Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thank you yet again, Huffington Post

McCain's wife, camera-perfect and as poised as you could ever imagine an ex-rodeo queen could be, has been given a pretty easy ride by the press and I have puzzled over that for a while. I was prepared to ignore her thieving and chemically altered history until she made that snide little comment that was a direct dig at Michelle Obama. You know, the one where she pretty much let it be known that as opposed to Michelle, she has always been proud to be an American. Yeah, that one...

And Stephen Elliott couldn't have put it better.

and back in the last century there was this article in

And she's not even safe from The Daily Telegraph...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why Some Folks are Voting Republican

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Come on Down

Sometimes, when I'm really sure about something, I forget to knock on my head (née Wood) and naively imagine results that couldn't be further from fact. Yesterday was one of those days.

Six weeks or so ago I received another jury summons and closer to the appointed day I called the Malibu Courthouse for instructions (and yes, I am well aware that jury duty in Malibu isn't the biggest hardship in the world). I was told to check in Monday at 8:30 AM and so I did...with another 125 or so people. We were called in before the judge and the attorneys, given the run-time of the trial and asked if that would present any financial hardship. If it would present financial hardship you were asked to stay in the courtroom and explain the circumstances. Those people, half of whom I'm sure were lying, were dismissed. The case was then explained in simple detail to the remaining 50 or so of us and we were given a 20-page questionnaire which we were asked to fill in (in detail), and return it to the jury coordinator after which we too were dismissed and instructed to return first thing on Thursday morning.

Thursday was even more chaotic and crowded than Monday had been and I got to talking to a few of the other potential jurors and found that some of them had initially been called on the previous Friday morning and some where from Tuesday and Wednesday's calling. We had been whittled down, from the initial hundreds, to a core group of about 60. Out of this core group, 24 of us were sat in front of the bar and the remainder in the gallery seats.

Each of us in the smaller group were questioned by lead attorneys for the plaintiffs and the depth. I have never known jury selection to feel quite so much like one big audition. But then this is Malibu/L.A. and there are a lot of unemployed actors out there and maybe, just maybe, there's a producer or a director or a casting agent in the jury pool. Or maybe one of the attorneys has a cousin or a friend in the business and will say casually over dinner, "There's one potential jury who has, oh hell I don't know what it is, but s/he has it."

And slowly, one by one, the group was dismissed. This one owned stock in the defendants' company. That one couldn't be impartial and listen to both sides. This one taught the ethics of law and assured the attorneys that he was their worst nightmare...and so on. One woman stated that she already had found for the plaintiffs and that there's no way she would change her mind.

So yeah, I was picked, in spite of some compelling (I thought) reasons to dismiss me. But then I thought they'd excuse my new best friend on the jury, the judge's wife, too. This trial is slated to finish on July 18th. I have been assured by the judge that this trial WILL finish on the 18th and that I'm free to leave the country, as planned, on the 22nd.

Let's hope for an early settlement.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Preparing for "It"

When we moved to California, I routinely felt the ground move even when it was, in fact, quite still. I would turn to Roger and ask, "Did you feel that?" and he would give me that sideways questioning look which implied quite strongly that no, he hadn't felt that but that he was, in fact, a bit concerned for my sanity. I was also hyper-sensitive to the possibility of wildfires and would routinely ask him, "Do you smell smoke?" The same raised-eyebrow, incredulous look would be shared with me. Given my obvious discomfort with the wild and woolly ways of my new Canyon home, anyone with half a brain would assume that I would understand the utmost importance of being prepared for anything.

I routinely would run different disaster scenarios through my head (rumbling ground and ashy air) and would run into the bathrooms and turn on the taps, filling the tubs with water that might potentially save our lives. In these artfully staged skull cinemas of mine I would also call everyone on my speed dial, giving them an update of our situation and reminding them that we will meet at our pre-arranged (safe) location. I always had a plug-in phone at the ready in case the power went out and candles stored in dry and cool tuck-aways, complete with ever-dry, safety matches. Oh yeah, I was on top of things. My basement shelves were stocked with water, protein, cleaning/sanitizing supplies and backup medicines and our cars' gas tanks were kept topped up at all times, never allowed to dip below three-quarter's full. Artfully hidden in secret corners of my house were hundreds of dollars in singles. I had been told that when the power goes down, the ATM machines no longer work and gas pumps...well, they'll pump gas, but only if you prepay with cash. But in truth, aside from some gallon jugs of drinking water and a few cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew left over from the rare car camping trip, I have done nothing to make me or my loved ones safer should disaster strike.

But, change is afoot thanks to the gentle prodding of California Volunteers.

California Volunteers is the lead oversight agency for the California Citizens Corps Program which was created post 9/11 to coordinate and make more efficient volunteer activities State-wide so that responses to disasters can be efficient and well-coordinated. Within this hard-working group, a new campaign has been instituted to help families in communities across the State be better prepared for natural disasters by helping them customize their own personal Family Plans and familiarizing them with disaster prepared resources. Downloadable PDF files are available on the California Volunteers We Prepare website but one of the best links on this website is to the Ready Kids, a site for children, parents and teachers. It's great when parents are prepared, but school-age children can be enormously helpful and feel less frightened and more in control of scary situations when there is a disaster response plan in place and discussions have been had (and not just once) regularly about this plan. No one wants their children to be fearful of the unknown, and while talking about earthquakes may frighten them a bit, just knowing that there is a course of action to be taken in the event of such an occurrence goes a long way toward calming a fearful child.

In my Santa Monica Mountain home preparing for disasters most likely means earthquakes or fires and while we Topanga residents are fortunate to live in a community that actually has solid disaster action plans in place through T-CEP (Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness) and that has provided every single household in the Canyon with a spiral-bound Topanga Disaster Survival Guide, the We Prepare campaign has spurred me on to concretely (not just in my dreams) prepare my family and home for potential disasters. See that backpack...that's going in my car. But everything in it is going to be duplicated a number of times over and will be kept in my house.

These are emergency supplies, but every family should have at least several days supply of food and water for themselves and their pets. This isn't the time to introduce your child to canned sardines or smoked oysters so stick with the familiars. If peanut butter is a favorite of your child, make sure you have enough. I've started my list of foods and am organizing a place to store them safely should they be needed. A friend of mine who has little storage space inside her home bought a couple of large Rubbermaid type containers. Tight locking lids keep the contents dry and safe from any curious animals and packed snugly within these boxes are a small camping tent (in case their home is severely damaged and they need to sleep outdoors), sleeping bags, flashlights, batteries, food, water, first aid kit, medicines and pet supplies. They reckon they have enough for themselves and their two dogs for five days. According to my friend, Susan, their previous lack of preparedness hit home pretty convincingly after the Northridge Quake. It was quickly apparent to them that they were ill-prepared for such events and they vowed to change. It's important for non-natives, such as myself, to talk to folks who have experienced earthquakes, about not only the event itself but the subsequent impact on their lives. What did they do for the first few days post-quake? What do you do when power is down over wide areas, especially today when most everything is reliant upon electricity? Believe me, everyone seems to like to talk about disasters and what they felt and what they did and what they'd do differently. You'll find no shortage of people happy to share and offer advice!

And after they'd told you about their experiences, you can share with them the California Volunteers and We Prepare website. We owe it to our families to be prepared. Organizing disaster plans and emergency supplies can be a daunting prospect, but this community program can truly make such a task feel so much more easily achievable and infinitely easier.

And one more thing, in a more local vein, Mayor Villaragosa has announced The Great Southern California ShakeOut on November 12-16, 2008. When it comes to earthquakes, the more resources near to hand, the better off you are. Stay safe everyone!

And finally, I know there are number of California moms who read my blog. There are loads of ways to get your community involved in earthquake preparedness and you can begin by just talking to your childrens' teachers and their friends' parents. Here's a note from Maria Shriver showing you just how easy it is.

As moms, the safety and security of our children is our top concern. That’s why it is so important that we make sure our families are prepared for disasters. By now, you’ve hopefully taken the first step toward becoming disaster ready by creating your own family disaster plan using the tools and templates found on this Web site.

Next, we’re asking you to motivate other moms to follow your lead by becoming disaster prepared, too. CaliforniaVolunteers created the "Moms Brigade," a group of influential mom advocates being recruited to help spread the word to other moms to get their families prepared for disasters. By joining the Moms Brigade today, you can help us make sure your friends and neighbors Get Ready!

Getting started is easy! Simply fill out the information below and click "submit." Once you’ve joined, you will receive a packet in the mail with the tools you need to help us empower other moms to follow your lead by becoming disaster ready.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Cerne Abbas

Google Earth is such a great tool. Earlier today I was plugging in a friend's address in Cerne Abbas, Dorset. Cerne Abbas is home to the Cerne Abbas Giant or 'Rude Man' or Man with the Big Willy...always a good place to take friends for UK photo ops if you're in the Dorchester area, but when I was wandering through the mapping site, I found this photo (credit below) of the very modest Homer visiting the Giant...doughnut or discus in hand.

el gigante con hommer simpson

by ajoaj