Elements of Life

POB (partner of blogger) and SOPOBAB (son of POB and blogger) went to the Natural History Museum today, while I stayed home, still on the “injured list” nursing my still aching back and trying not to feel useless and a slacker (it is ok to be a slacker when you’re not sick or hurt).

They returned in the mid-afternoon and SOPOBAB was so excited.  Not only did POB tell him that we got him the Clone Wars movie, so he would have something special to do while POB and I entertained some out-of-town guests tonight, but he got a new place mat of the Periodic Table in all these cool colors with all these things that were new to him.  “E-Mom, I never even HEARD of some of these things!!”

So we looked at the Periodic Table (click on it) together.

Apparently, when POB and SOPOBAB were purchasing it, SOPOBAB asked about hydrogen and helium, the first two elements, and why they were listed.  POB said that the table represented things that are not made of anything else, like a prime number.  And these were the basic building blocks of everything.  And, that two hydrogen molecules together with an oxygen molecule make water.  And that sodium chloride together make salt.

SOPOBAB got excited. Where are the french fries on the chart?

One person’s element of life is another person’s arterial occlusion.

Later, when we were going over the table together, he said, “E-Mom, I have bad news for you.  French fries are not an element, YET.”

Fitch Downgrades Egypt

“Tarek El-Tablawy, AP Business Writer, On Friday January 28, 2011, 2:20 pm

CAIRO (AP) — Fitch Rating on Friday revised down its outlook for Egypt, dropping it to “negative” as mass protests in the country turned violent, engulfing the capital and other cities in the most serious challenge to President Hosni Mubarak’s regime in years.

Fitch said it was holding steady Egypt’s other ratings, including its long-term foreign currency issuer default rating, which was held at the investment grade BB+.”


As an aside, rating agencies generally condoned the “froth” and the bubble that almost ruined us financially.

So, here is the picture:  Egyptians are taking to the streets against its government, the military is locking down cities, airports are closed, the opposition leader is under house arrest and Fitch downgrades Egypt’s “outlook”.  But Egypt’s debt paying ability is holding steady, thank G-d.  That totalitarianism for you.   Because even though people are protesting and dying for change, the bills still get paid and the palace is still resplendent.  And no situation is negative until the financial markets say so. I think that is what we have learned from these last three years.

I wonder how many people are reading the articles about the protests, etc., and how many are reading about the financial impact on debt holders.  I don’t want to know the answer, because Jack Nicholson was right in a Few Good Men, I can’t handle the truth.


This is now our national discourse?  WTF?  How about if you don’t like what you hear, instead of tearing it down, Build It, Tough CHick.

Ugh, I have stooped to her level.  Soon I’ll be sending my son to appear on Dancing With Famous People’s Children who should be home taking care of their love children.

But the person who out-Sarahs Sarah is Michele Bachmann.  Our founding fathers fought to end slavery?  Ever hear of the 3/5th Compromise in the Constitution that effectively legitimized slavery and kicked the issue down the road for a century?

Everyone has a right to an opinion.  And I have a right to determine that someone’s opinion is stupid, ill-informed and baseless.  And I have the right to believe that a scholar’s view has more weight than someone’s who has not studied the topic and relies on talking heads (on any network) for opinions.

WTF, indeed.  As in:  “Sarah Palin??? WTF is that Grizzly Mama saying?”

Calm in between the Storms

New York, along with most of the rest of the country is under a siege of extreme weather conditions. (Can you sa-a-ay, “global warming”?  I knew you could.)

I think it is part of the human condition to look at events like sappy metaphors.  (Proof positive: the popularity of Made-For-Lifetime-Channel movies.)

So, I think about enjoying the respites between the real snow storms as a reminder that we must enjoy the respites between life’s storms.  There are more and more challenges and less and less easy answers.  There is so much uncertainty about jobs, about global threats, about economic, social and emotional recovery in this nation.  As we get older, we understand that good health is a gift and not a right, and that our days are numbered whether they be measured in days or decades.

Now, I look for the small moments, not the big triumphs.   My son was so excited that I picked him up from school today (his babysitter flaked out a little).  He hugged me and introduced me around.  In the cab (of course, I am such a princess), he said, “E-Mom, this is maybe the best part of today.” I wanted to bottle that (even with the “maybe” qualifier). I wanted to record it to play it back when he is a teenager and he hates me.  No such luck (or quick thinking).  But what a beautiful moment in the middle of the calamity we call the “new normal”.

My son has already forgotten those words, but for me, for me, it made me feel as if all was right with the world.

Politics, Politics

Ok, the rant is building, building, building . . . here it comes!!

I liked the State of the Union address.  The President could have touted that he saved the car industry, that he kept the country from economic free-fall, that the US and Israel disrupted Iran’s nuclear capabilities, but he didn’t.  I think he should have because America needs to remember all that he has accomplished.   But that is because I am partisan.  I think he struck the right tone as willing to make principled compromises. Besides, he had one hour to say all things to all people.  Hey, now that’s a reasonable expectation.

The sign that he did a good job was that he was being pilloried by MSNBC, CNN and, even without watching it, FOX.

Oh, and, apropos of nothing, Speaker Boehner has a bad body colorist.

In the GOP retort, Paul Ryan said investment is a code-word for spending.  It is not.  There is no code. Investment is spending.  When I invest in real estate, stocks, etc., I am spending money, with an eye toward making a good return on my investment.

So, the three things that distinguish the GOP and the Democrats is who should do the spending, on what and how much.

I believe in spending on education and innovation.   I believe that these will provide a good return on the money invested.  The GOP believes that investment should be made by private enterprise.  How private enterprise would have developed the Internet and GPS or will develop high speed railways and clean energy without government grants is beyond me.  And should we abolish public education?  No, but the GOP wants to starve it so that the little money spent on it would be a waste.

We pay the least amount of taxes of the industrialized nations.  Before WWII, tax rates had some people paying 80%.  So everyone, chill out on taxes.  Remember the GOP spent willy-nilly (not a usual phrase for me) on two wars and kept it outside the budget so that the American people wouldn’t know.  So, now, NOW, we have to worry about taxing the top 2%?  Did you ask me?  If you did, I would tell you to keep my tax cut and buy some muzzles for the Tea Party legislators.  Now, that is a good investment.  Do you think it is really tea?  It is a dry weed-like substance.  We should try rolling that “tea” and seeing if smoking it give us delusions of intelligent impact on the national discourse, too.

Paul Ryan seems like a lovely guy but I was distracted by his perfect hair and a little freaked out by his Biblical references. And why is your part half way between the middle and one side?  Isn’t that radical?

Rep. Ryan said something like our regulations were fine, it was just the corporate and governmental evil-doers that stole our prosperity.  But, wait, that happened BEFORE President Obama was president.  Remember, that Decider guy?  Yeah, that one.  He was running the show.  And, wait for it . . . he is a Republican!!!  Omigod, how embarrassing, Paul.  Still, with that gaffe extraordinaire, your hair did not move.

And, will you stop about small government?  There are 300 million of us.  We need hordes just to pave roads and administer social security and Medicare, run the military and veterans benefits.  You don’t mean to scrimp on these things, do you Paul?  You even referred to the days of Lincoln as an example of small government.  Those crazy, high energy, innovative days when were no fair labor laws, children worked 14-hour days, no food or product safety laws and, oh, yes, no truth in advertising or disclosure by companies.  So we could die in the factory, die from rotten food or poisonous products or lose our life savings to corporate con men.  And, as a student of history, you know that our nation went through boom and bust cycles every decade because of the inability to regulate the unbridled greed of speculators and market makers.

Oh, yes, sign me up, Paul, for your vision of America.  Or I guess I could just go to a third world nation for the same experience.

What life holds in store for us

I am usually snarky or maudlin or kumbaya in my posts.

But sometimes I am stopped in my tracks.

I have written before that my family is like a clan if you look at my parent’s generation of brothers (referred to as “The Five Brothers”) and my generation of cousins (we refer to ourselves as “The Cousins”). The children of The Cousins are less tied to the clan as a whole and while some are close to some of The Cousins (who are not uncles or aunts) and the last of the The Five Brothers, many are not.

The day before Thanksgiving, the son — whom I don’t know at all — of one of The Cousins was diagnosed with brain cancer.  He is 35 years old and has two little kids.  He had surgery and is undergoing treatment.

At 35, he probably knows that life likely doesn’t hold old age and grandchildren in store for him.  Probably life won’t allow him to see his children grow to tweenage, let alone adulthood.  I hope he beats the odds and life holds all those things for him, along with happiness and love and peace.

Some days you just have to stop, bow your head and be grateful for life, family and shelter — the basics.  And then, whether or not you believe in G-d, you have to pray for people like my cousin.

My mother’s words . . .

“My poor baby, if I could have it for you, I would!”

My Mom would say this in a soothing voice whenever one of her children was sick, be it mind, spirit or body.  I say that now to my son whenever appropriate.  And I mean it, for all loving and nurturing, yet practical, goal oriented reasons.

My son had an upset stomach last night (no fever or other symptoms).  He started feeling sick at 9pm when he was already in bed, at around the same time the Jets were a lost cause and Janet2 was cleaning her kitchen floor (because the Patriots WERE OUT OF CONTENTION — these digressions are getting worse).

POB (partner of blogger) and I dutifully took turns in the night soothing him when he woke up and giving him Children’s Tums.  Because I was just recovering from a thrown-out back at around the same time our son got sick, POB did more turns initially.  Each time he woke up and I went in (and freaked him out by yowling in pain), I would rub his head and back and say Mom’s magic words that always comforted me.  He would eventually drift off for 45 minutes or so. And I would roll out of his bed and crawl to my room so as not to scream in pain and wake him.  Of course, that woke POB, so I probably did more harm than good despite all loving intentions.

3am rolls around and he is up and really, really feeling bad.  I go in, because I know POB has to get up in 2.5 hours and I can stretch my alarm until 8am if necessary.  He is really feeling bad and I say Mom’s magic words and, lo and behold, like a miracle swept in from the sea, he vomits all over me and then runs to the bathroom for the other end of the story, so to speak.

Nothing makes you feel more mom-like than having your child yawn in technicolor all over you.  I cleaned up and started to strip the bed and hose everything down.  (At this point, POB was up and ready to crank up the washer/dryer.)

Our son has a strong stomach for all that to have stayed in for six hours.

I couldn’t help thinking that if he were able to give it to me at 9pm, my system would have expelled everything in 5, maybe 10, minutes and we all would have been happier and all have gotten a good night’s sleep.  Instead, today, our wiped-out son stayed home, I was essentially in traction and POB had to be nursemaid to two babies at once.

Do you think Mom ever had the same thoughts about wanting to be sick instead of us, or am I just a diluted (and deluded) version of her?

These Arrrrrrrrre the “Good Ol’ Days”

Forgive me, Carly Simon, for the lack of harmony in the title.  I tried.

A camp friend tagged in an old photo on our camp’s website.  I was 8 years old.  About my son’s age.  It sent me time-traveling through memories.

I was a camper for 10 of the 11 summers, from 1971 to 1981.  Some of my earliest camp memories are Saturday night campfires where we sang and listened to stories under the night sky.  Only as I am older do I understand the importance of those campfires.  In my mind’s eye, we were sitting in the majesty of nature and day turned to night, singing together about friendship and emotions we were too young to understand (like those in Carly Simon’s Anticipation), and being part of a group as we each let our minds wander — sometimes to homesickness, sometimes just in the music, sometimes to how much we loved our friends sitting next to us.   Sugar-coating in part, but only in small part.

So, this morning I had to follow the link to see other pictures.  I found some crazy old pictures of people I hadn’t recalled in years.  And I got so excited that I shared the pictures with camp friends on FaceBook whom I thought could remember their names.  I wasn’t sure that my best friend for many of those years would remember so I didn’t send to her.  Now I think I will, it is less important that she remember the names, but it will evoke for her a (I hope, happy) time — in all its wonderment and angst — that we, those campers of the 1970s, think of as the “Good Ol’ Days”.  When we sang, “these arrrrrrree the good ol’ days”, we may not have known then what we know now:  they were indeed so.

Just a little aside about FaceBook:  Too many levels of contradictions and irony, among them, that it connects people who were friends in a time before fax machines and copiers (rexograph machines were it).  Another blog entry, perhaps.

I was looking at these photos and smiling.  Then my son switched off the cartoons and wanted to cuddle.  I paused my trip to the OLD good ol’ days to enjoy the here and now.   And I think, I am old enough to know — in real time, as this time with my son unfolds — that these moments, too, will be the Good Ol’ Days in short order.

I guess good ol’ days happen all the time.  We just have to remember to enjoy the moment and then, years later, relive the memory.

And stay right here
‘Cause these are the good old days

Everyone, click YouTube of Carly Simon from 1972 and sing along.

The Differences

There are obvious differences between males and females.  Some, while not subtle, don’t seem to correlate to the different anatomies.

(And, for the record, I believe there are two genders, but three types of people: man, woman and transitioning (either way).  I don’t understand why some people talk about six genders.  I am too old to be edgy, cool or thinking outside the box.  I live in a box.  It is on top of three other boxes in a building of boxes.   Many people in New York City live happily inside a box.  Some have outdoor space, so those people are LIVIN’ LARGE in and out of the box, baby.

But I digress.  AGAIN.)

Where am I going with this?  Today, I was subjected to a maddeningly persistent, non-anatomical, yet somehow hard-wired, difference.

Two men were talking about how a package needed to get from point A to point B but neither made any effort to undertake the details necessary to make that dream a reality.  Then they both look at me and I, startled, look at them and then turn around to see what’s happening behind me. Nothing.  Really?  Really?  Are you both really incapable of having your assistants help you with this, or G-d forbid, do it yourself?

I bet you stand in front of an open refrigerator and ask your wife where the carton of milk is (as in the one right in front of you).

Oh, Blackberry

This weekend, I read about a mother unplugging her kids from their various anti-social devices — smart phones, laptops and TVs — so they couldn’t engage in anti-social-yet-social activities like texting and Facebooking (is that a word?).

I had a smug moment about how we carefully monitor our son’s time on these devices — ok, he is only 8.5 years old so he doesn’t have an email address or a Facebook account.  And, thank G-d, his fine motor skills are not the best, because that will delay texting (and therefore sexting, G-d help me).  Bottom line: I have nothing to be smug about because I don’t have these issues YET.  But let me enjoy the moment however ill-deserved.

The very next day the “ALT’ and “a” keys on my blackberry stopped working.  I was frantic.  Karma is SUCH a brutal boomerang.  The blackberry provider which shall remain nameless (Verizon) wouldn’t honor the warranty without some trouble-shooting, even though I explained that it was a mechanical and not a software problem. 

Trouble-shooting?  Was a technician going to reach through the phone or computer and unstick my keys or relieve their key fatigue? 

So, I am on the phone with a technician and she says, “type the word, ‘blackberry’.”   Ok ok ok ok ok ok ok.   I CALMLY say “I can’t.”   She asks, “why?”   WHY?????  WHY????  WHY????  I CALMLY tell her, “it will come out ‘blckberry’ because the ‘a’ doesn’t work”.  Ahhh, now she understands.   She is no longer puzzled and frustrated.  How NICE for her.  She determines I need a new device.  Brilliant. 

Now, you think I am over-reacting.  I am.  I am hooked on my blackberry (karma being a brutal boomerang after my smug thoughts).  But there were 36 hours between the initial SOS to service provider which shall remain nameless (Verizon) and the actual trouble-shooting call.  And then 24 hours after that.  So, for 60 hours, I was typing emails that looked like “ttched is drft of the lon greement” (not really, because, G-d bless spell check).  All I can say is that it is hard to think of words that don’t have “a”s in them.  Try it.  And when you are typing messages that look nonsensical without the “a”s, you feel like you are either drunk or using someone else’s glasses.

But I did have fun torturing my assistant with “a”-less emails, like “plese mke reservtion for three t [name] resturnt” or constantly resending of “I cn’t use the LT or _ button”.   As if she didn’t know.  But you can’t spell TEAM without an A and so she needed to live this crisis with me.  And well I am better for it.  She, she, had to leave early with a migraine.

My new blackberry is synching now and I am humming right along with it.