Sunday, October 28, 2012

Not Acts of God, But Acts of Man...

A Little Girl and Her Sheltie
Charles Burton Barber

When I was a little girl, I was afraid of everything.  I grew up during the Cold War -- an age of fear.  People were constantly afraid.  Every day, the news broadcasts led with the latest posturing between the U.S.S.R. and the Western nations.  There were "Commies" hiding under every bed, never mind bogeymen.  During the Cold War, each nation developed and tested the latest in ghastly weapons with the potential to wipe out all life on earth.  And as if that weren't enough, we were visited on a daily -- nightly -- basis by little grey men who astral-projected themselves down from UFOs hovering over our cities.  Livestock were mutilated, and people were abducted and had horrible experiments performed on them, usually involving long needles and other devices of torture.  Commies under the bed and aliens outside the bedroom window.  It was a scary time, I'll tell you.

And then it happened.  The unthinkable.  The world came within hours of blowing itself up, all over two opposing ideologies, Communism versus Capitalism. Two enemies of the Cold War played chicken with the lives of billions of people.  President Kennedy of the United States and Premier Kruschev of the U.S.S.R stared each other down for 13 days in October 1962.  Kruschev blinked first.  Kennedy prevailed.  The world once again was safe.  And I went from being frightened to being angry.  Very angry. P*ssed.  I had had enough fear.  It had seeped into my soul and my psyche and had created a long-standing anxiety that I still gives me difficulty to this day.  And whenever I think of it, I get angry.

Today, October 28, 2012, is the 50th anniversary of that stare-down.  During the years since then, we have had plenty of fear mongers, still trying to create anxiety in people.  And I'm still p*ssed.  Hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis are not acts of God.  God is not mad at us.  These things are not signs that the world is going to end on December 21st, they are simply acts of nature.  In the last 50 years since the world stepped back from the brink of annihilation, we have ticked along pretty much as we did before.  People go about their lives, for the most part just minding their own business, and getting along the best they can.  There are still countries where ideologies clash, leaders that still play silly buggers with each other, and innocent lives that are lost as a result.  But these are not acts of God.  They are acts of man.

I'm angry that I spent my childhood being afraid.  And for what?  Ideologies, philosophies, religions and political beliefs come and go.  People agree to disagree.  But I pray we never again come as close to complete obliteration of mankind as we did on those 13 days in October 1962.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Morning Silliness...

This made me laugh right out loud, and I wanted to share it with you. Oh, goodness, haven't we all been there...?

Have a great Monday, everyone.

Friday, October 19, 2012

High Heels and Pearls Are No Longer for the Kitchen

In my post yesterday I poked fun at Mitt Romney for his unfortunate remark about "binders full of women".  Mr. Romney probably meant his remark in a sincere, albeit misguided way and the resulting memes that spread through the Internet were just way too much fun.  Unfortunately, Romney is a Troglodyte and he needs to get into the 21st Century.  There are now more women in law schools and medical schools than there are men.  There are more registered women voters than there are men, and women are now scoring higher IQ scores than men.  This is not a trend.  This is what happens when more than 50% of the population is no longer subjugated and kept "in its place", and are no longer "bound" to their kitchens baking cookies, wearing high heels and pearls.  Well, they're now wearing their high heels and pearls in the boardroom.

In 1903 Madame Marie Curie won a Nobel Prize in Physics.  In 1911 she won a second Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 1935, Madame Curie's daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Their contributions to the field of medicine have been immeasurable.   Madame Curie was aware of the discrimination against women and she made a point of hiring women who also had suffered discrimination by the male science establishment. By doing so, she gave several of these brilliant women their start in physics. One was Marguerite Perey who began as a test tube washer and, a few years later, discovered the radioactive element Francium. Another woman she hired was Ellen Gleditsch, who was a radiochemist, and who established the half-life of radium.

During the 1940s, the actress Hedy Lamarr wasn't just a beautiful movie star. According to a new play, Frequency Hopping, she was also a shrewd inventor who devised a signal technology that millions of people use every day in their cell phones. During the Second World War, Lamarr realized that by transmitting radio signals along rapidly changing, or "hopping," frequencies, American radio-guided weapons would be far more resilient to detection and jamming. The sequence of frequencies would be known by both the transmitter and receiver ahead of time, but to the German detectors their message would seem like gibberish. "No jammer could detect it, no German code-breaker could decipher a completely random code," she says in the play. The technology, says Singer, was far ahead of its time. Although her ideas were at first ignored, the technology (which she and Antheil patented in 1942) was later used by the military—during the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, for example—and more recently, it has been employed in wireless technologies like cell phones. It was eventually recognized in 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation honored Lamarr with a special Pioneer Award and she became the first woman to receive the Invention Convention's BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award. ~~ Scientific American

The use of x-ray diagnosis and treatment in medicine, and the invention of cellular phones – both invaluable contributions by women. What a loss that would have been to the world if those brilliant woman had been kept in the kitchen, or worse, kept on a shelf in binders. I wonder how many women in Mitt Romney's binders were actually more qualified than the men, to do the jobs for which they had applied. Probably more than Romney would care to admit. We can poke fun at Romney, we can even poke fun at Obama for picking up the binder gaffe and running with it.  The truth is, the world is full of brilliant women.  Step out of those binders, ladies (isn't *bind* a somehow fitting word?) -- literally and figuratively. The world needs your brilliance. And let's face it, could we possibly do any worse than the men? Who knows, we might even just do better than the men. And we promise not to put them in binders.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I'm Falling, oh, yes, I'm Falling...

It has occurred to me recently that I have reached the tender age where falling is probably very dangerous and possibly even fatal.  I remember when I was about eight or nine, the mother of one of my friends fell and hit her head on the side of a garbage can.   She brushed it off as nothing, until a few hours later she became very ill and lost consciousness.  She was rushed to hospital, but never regained consciousness and passed away a week later.  At the time, I thought she was very, very old.  She was 34.  Falls can be deadly at any age, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 230,000 workers are injured, some fatally, due to trips, slips and falls each year.  Even children can be injured or killed by falls.  The majority of falls, however, happen in the home.  The most common place for falls?  Your kitchen, bedroom or bathroom.

Last weekend I was watering the plants on my terrace.  Just as I was stepping over the sill, with a full watering can in my hand, my foot caught on the sill.  In what seemed like slow motion, I headed face-first towards the big, heavy Adirondack chairs.  I managed to twist to the side so I didn't hit head-on, and the arm of the chair left a distinct mark on my cheek, from my ear to my chin.  I landed on my right arm, still holding the full watering can in my left hand.  Not a drop of water spilled.  I managed to pull myself together, albeit a bit shaky, and carried on with my day.  For a couple of days I felt fine.  And then on Wednesday it hit me with a whammy.  I had injured myself much more seriously than I had realized, and my injuries were talking to me.  A lot.

At first I thought it was just a bruise, but there was nothing there.  It was deep inside, and it hurt to cough, sneeze ... breathe.  I couldn't sit up and I couldn't lie down.  Going to the bathroom ... well, we won't even go there.  That's when I discovered that a heating pad and drugs -- lots and lots of drugs -- were my friend.  The nurses where I work gave me some very special over-the-counter pain killers.  I was immobile -- and stoned.  But not in pain.  At least, not until the drugs wore off.  My philosophy has always been that if something lasts for more than three or four days, it's time to see a doctor.  Thankfully, this morning I got out of bed, went to put my slippers on and felt something go *pop* in my back.  And then the pain was gone.  I am now pain-free and drug-free.

This has been quite the summer for being wounded in my home.  I was stung four times by wasps, I burned my hand on the convection oven, I stubbed my toe on my heavy leather chesterfield, and I tripped and went flying on my balcony.

By very, very careful out there.  Home can be a dangerous place.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Fog...

The fog comes
 on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

~~ Carl Sandburg

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving...

This weekend is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. It is traditionally held on the second Monday in October, and is meant to be a holiday to give thanks for the end of the harvest season. It corresponds with the English and European Harvest Festivals, and tables are decorated with cornucopias, pumpkins, corn, wheat sheaves, and other harvest bounty. Much like our American friends to the south, we eat a traditional dinner of roast turkey with all the trimmings, similar to Christmas dinner.


My favourite part of Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner has always been Brussels sprouts. Ever since I can remember, I have loved Brussels sprouts. I sometimes eat them for a TV snack. If you were to place a slice of chocolate cake and a bowl of Brussels sprouts before me and ask me to choose, there would be no question. My choice would always be the Brussels sprouts. Am I insane? Well, yes, probably.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper them, perhaps some butter, et voila! a dish fit for a king ... or me.  Forget about dessert, just give me a second helping of Brussels spouts.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends.