Friday, July 28, 2006

"She Shared the delusion of all writers, that things written are shared..."

So said Virginia Woolfe and at BlogHer I'm sitting in a session that's going to teach me ten types of web writing...I hope.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dignity. Period! Support the Campaign for Zimbabwean Women's Dignity

From This is Zimbabwe. Copied below is their story. Please help support this very worthy campaign.

Action Alert: support the “Dignity. Period!” campaign

Zimbabwean women want Dignity.Period!Information on how you can help the Dignity. Period! campaign, coordinated by ACTSA, is provided at the end of this post.

One of our bloggers wrote a little while ago about the Zimbabwean government’s crass approach towards the crisis that Zimbabwean women are facing in terms of shortages of sanitary products in the country. This isn’t simply a story about shortages of yet another type of product. Shortages of sanitary ware go to the heart of women’s rights: it’s an issue which raises questions of whether a woman is forced to stay away from work or school; whether she is putting her health at risk by picking up infections or, if she is HIV positive, whether those infections will literally shorten her life span. In short, a lack of affordable hygienic sanitary products translates directly into issues of women’s rights as well as women’s dignity. The story has been picked up by The Sunday Times (UK) again today. The article is cited in full below:

Celebrities back tampon rebels of Zimbabwe

SHE has been arrested 22 times, tortured so badly that her front teeth were knocked into her nose and had an AK-47 thrust up her vagina until she bled. Thabitha Khumalo’s crime: to campaign against a critical shortage of tampons and sanitary towels in Zimbabwe, one of the least talked about and most severe side-effects for women of the country’s economic crisis.

Now her cause has been taken up in Britain by celebrities including the actors Anna Chancellor, Gillian Anderson, Prunella Scales and Jeremy Irons.

Later this month they will launch “Dignity. Period!”, a fundraising campaign to buy sanitary products for Zimbabwe’s women. It will start with a night of entertainment at the 20th Century theatre in Notting Hill, west London, hosted by Stephen Fry.

So desperate is the situation that women are being forced to use rolled-up pieces of newspaper. Zimbabwe already has the world’s lowest life expectancy for women — 34 — and Khumalo believes these unhygienic practices could make it drop to as low as 20 because infections will make them more vulnerable to HIV. “It’s a time bomb,” she said. The shortage is forcing schoolgirls to stay at home when they start menstruating.

The crisis began in 1999 when Johnson & Johnson, the healthcare manufacturer, pulled out of the country because of the worsening economic situation. Zimbabwe then had to import products from neighbouring South Africa. But the collapse of the currency and the world’s highest inflation, now more than 1,000%, have made the products unaffordable to all but the elite.

In a country where the minimum wage is Z$6m (£17.14) a month, the cost of a box of 20 tampons is Z$3m. “Who in their right mind is going to spend half their earnings on tampons?” asked Khumalo. “As it is most people can only afford to eat once a day. Women are being forced to choose between their own health and the survival of their family.”

Khumalo, 45, general secretary of the Women’s Advisory Council of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, and a mother of two, started her campaign after she saw a woman walking awkwardly on the street: “She told me she was going home from work because she had her period and could no longer afford sanitary protection or cotton wool.”

When an MP raised the issue in parliament, government ministers fell about laughing and dismissed the matter. Khumalo has tried to highlight it through public meetings and distributing scarves printed with demands for affordable sanitary wear. As a result she has been repeatedly arrested and beaten, but refuses to be deterred.

The following is a list of information and suggestions on how people around the world can help. If you have more ideas for what people can do to help the campaign then please send us your ideas and we’ll add them to the list:

  • Information on the campaign on the ACTSA website
  • Make a secure online donation to the campaign here. Or you can also send cheques payable to ACTSA (with sanitary appeal written on the back). Details on the website.
  • People in the UK can ask their MP to sign the parliamentary Early Day Motion (EDM) supporting the campaign.
  • Everyone else, please contact your local MP and encourage them to actively support the campaign.
  • Download and distribute the ACTSA Dignity.Period! leaflet. Print out multiple copies and leave them in places where people can pick them up - in the cubicles of women’s public toilets are one suggestion.
  • If you are a blogger or have a website, please feel free to use the button Sokwanele has created on your website or blog as well. Using our code will add an image like the one we have in our sidebar, and a link back to this post where we hope to build on the list of ideas here. Details on how to do so below.
  • Think about how people around the world can help and send us your ideas. We’ll continue to build this list of suggestions.

Zimbabwean women want Dignity.Period!To use our button and link back to this list of ideas on how everyone can support the Dignity. Period! campaign, please copy the code in the box below and paste it where you would like the button to appear on your website. Please let us know you’ve done so.

Help spread the word and thank you all for your support!

Recommended reading on this issue from bloggers around the world:

One Hundred and Nineteen in Woodland Hills, but Only 109 in Topanga

Saturday, July 22, the day of our big party. Fifty people, chez nous, for dinner and appetizers and drinks. FIFTY. And it was HOT. One hundred and nine up here on our hill and 119 not too far from here. I was pleased to hear that these were record-breaking temperatures because these are not numbers I want to repeat too often. Or ever.

Friday I spent the day alternately praying for cooler air and then cursing the fact that I'm not religious so my prayers wouldn't count. I listened to our local forecaster, Dallas Raines (yeah, I know, but I'm in L.A.). Johnny Mountain (I'm still in L.A. and I'm still telling the truth) weather predicts for a rival station, although he and Dallas used to work together. I listen to Dallas when it counts, though. He's got a degree in weather broadcasting and I'm not sure if that's a science or an arts degree.

More later. Daughter Jane just called and her power has gone out. If it gets too hot at her place, they'll all be hoofing it to the Canyon where, believe it or not, we still have electricity!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Way We Respond to Terrorism

The Middle East. It's a fucking mess. Terrorism is ugly, frightening and just plain wrong. But I believe that a country's response to terrorism should not be terrorism. This I believe. England lived with IRA terrorism for three decades.

As Israel continues to pound Lebanon, consider what the world's reaction would have been if England had pounded Ireland in a similar way. Consider that almost all Irish people are innocent of any terrorist thought or deed and then consider bombing those innocents. What would the world have said?

A chronology of major terrorist attacks in England over the past three decades:

— March 8, 1973: Two IRA car bombs explode outside London's Old Bailey courthouse and government's agriculture department headquarters, killing one and wounding more than 150.

— Oct. 5, 1974: Two IRA bombs explode in pubs in London suburb of Guildford; five dead, more than 50 injured.

— Nov. 21, 1974: Two IRA bombs in Birmingham kill 19 and wound more than 180.

— July 20, 1982: Two IRA bombs in Hyde Park and Regent's Park in London kill 11 British soldiers and wound more than 40, mostly civilians.

— Dec. 17, 1983: IRA car bomb explodes outside Harrod's department store, killing six and wounding about 100.

— Oct. 12, 1984: IRA targets conference of ruling Conservative Party, killing five and wounding 24, but narrowly missing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

— Sept. 22, 1989: The IRA bombs the Royal Marines School of Music in Deal, killing 10 soldiers and wounding more than 30.

— Feb. 7, 1991: IRA fires three homemade mortar shells at No. 10 Downing Street, British prime minister's official residence in London. No injuries.

— April 10, 1992: Massive IRA truck bomb in London's financial district kills three and causes hundreds of millions of dollars of damage.

— March, 20, 1993: IRA bomb hidden in garbage can in shopping district of Warrington, northwest England, kills two boys aged 3 and 12.

— Feb. 9, 1996: IRA ends a 17-month cease-fire with a massive truck bomb in London's financial district, killing two.

— Feb. 18, 1996: An IRA bomber accidentally kills himself aboard a London double-decker bus, five injured.

— June 15, 1996: For first time, IRA targets a different English city — Manchester in the northwest — with a massive truck bomb, wrecking the central shopping area and wounding about 200.

— Sept. 20, 2000: IRA dissidents fire rocket-propelled grenaded at headquarters of MI5 security agency. No injuries.

I have no doubt that this post will anger many though that is not my intent. I am just trying to make sense of the day's news. Trying to put it into some framework that I can understand. But it's not working.

Monday, July 17, 2006

BlogMe, Why Doncha


I'm just quoting Donna over at SoCal Mom and I'm late to the party as well. So, like Donna, I'm just gonna answer these questions but preface my answers with her words.

"While BlogHer doesn't officially start for another 11 days, several of the BlogHers (led by Mocha Momma) are too excited to wait. So she's organized an online meetup of BlogHers worldwide -- you don't even have to be planning to be in San Jose next week to participate (after all, there will be plenty of people attending BlogHer virtually, through the live blogging accounts and audio blogging podcasts of the sessions).

Mocha Momma's plan involved folks interviewing each other -- but as I'm late to the party (should have been done by last night and I did not find out about this until I pulled in my email this morning), I'm just going to answer the questions and do the links myself -- but I invite you all to do the same (kind of like tagging all my visitors to participate in an organized meme!) If you do, please add the BlogMe graphic and link to your site and send me your link so we can all get to know each other better!"

BLOG ME SELF-INTERVIEW (See the complete list of questions here.)

When did you start blogging and why? Or Talk about your blog. What can I learn about you in under 5 minutes?

I started blogging about 18 months ago after reading the NY Times article about Mommy Bloggers. Pitifully, before that time I knew little about blogs. I knew they were web logs but didn't truly understood how widespread they were. The only ones I knew how to find were political in nature...until that article. While my kids are grown and my blog is more a granny blog than mommy blog, I was comfortable with the honesty of the younger women and quickly starting reading them daily. Within a week I had my own blog.

How do you use blogging to build friendships?

Certainly it's easy to feel a comfort level with other women through reading their words and this ease makes real-time meetings much easier. It's as though you've already got the "where do you live, how many kids do you have, do you work, are you married" stuff out of the way, clearing the path for much more in-depth fun.

How would you describe your writing style?

Casual, sometimes like a diary and other times a bit more formal. Depends largely upon what I'm writing.

How do you feel about meeting bloggers in real life? Are you nervous? Will you have great expectations? What do you home to take away from the BlogHer experience?

I really am looking forward to meeting a lot of the women whose words I read with regularity. I don't feel nervous about meeting these women, but I do wonder whether or not they'll want to chat to me. I'm the age of most of their mothers. But then I think, hell, my daughter likes talking to me and she's cool. I look forward to becoming more technologically savvy, both in digital photography and in blog formatting, but I also look forward to absorbing some of the wonderful emotional energy of all the younger women.

So soon we’re going to meet each other at BlogHer. Important question. How do you party?

Not nearly as enthusiastically pr loudly as I did 20 years ago, but still with some staying power.

Mozart at the Mermaid

"...of some things I am sure..." direct quote from my last post about seeing the above play at the Mermaid in it wouldn't be air conditioned..."of some things I am sure." Over-elipseeeeeed, I know, but it just proved to me, once again, how I know SFA.*

The theatre was air conditioned. It was comfortable. And our friends, Lee & Betsy and Buzz & Susan, were fabulous company. That we'd enjoy being around them was a given and just one of the few things in this world of which I really am sure.

* Sweet Fuck All G or PG-rated company, Sweet Fanny Adams as in "I know Sweet Fanny Adams about the old Mermaid in Topanga.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

One Hundred and Five Degrees

And still no refrigerator. Oh, we continue to use the 'ice box' but we still don't have a proper fridge. And it's 105 flippin' degrees outside. We purchase four 10-lb bags of ice per day and lovingly arrange them to get the biggest chill for the buck. One bag is of purified water ice cubes so we won't die from tainted frozen water. The other bags are encased in multiple white trash bags to contain the melting action that begins the minute we put them in the big white cooler. We've been doing this for over two weeks now and all because the *#$@$*%$%*&@#$ DF owners before us designed their kitchen around a non-standard Amana fridge.

So, Himself has unscrewed a decorative (?) overhang on the refrigerator alcove overhead cupboard, we've changed the order from the styling French-door fridge to the standard Amana bottom freezer model and we are assured that IT WILL fit and that IT WILL arrive on Thursday. That's good because around 50 people will be here on Saturday for a party. If I have a fridge AND the temperature is below 100, I'll be smiling.

In a few hours four friends will arrive to drink chilled (bottles sitting on top of melting ice) champagne before we head to the old Mermaid Theatre in Topanga where we will hand over $45 per ticket for a T-CEP fundraising performance of Reminiscences of Mozart by his Sister, a one-act, one-woman play that must be excellent to be bearable. It will be held in the old Mermaid Theatre in Topanga which is not air conditioned, of some things I am positive. I have bought little hand-held, batter-powered fans for my guests and am chilling water as I type.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Ice Box Blues

It's been hot in Southern California. Early hot. June Gloom didn't really pan out and this year we had Gray May instead, but back when it was cool and damp my refrigerator was working just fine. Of course I looked at it daily, as I have since I moved in, and quietly thought "You ugly little thing. What in God's name were the previous owners thinking when they had their entire new kitchen designed and built around an old, substandard refrigerator." But I didn't really think it in a cruel way...uh huh. The insane, early heat proved to be too big a challenge for our fridge and I accepted its demise when my granddaughter asked for an ice cream cone last week and as I was getting the Cherry Garcia out of the freezer, inadvertently squeezed it too hard (uh oh, my brain registered, the ice cream's soft), the top popped off and the delicious goo landed all over a little Navajo rug I keep next to the fridge. (That rug has saved many a glass container from shattering when I'm moving in my typically careless way so stop thinking ew, she has a rug in her kitchen). Charlotte looked at the goo on the rug, looked back at me and we carried the rug outside and hosed it down. Relax, the rug is not an antique, but it is one of those Canyon Road specials that look good and are priced high in Santa Fe. I've discovered you can throw it in the washing machine or hose it down. It doesn't care. I like that in a rug.

So yesterday, oh boy oh boy, I was excited. I ran around the house doing a little happy dance every time I thought about the brand new refrigerator that was on its way to our house. When we moved in four years ago, our kitchen (all except for this old white Amana fridge) impressed us with its clean architectural lines and fabulous storage and the hinges on the cupboards. Oh the sophistication of the hinges. Then there were the two Viking ranges. TWO! One big ole industrial gas stove and then another whole electric/convection oven under the counter, because turkeys roast much better and cakes rise much more prettily with convection, I guess. And the Swedish quiet and efficient and a light that pops on so you can conveniently see the far corners when loading.

And then there was the fridge. Oh well, I would think, when it dies, we'll replace it. We are actively trying to replace it. We've actually charged two refrigerators to our American Express card this week and one was delivered today. It made it up the stairs from the driveway and into our house. They'd tried to deliver it yesterday but their truck was too big to get up our street, much less our driveway. Before you think I'm a complete nimrod, be assured that this was discussed pre-delivery.

All was forgiven, though, as I watched our fridge slowly being hauled up the stairs to our home. It had French doors! How cute is that? I love French doors...anywhere. My excitement started dimming, though, when it took my husband and both delivery guys five minutes to shimmy and wiggle the existing dead fridge out of its niche. We had measured and measured and talked ad nauseum with Joe O (our sales guy...his surname is O, really, how cool is that?) to determine that this fridge would exactly fit. It would fit, Joe assured us multiple times as he swiped our Amex.

So finally the painful extraction was achieved. My excitement was dimming, though, as the senior delivery guy assured me that our new fridge, sitting sweetly out on the patio, would not fit. No point in trying. See this lip hanging from the top cupboard he intoned in a hushed voice. That's not your problem. This is your problem, he said dramatically, thumping the inside walls of the cupboards either side of the fridge space. Won't fit. It wouldn't effing fit by 1/16th of an inch. And then, ultimate injury. The guy wasn't sure if the old fridge would fit back into the space because well he just wasn't sure and then we thought, why put it back if we're going to get a replacement in a few days. So now...look where it sits. Handy, huh?

So, did I mention we're having a big party in a couple of weeks and that the people over at the Pacific Design Center who put this kitchen together will hopefully have a team of crack carpenters here before then to cut and move some cabinetry about because as things stand, we have a big hole in the kitchen and a fridge just kind of sitting almost in front of a window and in the way of a door and, get this, it is just barely working at this point. Every day we have to buy four bags of ice and put three in the fridge part and one in the freezer part just to keep stuff chilled. It's like a giant, ugly cooler. A true ice box.

Sometimes you just wish the iceman still would cometh.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

So Lay Died

And he didn't die in prison, but in one of his vacation houses in Colorado. Anyone else remember how his wife cried and cried in front of the camera some years ago at the very thought of losing one of their vacation homes? Thoughtless cow.

Well, a few weeks back I saw a retired L.A. Unified schoolteacher speaking of how she was spending her post-teaching days. Due to the Enron debacle (what a gentle word), she cleans houses three days a week. She taught high school math for 40 years, and because of the greed (now that's an ugly word) of Lay and his compadres, she doesn't have enough money to live in her extremely modest San Fernando Valley, two-bedroom house unless she cleans houses. And she's not alone. Teachers from New York to Minnesota to California are similarly affected.

I wonder how they feel about Ken Lay's timely death.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

An Irritant

Summer colds piss me off...big time. In the winter you can curl up with your duvet in front of the fire. This week the temperature in the daytime has ranged between 89 and 105 and there's nothing like having a cold and feeling hot and sweaty and NOT having a fever. Still, take it from me, it beats cancer...hands down.

I've just reached my five year all clear mark so this cold is nothing more than a simple irritant.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Helicopter, Bullhorn, Two Suspects, cont.

And here's what happened.

Matt (Jane's husband), his Mom and Lottie headed out to pre-school. It's 8:45 AM or so and Jane is at home with Baby Sophie. The doorbell is rung, repeatedly, urgently and as Jane peered through the peephole, she saw two teenage boys sending nervous, darting looks over their shoulders. She didn't answer the door but moved quietly away, making sure the pacifier was firmly in Sophie's mouth. Thinking they'd probably just leave, she took a half glance out a window obscured by bougainvilla and climbing roses and saw them heading for the side of her house. As she ran to the back, checking to see if that door was locked, she punched 911 into her phone. Emergency personnel said they'd keep her on the line until the police arrived so Jane nipped back to the front side of the house and furtively peered through a chink in the curtains, and watched the teens expertly slipping the screen off the window and reported that back to the operator. My daughter and her family live in the main house and there's a small flat towards the back and side, fully connected to her house, but with a separate entrance. We're all quite convinced that after breaking into what these kids logically assumed was a single-family home, their pissed-offedness and confusion was most likely profound when they discovered a little one-bedroomed flat. There was little time for them to reflect on their next move, though, as concurrent with the arrival of multiple police cars, a helicopter whickered its approach. Cops quickly surrounded Jane's house and as the two jumped-up (crystal meths?) kids threw open a back window to make their getaway, they saw cops headed toward them. Back into the flat they climbed and then the stand-off began.

Jane threw on some clothes and she and Baby Sophie were escorted outside. That's when she saw police cars blocking either end of their street and that's when she called her husband and told him he may not want to come home quite yet. He and his Mom were there minutes later.

Police entered the flat, with a cop dog, and Jane expected them to come out with the teens. They didn't, but they did assure my daughter that they were now aware that the intruders were in the attic crawl space, and asked Jane if the crawl spaces are connected..the answer is yes. Huh? YES! SHIT...There's a couple of jumped up teenagers in the crawlspace above my daughter's house. Suddenly there's a lot of activity and the police march the first young suspect out the front door. He'd chosen to exit the attic through my daughter's walk-in closet. Through my daughter's walk-in closet. Trouble is, only one suspect chose to exit the attic. The second is still up there and the cops more or less tell the kids and Matt's Mom that they can go back in to their home, to just act normally and that they (the police) would be stationed in their backyard, in the middle bedroom next to the walk-in closet and down the street.

Jane headed off to collect Charlotte at pre-school and then over to a friend's house to kill some time, hoping that the 'incident' would be resolved before they returned home. It wasn't and as they walked through the front door, Matt explained the police in the bedroom and the backyard to his four and a half year old in simple terms, which she seemed to think was quite normal. Lottie ran back, said "Hi" to the police lady and just seemed to accept that this woman was going to be sitting in a garden chair, in the house, facing the walk-in closet. This child acts questions about everything, but just accepted this stranger's presence. The police had explained to Matt that they could just carry on as normal. Their assumption was that the kid in the crawlspace, who it turned out was hiding between the insulation and the roof, would hear the racket in Jane's house, assume the cops were gone, and exit the crawlspace in the other unit, although they left a cop in my daughter's place on the offchance he did the opposite. But that's eventually what he did, six hours after he'd climbed into the attic. Jane said it was quiet, and then suddenly the officer in their place got a radio call and she took off out the front door, the officer in the back yard ran around the side and another officer in the street ran toward the house, tackling the kid to the ground. And then as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. Sixteen-year old Joaquin, a kid with a long rap sheet and a druggie mom, a runaway from Bakersfield, was in the back of a squad car. And he just accepted his fate. No expression. Nothing. It was over.

And it's a helluva story for Matt's Mom to take back to Madison, Wisconsin.