Saturday, April 14, 2007

People who think that California is liberal make me laugh

Where did Ronald Reagan find his springboard to national politics? Who is our governor now? If we're so tax and spend, how did Proposition 13 pass?

I think we can all agree that politicians are often a slimy bunch. I've made no secret of the fact that I disliked Bill Clinton's presidency. Just not as much as I disliked Reagan and dislike Bush.

It's clear that all three politicians have been less than forthcoming with the people who elected them. To me, though, there is a huge, substantive difference between the kind of lies told by Clinton, and those of the Reagan and Bush administrations. Reagan used the power of the presidency to circumvent the will of the people, selling arms to Iran (that looks pretty bad in hindsight, now doesn't it?) to intervene in South American politics after Congress had voted against it. Bush disingenuously fed bad information to the American people to justify a war. For someone who fueled his campaign with accusations of "flip-flopping" he sure has changed his story on Iraq a lot of times.

To quote the bumper sticker, "When Clinton lied, no one died."

Betraying your wife vs. betraying the American people. Yes, I think they both are bad. And yes, I think the second is worse.

Does caring about this make me a liberal?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Trick Question Ahead

STAR test this morning. Ziad and Maya don't attend a regular school, so we had to drive across town during the tail of the morning commute traffic to get them where they needed to be. Before we left in the morning they needed to take a shower, eat a nutritious breakfast (home-fried potatoes and poached eggs), get their stuff together, including books to read if they finished early, and generally get organized. I had to make their nutritious breakfast, make lunches and snacks for them, make lunch for their father, also get some coffee ready in the thermos for him since he wouldn't be getting up till later, and get ready myself. So guess which task took up the most time? As any mother could tell you, it was running up and down the stairs from the kitchen making sure that they maintained focus. And what did I encounter on these trips upstairs? A boy, clad only in underwear, standing still as a statue in the middle of his room. (Why?) A girl, socks in one hand, book in the other, reading on her bed (AARGH!) And so on. I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment pulling out of the garage only 10 minutes later than I had hoped to, still a good 20 minutes earlier than I had feared.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Off to a good start

Reading Ulysses is intimidating. Not because it is long, or even because it is "important" (says so right on the back jacket), but because, as everyone knows, it is DIFFICULT. Having an opinion about it is even more intimidating. I'm not a Joyce scholar. I'm not even a literature major. Am I allowed to have opinions here?

Well, I know I'm missing a lot of what's going on in the book. I have already found that re-reading helps bring the text into focus for me, and I know that digging deeper would be rewarding. I want to actually get through it, though, and here's the surprising thing: I enjoy reading it, just for the pleasure of reading the words. Even when I've totally lost context, it's just a joy to read.

From the first hundred pages, things that I like:

The descriptions
the light, untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak (1)
eyes, pale as the sea the wind had freshened (22)
moved slowly frogwise his green legs in the deep jelly of the water (26)
The alliteration

down the shelving shore flabbily their splayed feet sinking in the silted sand (46)

The poetry

Woodshadows floated silently by through the morning peace from the stairhead seaward where he gazed. Inshore and farther out the mirror of water whitened, spurned by lightshod hurrying feet. White breast of the dim sea. The twining stresses, two by two. A hand plucking the harpstrings merging their twining chords. Wavewhite wedded words shimmering on the dim tide. (9)

Bee Country

We took a field trip on Saturday up to a bee farm, where they produce queen bees for sale. It's not really possible to raise queens in isolation, so there were lots of other kinds of bees buzzing around, too. Apparently they only work with the bees in the morning, so we had to leave the house at 6 to get there by 9. It was a long drive, but fortunately the traffic wasn't heavy, and the last hour and a half was through the kind of rural countryside that reminds me of the town where I grew up. In the back of my mind, though, I couldn't shake my concern about what the traffic would be like going back, since we had to go part of the way along the road between Sacramento and Vallejo, where I've had some horrendous traffic experiences in the last few years.

Those worries aside, the visit to the farm was great. We all got to wear bee suits, and Ziad and Maya spent most of the time captivated by drones that the workers let them hold. Apparently the drones are more placid than the worker bees, and are willing to just hang out on a gloved hand indefinitely. They're also larger and more interesting to look at. The technique the farmers use to grow thousands more queen bees than they would get in the normal course of beekeeping was interesting, but technical. One point in the process even involves incubating them, in adapted chicken incubators. The operation was large, with lots of specialized equipment that they had adapted themselves. This particular place even has created packaging that they sell to other bee farms. The farm itself was located close to the Sacramento River, in the middle of walnut orchards, with a few citrus trees thrown in for good measure. It was a wonderful visit.

For some reason, even though the traffic wasn't THAT bad, it took much longer getting back. We stopped in Walnut Creek at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum to check out the origami exhibit. There weren't a lot of pieces, but they were amazing. Interestingly, they appeared to be for sale, although the prices were stratospheric. I guess you could think you were paying for an expensive piece of paper, or you could think you were paying for untold hours of a Ph.D's creative efforts. In any case, we won't be buying any soon. Then, of course, Ziad and Maya had to hang out for the kestrel presentation, do the scavenger hunt, bug me to buy stuff from the museum .... I was starting to wonder whether I had the energy and focus to make it safely home.

I did, as it turns out, and looking back on it, I'm amazed that the two of them could handle seven hours in the car after much less sleep than they usually get, and behave so well overall. At the museum, I was the only who was starting to lose it when Maya teared up because we were started to leave before she could pet the rat. We went back, but I wasn't very nice about it, and in the car they had to hear about all the effort it took to make their lunch, drive so much, blah blah blah, and did anyone even say THANK YOU???? No, they just had to bug me to buy stuff, let them pet the rat, it's never enough for you people, blah blah blah. Even this they took with good grace.

Generally speaking, I'm not in favor of day trips to spots much more than 2 hrs drive away, but this was an opportunity we couldn't pass up. Despite the difficulty, I'm glad we went.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Who really wants the house clean, anyway?

Well, we had our Maya Angelou marathon, followed closely by the David Sedaris read-in, and now we're on James Joyce. I've decided to take the plunge and try to read Ulysses. I also have the biography of Nora Joyce and of course, our book club selection, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It is largely as a result of reading the Nora Joyce biography that I am unable to refrain from at least trying to read Ulysses. Ostensibly about Nora Joyce, this biography keeps on referring to incidents in Joyce's life that he used in his writing. (Now that I think about it, in some ways this biography is more like Portrait of the Artist as Reflected in the Life of his (common-law) Wife.) Anyway, when I picked up Ulysses from the library today, and almost immediately stumbled across an event I had read about in the biography, I felt so validated! Yes, this is a good combination of reading materials! I may even add in Dubliners.

And a nice thing about Ulysses is that all the explanatory text (relegated to notes, bibliography, etc. at the end of the biography) is at the BEGINNING of the book, so that I can start reading the actual novel at its actual beginning, and still put the bookmark in with a hefty number of pages in front of it. Voila! Instant (unearned) sense of accomplishment!

I'm very happy to be embarking on this course of reading, because I've been reading so much children's fantasy lately it was starting to scare me. Am I still capable of reading anything really challenging? Yes I said yes I can yes.