A Manly Pie


“I have the touch.”

Sometimes when I walk around on errands and see young adolescents in the mall or wherever, I feel a little sorry for them because they look a bit lost and bored. My impression is that they spend an awful lot of rather unfulfilling time entertaining themselves with TV, movies, video games, their cellphones and other techie toys and just wandering around the malls looking for something they know not what. I look at them and wonder, “Do you know how to do anything, to make anything?”

I mean, “Do you know how to build a fence, repair a car, sew a dress, knit a sweater, grow something to eat, create a work of art, cook something really delicious from scratch?” Anything like that can be a source of pride, and I wonder if these young people are deprived in this respect.

In a culture where it is so easy to buy everything, I still take pride in the fact that I can make about the best pie crust I’ve ever eaten anywhere. One third cup butter, one third cup of shortening, two cups of flour, one teaspoon of salt, and about five tablespoons of water, depending on the humidity. The magic is in the work with the pastry blender, the knowing how much water is just right, and the skill with which you roll the dough out so that the baked crust is flaky rather than tough. I have the touch. Read Full Post »

Crop Circle Update


“Wouldn’t it be fun if one suddenly appeared at White Sands?”

One of the many things I love about Santa Fe is the open and imagnative mind that is characteristic of residents. I saw that again yesterday at a standing-room-only lecture on crop circles at the International Folk Art Museum.

The speaker was Donna Bone, who has a garden design firm here and who was sharing her experience as a member of an international tour group in Great Britain last year. Her talk was very rich with photographs of the designs, some so beautiful and intricate that the audience gasped. The number of appearances has increased rapidly since the 1970s, and about ninety percent of the formations in the last century occurred in Great Britain. Over 10,000 have now been documented worldwide in fields of crops like borage, oats, wheat, barley, etc.

After the lecture, I turned to the Internet to get more information, and the person who wrote the article on Wikipedia was clearly skeptical. There have been cases where pranksters, artists, engineers, and others have created creditable designs to show how humans could do this work, but they damage plants in the act. In the “real” crop circles, plants will soon stand up again if no one walks on them.

According to the Wikipedia article, the first image of a crop circle appeared in a 17th century English woodcut, only it is oblong rather than round and reportedly depicts the Devil with a scythe mowing the design. In her presentation, Bone pointed out that it is hard to detect the design of a crop circle on the ground. Now they can be captured with cameras and airplanes and helicopters, so there may have been many more than we will ever know. Read Full Post »

Medicare Non-Fraud


“Because insured patients are paying so little out of pocket for care, we don’t closely monitor the cost.”

Hmph! Now I have personal knowledge of one of the countless reasons why Medicare has become so costly.

I have Medicare benefits now and also supplemental insurance, and the latter always reports back on my charges. I recently got an “Explanation of Benefits” pertaining to an ankle I fractured on New Year’s Day. I was amazed to see a charge for $320.59 for “Surgery,” so I decided to be a good citizen and report what looked like an error.

I was unhappy about this, not wanting to think ill of my doctor, whom I had greatly liked. He was very amiable and encouraging and provided me with a boot at the first appointment. During the next two appointments, he simply tested the growing strength in my ankle, expressing amazement at how quickly I was healing. On the last visit, he jovially dismissed me with a prescription for physical therapy.

When I called the Fraud Hotline, the woman at the other end seemed tired and discouraged–what a job–and I hated to dump my concern on her. I gave her the details, and she excused herself briefly to investigate. When she came back on the line, her voice was rueful. “I have no idea why they’ve done this,” she said, “but a fracture is coded as surgery, and this is correct.” I told her that I was relieved but could see how Medicare will go broke. She chuckled in agreement, updated my information, and wished me a nice day. Read Full Post »

One Feminine Principle of Leadership


“The concept of balance is thus aligned with the concept of justice–a noble duality the feminine could happily embrace.”

In my last blog, I made the point that The Man’s Way of governance has brought us to a very perilous moment in history, and it is time for it to be tempered by The Woman’s Way. I suggested that we begin to prepare for this responsibility by developing principles of leadership uniquely suited to the feminine psyche. They would clarify what matters most to us and how that differs from the masculine approach.

And to be frank, one of the reasons why I think this is necessary is because I have no illusions about the shadow side of the feminine. In fact, the worst abuse of power I have ever witnessed in a professional situation was by two women. So there. We’re not perfect, and we can be scary. Establishing guidelines to promote the enlightened use of power would benefit the collective and also set a nice example for men, who have never done this as far as I know.

I would suggest that there be a total of three principles, because a trinity of whatever seems to be especially memorable to the human mind. All of the principles, if this idea catches on, should be the developed by consensus–at a huge conference of women, for example. However, I do have a thought about one. Read Full Post »

Schoolyard Wisdom


“Don’t worry. I’ll launch that nuclear warhead so fast it will make your head spin.”

Someone recently reminded me that the international tension building about Iran’s nuclear ambitions is a whole lot about politics–here, in Israel, and in Iran. Even if there is a lot of show afoot, however, it is nerve-racking; because we are looking at potentially cataclysmic consequences. Something has to give, big-time, and perhaps that is The Ways of Men. That means that The Ways of Women will be needed in greater measure.

I speak as both a participant and very early observer of schoolyard behavior, which is pertinent here. To give you the framework, I went to an elementary school in El Paso, Texas, where Anglos were outnumbered by Hispanics. The disadvantages of being in the minority, of being “the other,” were most acute on the playground. There I was picked on enough to resort to forging notes from my mother excusing me from recess. The teacher caught on after a while, and I had to return to the arena. What I endured was generally unpleasant, but I don’t remember a specific incident. That suggests that the animosity was tempered, which is typical of girls.

Things were different with the boys, whose tensions typically escalated. Something would begin with a little shove, then there would be a reacting shove, followed by a bigger shove back, leading to a lunge and a blow, and then the boys would be thrashing around in the dirt. Sometimes I’m sure there was a little trouble-maker in the melee, emboldened by a big brother who would come to the rescue if needed or be the later agent of revenge. Read Full Post »

Moon Thoughts


“The evolutionary consequences of a primitive initiative are astounding.”

The moon will be full at 2:41 a.m. Santa Fe time, and I am sorry that weather moving in may obscure its moment of glory. There is little ambient light out where I live, and the heavens on a cloudless night are a revelation. Months ago the sight of the full moon rising inspired me to return to a book in my library, The Moon, Myth and Image, by Jules Cashford. The scholarly work contains more detail than I can handle, but it also presents an idea that I may ponder for the rest of my life.

There have been countless times when I have been grateful for the moon’s distant companionship, but it had never occurred to me that our early fascination with it was the ground on which civilization took root. My moon book presents the theory that acute observation of its phases resulted in an understanding of time that led to both the rational and abstract thinking unique to human beings. Read Full Post »

Let’s Have a Chat


“After commiting to moderate, I was allowed to go back to sleep.”

The wind was howling out at my sister’s country place south of Santa Fe where I spent the weekend, and I heard it battering the wall behind my headboard when I woke up in the middle of the night. It wasn’t the wind that interrupted my sleep, though. I had a frowning visitation about my last post.

What is the source of such a disturbance anyway? Is it your subconscious demanding attention? Your conscience? The collective conscious? Your higher self? Or is it some source of spiritual guidance that knocks on the door of your resting brain to say, “We need to have chat.”

So I groaned inwardly and sat up mentally and said, “OK. What’s the deal?” Read Full Post »

Political Cannibalism


“According to the dictionary, a fluke is a ‘stroke of luck.'”

Really, it’s kind of fun watching the Republican Party devour itself. By allowing rabid outliers to lead, it seems committed to its own extinction. I speak, of course, of the firestorm Rush Limbaugh ignited by calling a Georgetown University law student a “slut” for testifying in Congress in support of universal access to contraception.

And there is more to it than that. The young woman’s name is Sandra Fluke, and it makes you wonder if some form of divine mischief is afoot. According to the dictionary, a fluke is a “stroke of luck,” and President Obama must surely see Limbaugh’s reaction to the young woman’s testimony as such. In calling Sandra Fluke afterward to thank her for her support and to express concern for her, he may have caused every lucid woman in the country to stop and think.

I don’t say this as a Democrat. I am one of those millions who are watching the political scene hoping for the development of a hybrid party that will tap into what I believe is an enormous resource in common sense in this country. However, I used to be a Republican. I even ran in a Republican primary back in Houston in 1984, filing in the hope of defeating Congressman Ron Paul, whose extremism I thought was wasting a seat. He subsequently filed to run for the Senate and lost, and the state got Tom DeLay instead of me. It was during that campaign that I encountered the emerging right wing that eventually caused me to abandon the party entirely.

For the first time yesterday, I heard the theory that a Republican candidate would be brokered at the convention. This would be due to the fact that, through religious feuding and a relentless series of gaffes, Romney and Santorum would have effectively devoured their electability by then. The name of Jeb Bush came up. The brother of George Bush and the former governor of Florida, he could conceivably triumph, lacking the time needed to consume his own entrails on television. (That’s not cannibalism, though, is it? What do you call that?)

By then, however, Florida may have gone into complete collapse due to the fiscal rigidity of Republican Governor Rick Scott. If not that, the state could be devastated by hurricane season and in desperate need of Federal aid to survive and rebuild–and we know how the Republican outliers feel about Federal aid. A fluke is also a whale part, you know, and Bush would be impaled on his own harpoon. There have been moments when I thought I might need to move to New Zealand, but now I have hope. Read Full Post »

Rethinking the Keystone


“Are we going to be bullied or will we smack pig bottoms, so to speak?”

In architecture, the keystone is that wedge-shaped piece of an arch that locks the two curving sides together. I wonder if someone in the TransCanada Corporation was thinking about that when the Keystone Pipeline was named. Was he or she trying to evoke a criticial element of construction–the pipeline–that would bind our two countries together forever? If so, the keystone is a very ancient design, and one wonders if we should be thinking of something new.

The Keystone XL controversy will be inflamed again by speculation over the $5 gas prices being predicted due to hostilities between Israel and Iran. The United States is currently a net exporter of oil, so it’s not as though scarcity is driving the price upward. The rise is a combination of two things, the possibility of scarcity on the one hand and, on the other, speculative investment in oil at current prices in anticipation of scarcity. Fear and greed doing their number again.

Over and over again we are being shown the danger of our involvement in the Middle East, the very thing, according to historian Will Durant, that caused the collapse of the Roman Empire. The advocates of the construction of the Keyxtone XL Pipeline will claim that it will spare us oil price victimization by giving us unlimited access to oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada. After all, we have always felt an affinity with Canadians, who are probably more like Americans than any other people on earth. And we have common interests, right? Well, our oil and gas corporations certainly do.

This is a very complicated subject, and getting to the bottom of it is way beyond the resources of a regular old person like me. However, there are things about this deal that make me uneasy in ways journalists aren’t addressing. For one thing, I didn’t realize that TransCanada already has about 200,000 miles of pipeline in the United States. Well, that’s OK. We’re good friends, right? Read Full Post »

It’s Tumbleweed Time


“I learned that the tumbleweed is worse than a nuisance.”

The winds are howling, dust is flying, tumbleweeds are rolling, and hair is standing on end with static electricity. It’s spring in New Mexico.

Living “out” of Santa Fe a bit in a new development, I see a lot of the tumbleweeds, and this morning they were flying across open ground like wild children in a playground. I haven’t been here a year yet but have already noticed that they seem to proliferate wherever the ground has been disturbed by new roads or construction. After a heavy rain last summer, I pulled up the new ones wherever they sprouted around my property, and as fall winds rolled in big old dead ones, I put them into plastic  bags, stomped on the bags to make room for more, and put them into the garbage bin.

Growing up in Texas, I had always assumed that tumbleweeds were native to the West, but just recently I had heard that they arrived here from Russia, envisioned as cattlefeed. Since they seemed to be rolling all over the place today to attract attention, I decided to do some research. Read Full Post »