds.  Basically, this saying is all one needs to know in an office: “It’s not what you know, but who you know AND blow!”  Firmly planting your nose in the proper kiester and gluing your tongue to the right balloon-knot ensures success!

3.  If you have no on-site HR manager (and in most cases, even if you do) you’re pretty much screwed if you want to lodge a valid, formal complaint.  From what I’ve witnessed over the years, the whiners, chronic complainers, and malcontents get their way because people want them to shut the hell up.  If they have the ear and support of management, then you’re doubly phukkered.

4.  If you think elementary school, junior high, and/or high school are over simply because you’ve graduated from those respective institutions, think again.  The bullies and whiners who never learned how to grow up exist in offices; their egos are massive due to the fact that they’ve been able to get away with anything they want, yet their self-esteems are shaky because they know, deep down, that they don’t deserve the paychecks that are deposited each month.  Of course, since they lack a conscience, they convince themselves that they DO deserve and earn their paychecks!

I work for a company that seems excellent on paper as far as salaries, benefits, leave time, and other compensations go, but in actuality it is a nightmare.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty much stuck because of the economy, so I have to keep my mouth shut and go about my business.  The only thing that passes for an HR department is some person who is contracted out of California – I’ll not divulge the name of the company for my own privacy and protection – and the individual is definitely on-call for the benefit of the company itself, not for individuals with specific questions and/or concerns.  One of my co-workers was having an issue with the hostility of another co-worker, and went up the chain of command per the directive of the personnel manual.  She was instantly routed to the HR contractor, who basically told her that her concerns were invalid and that “people dislike each other in offices all of the time – it’s nothing to make a stink about!”  I’ve seen first-hand the way she is treated by some of the other office denizens, and it’s pretty foul – but, since she’s fairly low on the totem pole, she simply sucks it up and does her duties – but it’s obvious to anyone who really looks that it hurts her.  There’s no office rule against being a rude sack of crap, an immature a-hole, or a self-absorbed walking tampon – unless, of course, someone with clout calls you out for mirroring the way they treat you!  It’s petty, pathetic, and quite draining – and there’s not a damned thing one can do about it.  Only gays, hispanics, white women, and mental/physical defectives have groups to ensure that THEIR rights are ensured – those are the REAL beneficiaries of the Equal Opportunity Act!

Updated Monday, 2012/03/26:

Here’s the ‘Walking Tampon’ joke:
Q:  How are Sarah Palin, Laura Bush, Michelle Bachmann, and Ann Coulter alike?

 

A:  They’re all white and they’re stuck up cunts!
😎

 

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