Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Even More Snow!

Well, I imagine people might think I'm nuts about snow from all the posts I've done on it. This is the snowiest winter we've had since I moved here in mid 2003. My sister has lived here 15 years, and she says this is how it used to be when she first came to Boise. Hasn't snowed this much for a while.

It started snowing early this morning, while I was at a Dr. appt to have a biopsy done on my thyroid. Like many people (I think the stat is 7 out of 10), I seem to have benign nodules on my thyroid. All the other tests so far has been perfectly normal. These were first found in Fall 2006, but a biopsy hadn't been done yet. So the Endocrinologist decided it was time.

Anyway, the appt took a few hours, so the snow had built up by the time we left. It took us nearly an hour to drive the 15-ish miles home. It's now afternoon and the snow is still coming down. We have 6 or 7 inches outside. I went out with a ruler to check. And took some pictures of course! I cancelled my two interviews and have been taking it easy - except for shoveling the front deck a bit. I'm not supposed to lift more than 10 lbs. today, to minimize bruising.

I've been contemplating the purpose of my blog lately. I tend to treat it more like a group letter to my friends, rather than a journal of thoughts that I allow others to read. I've never been good at reflective writing. Had to take a class like that when I was studying for my Teaching Credential in English, and it was a horrible experience. I've always been a very successful narrative writer, good at writing about literature, essays, fiction, letters. But when I tried to write an inner narrative, reflecting on my feelings, etc, it was a real struggle. And the prof was NOT excited by my work at all. I thought the topics were stupid and self-indulgent, and he thought my writing about them was shallow and forced. Which it was. No surprise there. :-\

So here I am, blogging. I wonder sometimes about the things I write in this blog. Is there any point in telling people about the weather and our recent activities? Are they even interested, or is it more like an endless Christmas newsletter that drones on and on about me, me, me?

It was different when I was in Korea. Then, my weekly letters were more of a way to connect with all my friends and family who were sooooo far away, telling them about all the struggles I was going through, as well as all the fun stuff. It made me feel closer to everyone at a time when I really needed that. Now, I'm not so sure. So I'm thinking I need to experiment a bit with my blog posts. I guess we'll just have to see how successful, or not, that turns out to be.

Anyway, have a look at the pictures and envy us. I know living and driving in feet of snow is a pain, but I still love it - snow, that is, not driving in it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

So, why not Kennedy-Democrats?

You hear pundits, news commentators and some Republicans talk about “Reagan Republicanism”, with a clear implication that some in their party have strayed from the gold standard of “What would Ronald Reagan Do?”

Reagan’s administration was certainly not faultless – after all, he left office with huge deficits, and he may or may not have known about the Iran-Contra Affair [I remember a hilarious Steve Martin routine based on the “I forgot” defense]. Nevertheless, a wide variety of conservatives found Reagan an excellent rallying point. He advocated small government, cut some taxes, wasn’t afraid of building up the military and using it if necessary, and was anti-abortion. A little something for every Republican, whether they be fiscal conservative, hawk, or social reformer.

Unfortunately, Democrats haven’t been nearly as clear and decisive in expressing their policies. In the last few decades, we’ve allowed Republicans to define us, rather than defining ourselves. In spite of the current administration’s voracious spending habits, resulting in a national debt our great-great-grandchildren will still be paying off, they claim to be reducing the deficit and cutting ‘big Government’. And Democrats are still accused of the old “Tax & Spend” habit whenever they propose legislation to alleviate social problems. You can bet there’d be no such outcry if it were spending on defense

One difficulty with Democrats is their wide range of views on the issues. All the way from the greenest Green extremist to those more purple in hue. Not that there’s anything wrong with the ‘Big Tent’ model. But, the Big Tent’s very diversity results in a less-disciplined approach to policy announcements. This diffuses the Democratic central message and makes ideas harder to focus and communicate to the politically unattached. Yet I wouldn't want to so narrowly define the party that people leave because they feel disenfranchised. We need a mass-appeal platform that the majority of Dems can support.

So I’ve been thinking. Why don’t Democrats look to their own political heritage for a similar shining example? Who better than our 35th President, John F. Kennedy? Let’s start a Kennedy-Democrats movement.

The one quality most lacking in Conservative thinking is compassion. So many Americans are only looking out for themselves, willing to let everyone and everything else fall by the wayside while they get ahead. Yes, one principle of the capitalist system is pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. But why can’t we also help our fellow citizens along the way? Why can’t the richest country in the world provide every citizen with universal health care, quality education from nursery to college level, and mass transit? Why do we think we have to ravage our environment to make economic progress, as if we were some struggling third-world country?
By adjusting our thinking, our priorities, and our actions towards the long-term we could afford to do it all! We need to look past our own selfish concerns to see that doing these things will not only help others, but in helping others it also helps us!! If we were all healthier, better educated, and less stressed, there’d be less crime, we’d have happier lives, and we’d be more productive.

That’s not to say doing any of it will be easy. But aren’t we supposed to be the most advanced, the biggest and best nation on earth? If so, why hasn’t the U.S. done these things yet, when many other first world countries have for decades! Denmark has one of the world’s biggest economies right now, and they also have mass transit, universal health care, a clean environment, and the most federally-mandated vacation days, six weeks, of any first world country.

Instead of teaching people to look out for #1, let’s start a public education campaign to ‘Support Each Other’. Rather than worrying that someone else is getting something you don’t have, let’s work on getting everyone those things. Return to the Kennedy ideal of "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

We need to re-emphasize public service. Re-learn that being a good citizen means getting involved in public life, giving back, helping others. Whether it’s military, social, or a program like the Peace Corps – which Kennedy started – doing a year or two of public service should be expected, a patriotic part of being an American. This will teach our children the rewards of helping others who are less fortunate. After all, adding to our own wealth by oppressing the less fortunate, however indirectly, isn’t only bad for the less fortunate, it’s also bad for us, in the long (eternal) term.

We need to re-connect with our international neighbors. Re-establish good relations and start working with them, instead of using foreign policies that are all stick and no carrot. JFK asked the nations of the world to join together to fight what he called the "common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself." He also said "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable". We should not put restrictions on our aid money that force people of other cultures and faiths to follow the values of a strident U.S. minority rather than finding their own best use for it, and thus fail to help their people.

“Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you."
Apathy and disengagement should become socially unacceptable. We all need to re-learn and remember that our government is elected BY us, and FOR us. We cannot continue to expect our government to take care of us without any input from us. We must make sure our elected public servants know we are watching them, and we expect them to follow the same laws we all follow. If that means reforming our electoral system and campaign rules so every citizen knows their vote DOES count and their involvement makes a difference, then we Democrats need to lead the way with a viable, simple way of doing those things.

I don't usually rant on politics, but isn't that what a blog is for, after all?

Snowshoeing on Banner Ridge

Hubby and I drove up past Idaho City to Banner Ridge yesterday, to go snowshoeing. There's a network of Nordic Ski and snowshoe trails leading off the parking lot, at about 7,000 feet. Hubby wore his traditional-style wood and gut snowshoes with leather bindings, and I rented a modern pair from REI.

It had snowed the night before. Enough to put at least an inch on the ground at our house. Up in the mountains it looked more like 6 inches, and that was on top of four or five feet already there. So we had fresh powder to walk in, and the weather was good; cloudy, but not really cold. It looked as if it might snow again, but the sun peeked through occasionally, and there wasn't much wind.

We headed off on one of the trails that no one had been on yet that morning. No snowmobiles buzzing around, and the new snow made it very quiet. We could feel the altitude as we walked uphill, but we were both so glad to be up there, we didn't care. The new snow was smooth and clean, and all the trees were covered with big clumps of snow just waiting to fall on you if you brushed a branch. We reached a junction of three trails after .6 of a mile, at the top of a ridge overlooking the next valley. Even though you could tell some of the slopes had been burned over recently, the snow made it all look beautiful.

We stopped and ate our cheese, ciabatta and wine for lunch, sitting under a tree. Then we found another untrodden trail running along the ridge. It wasn't until then that we passed a group coming up the other way. By this time hubby's leather bindings were giving him trouble, so when we reached another trail junction, we headed for the parking lot. I think we were out for maybe two or three hours, but I didn't keep track.

We definitely want to get out for more snowshoeing again this season. The modern bindings gave me no trouble at all, which was a nice change from the previous times I'd worn the old-style kind. Wood and gut snowshoes float over the snow better, but after a while the leather stretches out and you can't pull the straps tight enough to stay on. My modern ones worked fine, but if I were to buy some, I'd want something a few inches longer than the ones I had.

Thankfully, I'm not really sore from yesterday. We have a rehearsal for Burns Night this evening, another on Wednesday, and then the performance on Friday night. I hope I can get someone to take pictures of us dancing.

Happy MLK day, all.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Some of my favorite books

Books, books, books! I love reading. I used to read a LOT when I was young. Mom was always surprised to see what I brought home from my elementary school library. I read Gone With the Wind in 5th grade, before Mom took me to see the movie for my birthday. I loved animal stories, and once I found Jack London I read everything of his I could get.

My best friend and I discovered Robert Heinlein when we were in Jr.HS and read every one of his paperbacks we could find. The idea of ESP fascinated us, as well as space travel, computers, and time travel. Heinlein was only the beginning of a life-long love of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

One of my all-time favorite recent SF novels is 'Antarctica' by Kim Stanley Robinson. I have real trouble with a lot of male SF authors' characterizations of women, but he's created some wonderful, strong female characters in this one. And it's funny.

If you want a blend of Celtic history and SF/fantasy, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison is great. My favorites are the books in her later trilogy, the Tales of Arthur, because I like the characters more. All of her books are a blend of Celts-in-space and Celtic legend and history.

Katherine Kerr is another author who fuses Celtic history and fantasy. She uses a non-linear method of storytelling, like Celtic interlace, interweaving the characters' past and present lives. It can be disconcerting at first, but I enjoy re-encountering some of the characters' previous incarnations.

Another two favorites are Mary Gentle and C.J. Cherryh. Both of them have a real talent for creating authentic alien characters, with thought patterns, cultures and behaviors that are different enough to make you believe they're not just humans-in-disguise. And their characters of both genders are well-rounded and realistic.

Some of my other favorite female fantasy and SF writers are Kate Elliott, Ursula Le Guin, Karen Traviss, Marjorie Bujold, and Lian Hearn. I tend to like adventure and exploration over romance, but that's not to say there is no romance in these books. It's just not the main focus.

You can probably find most of the authors I've mentioned on Wikipedia if you're curious about their work.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

More Old Dance Photos

I dug these out today and we scanned them in. This picture was taken in 1987 or 1988, not sure. It's a Civil War Ball. I'm dancing with Brian. Slightly behind and to the right is his wife, Stefanie dancing with her brother, Tim, my boyfriend at the time.

Next is St. Andrews, 1998, on the last day of the first fortnight. From L to R are Anita Mathur, Alan Twhigg, me, Susi Mayr, and Fred DeMarse. I can't recall the last lady's name, unfortunately. I had just passed my Prelim, and they had all passed their Full Certificate.

The next two are from when I danced in the San Gabriel Branch in southern CA. The third one is a dance and SCD demo team event that used to take place every summer at Descanso Gardens. I think this was 1990. The various demo teams in the area took turns organizing it. This was the year that the Waverley Dancers did it. The pictures shows the Grand March, with Marty Morrisey and I at the front of the line.

The last picture was taken at a dance in Pasadena, in 1987. In the photo is Ron Wallace and James Lomath, director of the Waverley Dancers. It was the evening after my first Prelim exam, and the examiners attended the dance. I don't remember that evening very well at all, as I was still getting over my nerves!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pictures from the past...

Just searching through my photos and found a few I thought people would like to see.

This photo is the Waverley Dancers demo team at the Lake Arrowhead Highland Games, in 1989 or 1990. It was pretty hot, in the 80's, and very sunny, even though there were still remnants of snow around. We were dancing at altitude as well - around 7,000-8,000 feet if I recall. I'm right there in the middle, dancing with Larry. Eve is behind and to the right of me, with her back turned. Eve's partner is Ken. The white-haired lady is Allison, and the man behind her is Robert. I can't remember any last names, though I do remember their faces.

This is my current SCD class in Idaho. Cheri was teaching this dance. I'm dancing with one of the Kevins. Also in the set are Rai, the other Kevin, Brandi and Martin. There are two other people at the bottom of the set, but Rai and Kevin are hiding them.

I've got some other dance pics from years ago that I haven't scanned into the computer yet. I should find those and put them up. I've started a Photobucket account, but haven't done anything with it yet.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

More Snow!

Wow! It started snowing this morning, and continued all day. Just stopped a little while ago. That's a big snow fall for us - probably 2-4 inches.

The dog thinks it's great. I let him out to go potty and he went nuts, scampering around in the snow and chasing snowballs. Of course, since he's a poodle, the snow clumps onto his fur and it's a pain to get off until it melts. And being so small, it isn't long until he's cold. So I have a damp dog sitting on my lap getting warm again. Oh well. It was fun.

This storm is supposed to clear up tomorrow, which is good. I was going to do some fieldwork in neighborhoods today, but didn't want to drive around on slick residential streets and potentially get stuck. The main streets and the freeway were clear, but it can be nerve-wracking coming to a stop at stop signs on the backroads.

We started dance rehearsals last night for our performance at the annual Robert Burns Dinner put on by the local Scottish American Society. I've read it's the oldest continuous Burns supper in the country. Lots of Scottish and Basque sheepherders moved to Idaho in the 1800's. So there's a fair amount of Scottish ancestry in the area. This year it takes place at the nicest hotel in town, the Riverside. They have a great ballroom. I just hope we have enough room on the dancefloor.

Ah, snow falling again...nice.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Snow, Snow, Snow

Well, I guess La Nina is doing us some favors this winter. We had snow yesterday, today, and it's expected again tomorrow. It's great fun to have it here in the valley, but it's also falling much more heavily in the local mountains, which is exactly what we need after such a dry spring and summer. Nice for the ski resorts as well.

I expect I'll have to go out and drive in the snow today, but hopefully it won't be too bad. I'm not as happy with the Charger as I was with the Jeep, especially since I now have to deal with rear-wheel drive, but at least I have experience driving in snow.

We are encouraged by the Iowa Caucus results here. My husband and I were chuckling over the shock to the system many people might get if Obama and Richardson were to end up on the Democratic ticket. Not sure they'd be as electable together as Obama and one of the others, but what a turn-up if they got elected!!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the Idaho race. If possible, I'll go to the local caucus. It was good experience last time, but I'd be most interested to see who else in our area is a Democrat! Our little corner of SW Idaho is known for it's overwhelming Republican leanings.

Anyway, time to get some work done. Still snowing out there. Happy New Year!

Friday, January 4, 2008

A New Year

We had a wonderful time in southern California. But, the drives there and back were gruelling, as usual. We brought our toy poodle along to save kennel costs. He isn't a good traveler and tends to whine a lot. So I got some sedatives from the vet, hoping this would settle him. From what we could tell it made little to no difference, except he needed to pee a lot more often. *sigh* He did seem quieter on the way back though. I think because he refused to eat breakfast both mornings, so took the sedative on an empty stomach. On the way down Hwy 14 was closed at California City (in the Mojave Desert) because of strong winds and dust. Two camper trailers had blown over on the northbound side of Hwy 14.

So we had some dinner and they opened the highway after about an hour. The delay meant we didn't get to my parents' house until almost 8pm on the 26th. Happily they held the traditional hors d'oeuvres until we arrived. So we all settled in for a late snack and a flurry of belated present opening. After telling all of us they weren't going to give many presents this year, Mom and Dad ended up giving each of us at least three things. In their favor, some of those were things from around the house that they didn't want or need, that we could use. For instance, I had mentioned I'd like a set of wine glasses. So they gave us 7 random wine glasses Dad had picked up from various events over the years. It was a fun idea and fits right in with the rest of our mostly-unmatched household goods.

It was good to see my family and get to know the nephews and niece a bit better. My brother just got a new puppy, a wire-haired German Pointer named Brissy. She's 11 weeks old and seems hungry all the time. She was chewing on the walls, the rug, furniture, tablecloths, you name it. Cute puppy, but they really need to start giving her some obedience training or she'll be a terror.

Hubby and I went to the Getty Museum in Malibu on Friday. This is the older one, built as a replica of a Roman countryhouse, the Villa dei Papiri, buried by the Vesuvius eruption in Herculaneum. Wonderful collection of Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts and statues. Beautiful grounds and building and a gorgeous setting overlooking the coast. They have an amphitheater on the grounds where they put on Greek dramas in the summer.

We also spent a day in Santa Barbara, poking around in shops and eating seafood at the Santa Barbara Seafood Company at the end of Stearns Pier. Fresh oysters and a steamed crab. Yum!!

Otherwise we spend a lot of time socializing with family, shopping at Trader Joes, and hanging out. Lots of folks down there were wearing their Northface jackets and kept exclaiming at how "cold" it was, and we kept laughing at them. Oooh! 50F - I'm freezing! (not) It seemed positively balmy to us from the Intermountain West. We had left behind freezing temps and snow. The orange tree in my parents' backyard had ripe oranges on it, and there were roses, geraniums and paperwhites blooming in the garden. Seems crazy to me now, even though I lived down there for nearly 20 years.

So here we are back home, and back to work. There's a big windy rainy storm blowing through, and an 80% chance of snow on Saturday. But that's nothing compared to the three winter storms hitting northern CA this weekend. I've heard predictions of a foot of rainfall! Yeow!