Keeping Track of the Tax Plans

As you know, the House of Representatives passed a tax plan overhaul yesterday. I know that the Senate Plan will be different, and assuming they can get something passed, it will be some sort of reconciliation of the two. I thought it might be interesting (to me, if to no one else) to calculate how the tax plans would hypothetically affect our household. Since I don’t have numbers from 2017, what I did was to look at our 2016 taxes, and apply the numbers from the House plan, and see how we come out.

We have a mortgage, we live in a high tax state, and our daughter is in college, and the combination of these things (plus charitable contributions, etc) is higher than the standard deduction, so we itemize our deductions.

Under the House plan, we could itemize and claim deductions for our mortgage and property tax, but not our state and local taxes. The standard deduction of $24,400 is higher than our itemized deductions would be, so we would take that. The proposed standard deduction is actually higher than our current itemized deductions. But because you lose the individual exemption amount of 4,050 per person, our taxable income would be higher.

I applied the tax rates in the House bill, and if the House tax bill were to be the law of the land, our taxes would go up by $260. I do not mind paying $260 more a year if it goes to fixing the roads or helping people, but the idea that we would pay $260 more a year just so the wealthy can pay LESS taxes really frosts my cake. I don’t know what else to say about it, other than, it sucks and it pisses me off.

Women’s March

3 Generations Marching!

3 Generations Marching!

As the Women’s March came nearer, I felt more sure that I wanted to participate. But which one? We live in a small city (bigger than a town! Pop around 60k) in a very densely populated area, and there were two fairly large ones just a short BART (our local transit) ride away. So, Oakland or San Francisco? Both would be great. I still hadn’t decided, when Ted’s mom called and asked if we wanted to go to the one right here in our town. OK, I’m in. Easier than getting on BART even, and a shorter walk (Ted’s mom had hip surgery this summer, and I have arthritis that affects my feet somewhat unpredictably, so this sounded wise to me). I thought we would get a couple of hundred people at the most, waving at passing cars and so on, like most of the protests that we get in our city. Boy, was I wrong. Ted, Maya, his mom, and I went downtown, and we parked several blocks away. It turned out there were thousands of people there! Estimates say it may have been as many as 10,000 people, carrying signs, cheering each other on, chanting slogans, enjoying the community of being around like minded folks. We saw one of the moms from Maya’s old Girl Scout troop there, as well as the principal of her elementary school. I know a coworker of mine from 20 years ago was there. It was supposed to be small, staying on the sidewalks and marching the downtown area. But so many people showed up that they took over the streets. Our local police were extremely helpful in getting people around and diverting traffic. Overall it was a GREAT experience. It was also great to know that my dad and step mom, who were in Santa Barbara for the weekend, were marching there. My sisters and their families were marching in Portland. Later I looked online, and saw that 2,000 people marched in Fairbanks, Alaska! I relatively small town in a VERY red state, and it was 15 below zero! I have seldom felt so encouraged. It was a great day.

We must keep that spirit, and remember that this is a fight worth having. Yesterday, Trump issued an order banning Muslims from 7 countries from entering the United States. Today, a judge stayed that order, with help from the ACLU. We must resist and stay strong. Power to the people!

Presidential Cereal

I had a dream last night (or was it a vision?) of a cereal box with Trump’s picture on it.  I know, what a horrid idea.  I told Ted, and he went and found this picture, likely in order to torture me.


I mentioned it on Facebook, (which is where Ted put the picture), and my FB and prior bloggy friend V-Grrrl said that her nephew (founder of Air B&B) had presidential cereals back in 2008.  So I did a search for Presidential Cereals, and found these.  The Obama Os and Cap’n McCain’s are VGrrrl’s nephew’s.





image image

Good thing these aren’t around all the time.  I for one do not want to see politicians in the cereal aisle?

Do you have a favorite?  I’d try Clinton Crunch.


image found here…dream interpretation of waffles…
Back in the 2008 primaries, the choice for Democrats was between Clinton and Obama. I looked at them as both too centrist for my taste, but if those were my choices, I wanted a woman President, so I voted for Clinton. I remember my liberal mother being displeased at this decision, as Clinton voted for the war in Iraq, and she was unwilling to let that go. I felt like the political climate at that time was such that it would be political suicide to vote against that war, especially if you were a Senator in New York, so I looked past it. Perhaps that says something not very good about me, I don’t know.

In those same primaries, Ted also looked at Clinton and Obama as centrist, and he wanted a President who was a person of color. So he voted for Obama. We pretty much cancelled out each others’ votes, but we didn’t care. It felt really good to vote for a woman and a black man.

This time, though, I’m having more trouble.  I keep waffling between Clinton and Sanders. I like Sanders’ ideas, and he’s NOT too centrist for me. The things he wants to fix, I sincerely believe need fixing. Our political system is mired in corporate money. Higher education is obscenely expensive. Healthcare is obscenely expensive. Clinton says she wants to fix these things, but so did Obama, and he didn’t get terribly far. Not far enough for me, certainly. So maybe I should vote for Sanders.

But then, I think Clinton is likely a better manager, perhaps better at getting things done. With the right pressure from the left side of her base, perhaps she could fix some of these things.  And Sanders voted against gun legislation that I would have liked to see, likely for the same reason that Clinton voted for war.  Because it kept him in office.  Politicians who piss off their constituents get voted down.

But then there’s this.  I still really, really want a woman president. I am convinced we will have one in Maya’s lifetime, and pretty sure we will in mine. But I’d like to have one in my Great Aunt’s lifetime, and she’s going to be 92 in April. She has given money to Clinton ($10 I think), because she wants a woman President. I think having a black man as President has brought a lot of the racism in our country to the forefront, and we, as a nation, are more aware and accepting that this shit really does happen. Maybe we would have been just as aware with a white President, since so much of what has been unearthed is through video cameras on phones.  But the hatred and disrespect (remember “LIAR!” during the State of the Union?) he has faced has boiled over into people’s consciousness.  And will Clinton be able to get things done? Depends a lot on the Congress. Bill Clinton’s Congress sure hated him, didn’t they? The current Congrss hates Hillary even more.  She may be hated as much as Obama.

So here I am, stuck between my ideals and my dreams. Those of you not on Facebook, this is a good time for that. My political Democrat friends are all posting, daily, their reasons why Sanders is a better pick, or why Clinton is the better choice, and no, it doesn’t confuse me, but it does get a little old. California doesn’t have our primaries until June, so I have a lot of time between now and then to see what’s going on, to think about this a little more, and figure things out. I’ve always kind of laughed at people who are undecided up until the last minute, thinking they weren’t paying attention. But I’m paying attention. I just don’t know what’s best…for me, for my daughter, for my country.

What about you? How’s your decision making process going?

Still Alive

Still Alive
Yes, I’m still alive. I know, it’s been awhile. I hate writing that at the beginning of a blog post, but somehow, I find myself doing it more and more often. Today I took a few minutes and looked at blogs that I link to from my blogroll. So many of them are defunct, or might as well be. Last post in 2011, 2012, 2013. I should clean them up, move them out. But I don’t use an RSS reader or anything like that. My way of checking to see if you have a new blog post is to click my link, and go look. So I keep them. I want to see if some of you come back to blogging. Who knows…it could happen.

As is often the case when a household consists of two adults and a teen, most of the news around here is about the teen. Let’s see. Well, in one crappy week, she was in her first car accident, and had her first flat tire. Thankfully, the car accident was a tiny fender bender, and no one was hurt. Of course, nowadays a tiny fender bender still means a new bumper, new grill, etc. It wasn’t her fault, so the other insurance company paid for the repairs. Perhaps she could have avoided the accident if she had been paying closer attention, perhaps not. She was parking, and the other driver backed out of a parking place and into the front of our car. She didn’t see it coming, because she was looking into another row for a place there. So I’m glad she learned the lesson of paying better attention now, and in a safe place without getting hurt. Sadly, part of the lesson was that people can be jerks, as the woman who hit her got out of the car and yelled at her. The flat tire came the next week. Don’t know what she hit, or if maybe it was just the tire’s time. What she didn’t know was what a flat tire felt like, so she continued driving, wanting to get home. Bad move, but again, we were lucky and her driving on a flat didn’t cause any damage to the wheel. So…she’s learned a few things about auto stuff lately.

Also, she had her first opportunity to vote! We had a tiny little special election here, to renew a bond measure for the local high school district. I was unsure as to WHY they chose to have a mail-in ballot in May, when there is a much larger election scheduled for June, which will surely attract a much larger voting population. We (Ted and I) decided that it must be because they felt like they would get a better, more dedicated vote than they would get from the general public. Whether that was the reason for the strategy or not, it worked, and the bond measure passed. So the local high schools will continue to be well funded.

Which chaps my hide. Don’t get me wrong, I voted for it. I want the schools to be well funded. But it’s frustrating to the nth to me that this is how our schools work. You live in a wealthy enclave, and the people vote to support the schools. Why? Because it’s OUR KIDS. But a vote to support the schools on a larger, state wide, basis? A vote that would make the schools a bit more equal? Hell no. Why would we want to vote to support OTHER PEOPLE’S KIDS? Grrr. I miss the days back when I grew up, when schools were better funded, there was money for things like school buses, art, PE, etc., without having to tap different areas for different amounts of money.

So anyway, she voted, we voted, and the measure passed. That was a mail in election, and the next one will be a walk in election. I have, in the past, requested a mail in ballot, because gosh, it’s just SO DARNED EASY. Deep down, though, I can’t get past the idea that maybe they don’t bother to count those votes. Also, I kind of like the ritual of going into the little ballot box and marking the ballot myself. I liked when we lived in Philly, and you made your selections, then pulled a big lever down that punched holes or something. That was pretty satisfying.

We received news that Maya was awarded a scholarship for $1,000 from Burger King, which is funny because we don’t eat much fast food. I’m the junk food junkie in the house, and I don’t eat it THAT often. I think she’s probably been to BK twice in her life. But anyway, we applied for the scholarship, and she received it, which is great news. $1,000 now will pay for most of a semester’s expenses at a community college, as long as you live at home. Tuition and books. Which brings me back to my earlier point about funding the schools. Back until the mid-80s, community colleges in California were free. Then in 1985, they started charging tuition, which was a flat $50, no matter how many courses or units you took. When I transferred to San Francisco State University, it was about $450 a semester for tuition. My friend Janet transferred from community college to UC Berkeley, and her tuition was a little over $700. So a semester at a community college now is about the cost of a semester at Cal back in the late 80s. Which would be very well and good if wages had gone up that much, but of course they haven’t. Wages are higher, but the minimum wage has about doubled, which college costs have exceeded that at an alarming rate. She’s applied for a few more scholarships, and we’re hoping to get her next semester’s fees paid for as well. If we can avoid dipping into the little bit of savings that we have until she goes to a four year as a JR, that would be great.

Which brings me to my next thought. Really, a brag. The same week as her AP test, I found another local scholarship I thought she should apply for. One that required her to write 2 very short essays, get letters of recommendation, and have a resume. Being the quick turnaround time (2 days), I offered to write the resume for her, as she’s never done one for herself, and she had the AP exam to study for. I’m impressed. There are surely kids who have done more, and kids who have done less. But she’s an AP Scholar with a strong GPA, is a member of 3 clubs at her school (for 2 of them, she’s co-president), she’s been a cheerleader, in the school choir, and on the school paper. She’s volunteered over and over again (mostly through Girl Scouts) to wonderful organizations that help children, animals, and adults in rough times. I wish my resume had looked like that at her age. Mine was more like, “Two years at Mr. Steak, three years in the Dungeons and Dragons club, crappy GPA, decent test scores”. So yes, I’m proud.

Along with the end of High School (she graduates June 13th) comes the Senior Ball next weekend, and the end of Girl Scouts. She’s been involved for 10 years now, and I am so glad that she joined, and that she stuck with it for this long. The troop has dwindled down to 5 girls, and they don’t see each other or keep in touch the way they once did. But they’re still close, and have shared wonderful experiences. They have put in a lot of time, volunteering, camping, working on badges. I hope they are forever friends, even if that means the kind of friends who keep in touch online only, once in awhile. They’re all great girls, doing wonderful things with their lives, and I’m proud of them all. This next chapter will be an exciting one for them indeed.

My life? Not as exciting, but still pretty good. We went to Stockton a few weeks ago to celebrate my Great-Aunt’s 90th birthday. My Great-Aunt, who was in the delivery room with my mom when I was born. She took me on a trip with her and her daughter in the late 70s. We drove through Yosemite (drought, so no waterfalls), up to Tahoe, and had a great time. She loaned me money to pay that first $450 tuition check at San Francisco State, because my mom had no money and I had blithely moved out, gone out on my own with no money to my name, trusting that all would work out. Somehow it did. My roommate’s father loaned us money for first/last/security deposits. My great Aunt payed my tuition. My friend’s parents let me sleep on their sofa until we had our apartment, and while I started my job and got money for school books. Looking back, I can’t believe I got away with it.

I have a new computer for work. I love it. It’s faster, and a newer operating system. What I like the most about it is that it’s a laptop, which means when it gets hot here, I can work downstairs where it’s much cooler. My office is in the bedroom, which is upstairs and gets full on afternoon sun, which is lovely in the cold of winter, and fine until the temps get to be about 85 or 90. Once it’s 90 degrees outside, and 3:00 or so with the sun beating through the window full force, it gets to be about 80 downstairs, and I don’t know how much hotter upstairs, but I start sweating while at my desk, which I DO NOT LIKE. I don’t like turning on the A/C when the sun is hitting that room, it feels like it’s fighting a losing battle. I’d prefer to wait until the sun goes down, and then turn on the A/C if need be to cool the bedroom down enough for sleep. Now, when I’m upstairs, I have a docking station for the laptop, which means a huge monitor (good for my aging eyes), a full sized keyboard, and a mouse. Downstairs, I can bring all of that if I really want to, or I can just bring the laptop down with me. It’s great.

This coming weekend, my parents are coming for a very quick visit. They live in Portland. My step-mom is a big wig in the yoga community, and owns a very successful yoga studio there. One of the museums in SF has an exhibit about the birth of yoga, so they’re coming down on Friday, seeing the exhibit on Saturday, going home on Sunday. Maya’s Senior Ball is Saturday night, so we’re not available that day, but we will go into the City and have dinner with them Friday night. I’m excited to try the fancy French restaurant where we have a reservation, and of course I’m excited to see them.

That seems like enough for now. I did try a nice sausage and polenta recipe the other day that I may share soon, and we might go to a movie for Mother’s Day tomorrow. If we see something worth seeing, I’ll let you know.

Jury Duty

Wednesday I was summoned to another part of my county to perform my civic duty and report for the dreaded Jury Duty. Jury Duty can be horribly boring, sitting in the Jury room for hours on end, and then perhaps dismissed. Bring a book. I once brought a notepad and wrote my friend a 6 page letter before being dismissed, then went to lunch and then some light shopping. It can be a nice diversion from your regular routine, provided that your company pays you for the time. I wonder if the reason so many people hate it is because they are losing pay or income by being there.

I generally don’t mind Jury Duty. (I feel that Jury Duty has earned the capitalization. I just do.) I like the break from work, I like reading books and writing letters to friends. If called, the process is interesting. But I wasn’t too thrilled about driving in heavy rush hour traffic, and hoped that when I phoned on Tuesday evening, I would be excused. Nope. Please present yourself at 8am, and leave your knitting needles (and other weapons) at home.

Happily, the drive wasn’t too bad on Wednesday morning. It took me about 40 minutes to go 30 miles, which in the scope of things is not too shabby. Then there was the sign in process, which involved answering a fairly detailed questionnaire. Right when we were preparing to watch the boring video about serving your country and what to expect, the deputy came in and called 60 names, and asked us to follow him. The 60 of us who had been called went upstairs to the courtroom, where we heard a bit about the case, and went through the process of voir dire, when the lawyers asked us questions to determine whether they want us to serve on the jury or not. The case was an auto break-in, where the suspect was on parole from serving time for other cases of auto burglary. So the questions tended towards, “if the suspect is proven to be guilty, will you have a problem declaring him guilty?”, and “can you set aside the suspect’s previous convictions and not assume that if he committed the crimes previously, he must have committed this one?” They went through almost 40 jurors this way, and by the end of the day, they had 12 jurors and 1 alternate. I found the process really interesting. I liked hearing the stories of the potential jurors, hearing where they were from and what they did for a living. What experiences they had had in the past that might prejudice them, what excuses they might come up with to try to get out of serving. One younger potential juror said he didn’t believe in the system at all, didn’t think the courts were useful, didn’t believe the police are useful, etc. He works as a security guard. The judge gave him a lecture about our civic duties and so on, and then sent him downstairs to start the entire process over again. (Ha ha!)

If Wednesday was a day of people hoping to get out of their civic duty, Thursday was a day of people who knew this was a serious job, and who were there to do their very best to provide a fair verdict.  It was interesting to me to notice the difference in how people dressed on Wednesday vs. Thursday.  Wednesday was very casual, maybe a sports team shirt, maybe a hat or a hoodie.  Thursday was business casual.  The jurors knew their job, and they dressed the part.

Thursday was opening arguments and the presentation of evidence. The police officer was driving by at 3:30 am, and saw the defendant standing behind the truck (next to a recycling bin) that had been broken into. The officer looked in his rear view mirror and saw the defendant crouching down next to the car. He thought that was strange, so he turned around at the end of the block and returned. Now the defendant was standing on the lawn. When questioned, he said he wasn’t doing anything, but refused to sit on the curb when asked. Then he took off down the street in a sprint. A chase ensued, other officers were called in, he was captured the next street over. He lied about who he was, hoping that they wouldn’t put 2 + 2 together and connect him with the warrant that was out for his arrest, due to him breaking parole.  After he was taken to the police station by the other officers, the original officer came back to the truck, and found that the recycling bin (the only one on the street) had tools in it, and that there were a few more tools on the ground where the officer had seen the suspect crouching.

The crux of the defense was that he did not break into the car, that he was walking down the street on the way to catch a bus, saw the police officer, and hid because he didn’t want to be brought in on parole violation. He ran from the police and lied about his identity for the same reason. No fingerprints were taken of the crime scene, he did not have any of the tools on his person, there’s no hard and fast evidence that he did the crime. We heard from the arresting officer, the people whose tools were (almost) stolen, the defendant, and the defendant’s girlfriend’s daughter. Again, the process was really interesting. The detail was much different than what you see on TV. Excruciating detail on what tools were in the truck, what they were for, blah blah blah. Lawyers objecting, judge overruling objections, differing and conflicting explanations for the same time frame. That was Thursday.

Friday we heard jury instruction, then closing arguments. We were reminded again that the burden of proof is on the prosecution. That the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. That we must not consider the possible punishment and consequences of our decision while determining guilt or innocence. That circumstantial evidence is admissible, and should be considered if reasonable. The bit that finally made the difference for us was this:

224. Circumstantial Evidence: Sufficiency of Evidence

Before you may rely on circumstantial evidence to conclude that a fact necessary to find the defendant guilty has been proved, you must be convinced that the People have proved each fact essential to that conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt.

Also, before you may rely on circumstantial evidence to find the defendant guilty, you must be convinced that the only reasonable conclusion supported by the circumstantial evidence is that the defendant is guilty. If you can draw two or more reasonable conclusions from the circumstantial evidence, and one of those reasonable conclusions points to innocence and another to guilt, you must accept the one that points to innocence. However, when considering circumstantial evidence, you must accept only reasonable conclusions and reject any that are unreasonable.

Then we were sent off to deliberate. First thing (after electing our foreman) was to take a quick vote. 8 guilty, 3 not-guilty, 1 undecided. I was one of the not-guilty, because while I did think he likely was in the process of robbing the truck, I wasn’t convinced that the prosecution had proven their case. I was worried by some tools that had gone missing and not been found. Why? How? The prosecution had a possible solution, which was that the defendant had broken into the truck, taken the tools that were still missing, taken them elsewhere (perhaps his girlfriend’s house, a block away), and then come back to finish the job. We talked about it some more…about how the defendant said he was walking to the bus (though he went the wrong way for that), but he didn’t have bus fair in his wallet (according to the officer, the defendant said he did). About how if he were walking along as he had said, he would not have been seen by the officer. About how the officer’s story was much more reasonable. On and on and on.

And in the middle of this, we are not supposed to consider the punishment. Not supposed to consider that this is the defendant’s 3rd conviction, not supposed to worry about California’s “3 strikes, you’re out” law. Not supposed to worry about sending a man to prison. I mean, he may have earned it, but somehow, now we’ve been pulled into the equation. So of course we’re thinking about it, though we have been instructed not to.

In the end, we decided that the circumstantial evidence led to guilt. That it was our job as jurors to follow the stupid rules, and declare the man guilty. So we did. I’ll admit, I felt a little sick. I was not alone. We were all upset by the fact that we were pulled into this situation, that we had to be a part of sending a man to prison. That we had to follow the rules, whether we agreed with them or not. I think we all agreed with the rules in principal, actually, but the reality of our part in the process was upsetting. And really, shouldn’t it be? If you are part of the process that sends a man to prison, shouldn’t it weigh at least a bit upon your heart? I don’t think we did the wrong thing. I think we did the right thing. But while the whole process was really interesting, in the end, it wasn’t fun.

Merry Christmas to All!

It’s morning on Christmas Eve.  I was watching Tim Minchin sing “white wine in the sun”, my favorite secular Christmas song by far, so I thought I’d share it with you.   Gifts have been purchased, delivered, and wrapped. Cards and packages were mailed early last week. Cookies have been baked. The house is decorated. Our traditional Christmas morning breakfast of Cinnamon rolls (from a tube) is in the fridge, as well as the ingredients for our contributions to Christmas dinner. Ted is at work, and Maya is still sleeping. I’m not sure I can face the grocery store today, and I didn’t plan a Christmas Eve dinner, so it’s looking more like Chinese take out tonight. Sounds good to me.

I know I have other things I could be telling you, but for the life of me I cannot right now remember what they are.

Oh, I know! How about Utah??? Perhaps it is wrong of me, but I love that Same Sex Marriage is now (at least for the moment) legal in Utah. The Mormon Church there got all involved in California’s ban (since declared null and void) a few years ago, and I’ve always resented them for it.   And how awesome is this picture?
Boy scouts delivering pizza to county workers, workers who are working through lunch breaks in order to serve the thousands of people rushing to get married. In Utah. It’s a Christmas miracle, I tell you.

Also, Ted’s job requires that he join the SAG-AFTRA union, which means that he becomes a voting member for the SAG Awards, and we get to watch a bunch of nominated films for free in the comfort of our own home. Sweet, huh? So far we’ve watched a couple of depressing movies…1st was ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, and next was ’12 Years a Slave’. Both really well done, but not exactly your feel good films of the year. It’s interesting to me how they are delivered…’Dallas Buyers Club’ arrived as a DVD in the mail, while ’12 Years a Slave’ and several others are delivered via iTunes, which I don’t like as much, because we don’t have Apple TV, which means we have to watch it on the computer rather than the TV. Oh well. It’s still fun. I guess I know what we’ll be doing this winter break…watching movies.

I’m currently hooked on the ‘Divergent’ books. I finished the second one last night. The first (Divergent) I got from the library, but the waiting list for the second was months long, so I ordered it for my Kindle, which was actually really nice. I don’t have a lot of experience with the electronic reading, but I liked it. Now I want the 3rd book….I hope Santa’s listening.

I just made an appointment for Thursday to donate blood. Blech. I’m dedicated enough that I do it once in awhile, but I’m not dedicated enough that I do it whenever I’m eligible. Far, far from it. You can donate maybe 6 times a year, but I only muster up the courage once or twice.

Last and most certainly least, I was walking the other day and saw a big beautiful lemon tree in a neighborhood yard. I asked if it would be OK if I were to pick a couple of lemons, and they graciously said yes. While looking for one to shove in the cavity of the chicken that was that night’s dinner, I came across this mutant lemon, and I had to pick it and bring it home so I could show you. The tiny lemons are actually normal sized. Then there’s the one that’s about the size of a grapefruit. And then there’s mutant. Ted thinks it looks kind of like a bird, but I say it looks like it’s giving us the bird, so to speak.
2013-12-20 17.19.59

Merry Christmas to All, and to all a Good Night.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

After having seen the kerfuffle on YouTube where Reza Aslan took Fox News host Lauren Green to task for her attack of his scholarship, and his daring to write about Jesus while he, Mr. Aslan, is a Muslim, I was intrigued by the book. Most of the interview is Ms. Green looking like an idiot, stressing over and over again that, gasp, he’s a MUSLIM, so how could he possibly write about JESUS? He upbraids her, and explains a bit about how scholarship works, and how as a scholar of ancient religions, he studies Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The most interesting part of the interview, to me, was not the argument between them, but instead when he talks a bit about the historical Jesus, vs. Jesus Christ, and the time and politics in Jerusalem while Jesus lived there.

A quick search will tell you that Dr. Aslan perhaps oversold himself. While he has certainly studied ancient religions, he has done little original research in the field, and is an associate professor of creative writing. I suspect he knew what he was in for with Fox News (you’d have to be stupid not to, and he’s not stupid), and decided to make the most of the situation. He succeeded, and we bought the book. (I’m too cheap to pay full price for a hardcover, but while we were in Portland, Ted discovered that he had a Powell’s gift card in his wallet that had enough on it for that plus another book or two.)

This is where I tell you that, if you hadn’t noticed, I’m not much of a non-fiction reader. I enjoy novels and literature mostly, with the occasional detective story and once in a great while, poetry. But I decided to try anyway.

I found Zealot to be an interesting glimpse into the world of 2,000 years ago Jerusalem. The structure of the economy, of the Temple, of the religion and its adherents, was all new to me. From there, we learn a bit about the life and death of Jesus, and last about the split in the beliefs of the followers of Jesus that lead to modern Christianity. I learned a lot about the history of Jerusalem and the struggle against the Roman empire, and a bit about what different interpretations of events and even phrases might mean.

I had two problems with the book. One is my own, and the other perhaps valid. My own problem was that it was non-fiction, and sometimes, I find that to be boring. This book was no exception. I sometimes found myself interested, and then other times, not the least bit. Sometimes the book would give me information early on, and then repeat it later, which made me wonder if I had imagined reading it in the first place, or if it had merely been introduced in an earlier chapter, but would be fleshed out a bit more later.

The second problem I had was that I found his reliance on the Bible and the Gospels to be frustrating. It seems somehow disingenuous to me that he started out saying, we know very little about the historical Jesus, so much of this was written much later and with specific religious and political motivations, so we cannot rely upon the Gospels much for facts.  But then a few chapters later, he quotes the Gospels again and again and again, and accepts the stories as fact. Which is it? I wanted to ask him to pick a side.

I wonder if my Christian friends would find the book interesting, insulting, challenging, reaffirming, or what. I hesitate to discuss it with any of them, however, because I’m more interested in the historical person, and I’m not sure how that meshes with the religious figure.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re interested in a historic lesson on Jerusalem in the days of the Roman Empire, yes. If you don’t know much about the historic Jesus, OK, this could be a primer. I’d check it out of the library, or at least wait for it to be released in paperback.

Remembering Edelmiro Abad, again, still, always

Reposting this, again. I keep seeing notes to “Never Forget”. How could we. The horrors of September 11th, and the wars that came after, have forever changed our country, and the world, in so many ways. Back in 2006, I pledged to take part in the 2996 project, in honor of the 5th anniversary of that tragic day. Everyone who signed up was given a name of someone who died, and we promised to find something out about them, and write a bit about their lives, so that people will never forget them or what happened that day. As if any of us ever could. The name I was given was Edelmiro Abad, from Brooklyn. I found a bit about this kind and loving man, and I copied it here. But as with so many who participated in the project, while writing about him, my own memories rushed to the front, and I had to write them down here. I’ll publish that post again today, in honor of him, in honor of all who have died on that day, and in the two wars we joined soon after.

Edelmiro Abad

Edelmiro Abad of Brooklyn at a wedding with his close-knit family: his wife, Lorraine, and in white from left, daughters Serena, 19, Rebecca, 26, and Jennifer, 23.

Beloved husband, proud father, loving son, brother, uncle and dear friend are words that best describe Edelmiro Abad. Ed touched the lives of all who knew him with loving words, a kind gesture, or his unique sense of humor. Ed lived a happy, fulfilled life with his wife of 29 years and three daughters. He also enjoyed a successful career with Fiduciary Trust for 26 years. His co-workers and clients became more than just friends; they became family. Although we have lost a beautiful person, we have truly gained an angel. We love you, we miss you, and we will meet again.

He was my mentor and friend. He was always there when I needed him professionally and personally. First and foremost always were “his girls.” He would always burst with pride when he told us about his writer, his dancer, his chef and Lorraine just being Lorraine. Ed was loved and respected by all who had the privilege of knowing him. Ed, thank you for your strength and kindness. I will miss you more than you could ever know.

-Michele Kearney

I Remember
Edelmiro Abad
Brooklyn, NY

Back in June, I read on Ally Bean’s site about this project, called the 2996 project, where you can volunteer to take the name of one victim from the September 11th attacks, and write a memorial to that person. I was assigned the name of Ed Abad.

This project seems far removed to me, far removed from my life in California, 3,000 miles from New York, DC, and Pennsylvania, where people suffered immeasurable horrors on that day. And yet, I thought, maybe I can do my part. Maybe I can write about how this loss, the loss of Mr. Abad and so many, too many, others has affected me. How it has affected us all.

September 11th, was, for me, supposed to be a day when I went into Oakland for a payroll conference, learning about boring changes to reporting requirements from the spokespeople from the Social Security Administration. It was a chance to get out of the office, maybe have lunch in a different place, learn some new things about my newish job.

I was in the shower, getting ready, when Ted came in and told me that his Aunt had called his mother, called from England since she knew we were so far removed, time wise, and might not yet be up and watching TV or listening to the news. Ted told me that someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. By the time I got downstairs, the first tower had fallen…they were showing the second plane hitting, over and over again. I remember the horror that I felt, not knowing whether this was the work of foreign terrorists, or perhaps the work of another Timothy McVeigh type psychopath. I remember worrying about Ted and his family, about the fear that was felt by many people of color, of that certain color, during the first Gulf War, that they would be targeted for acts of violence and hatred.

Then the second tower fell. It was such a horrid time, such an amazingly horrid event in the history of our country. I remember thinking…this is what people in Northern Ireland, Israel, Kashmir, and London have been living with for years. Now it has come here.

My boss came to my house, not sure if what he had heard on the radio was true, or if it was a stupid radio stunt. He knew by my face that it was true. We left from here to go to Oakland for our conference, not sure that that was the thing to do, but oddly holding on to normalcy. We arrived in Oakland, went through maybe 15 minutes of training, before the Federal Building there was shut down as a precaution. So we went home. Then in to the office, oddly. In retrospect, I’m not sure why we went. Just habit I suppose, like I went into work the day after the earthquake in ’89. Stayed at work for a few hours, watching the news unfold, crying quietly in my cubicle. Finally the word came that we should go home.

I came home, hungry for more news. Turned on the TV, only to see pictures of people, desperate people, jumping to their deaths from the top of the twin towers. It was the most horrid sight I have ever seen in my life. I hope to never see anything like it again. I turned off the TV, cried, cleaned house, tried to get some idea of how to deal with this.

I remember the weeks following…the days of strange quiet in the air when no airplanes flew…knowing that there were no airplanes, from coast to coast, border to border. It was a very strange feeling.

I remember being told by my leader that we needed to act normal, that we needed to go shopping, to keep our economy afloat. This cut me to the quick. I wanted to sacrifice…to give up something, as the victims of the attacks had done. As our grandparents had done after Pearl Harbor, with their shortages and sacrifice, that you felt and knew were contributing to the greater good of America, the fight against evil. Instead, we were asked to go shopping.

I knew then that we would attack Iraq. Hoped in my heart that I was wrong. Hoped that our leader would not take this opportunity to settle a grudge against the man who shamed his father. But deep down, I feared that I would turn out to be right on this.

I remember the day my mother and I had chosen to go to an Afghani restaurant for dinner, and decided it was somehow wrong to change those plans because of current circumstances…that maybe if we went, we would be telling the people who ran the restaurant that we understood that THEY were not the Taliban. THEY were not Al Quaeda. THEY were not the people who had attacked our nation. The day we chose, sadly, was the day that the U.S. started dropping bombs on Afghanistan. Our waiter walked around like a man in a dream, a man in a nightmare. I felt like we were there to support him, but that maybe, he just wanted to be home, alone, to not have to serve food to strangers, white strangers, and wonder what we thought of him, if he even had those thoughts at that time. Any thoughts to spare save those for his friends and family at home.

I remember that there were songs that were not supposed to be played on the radio. One of those songs was U2, Sunday Bloody Sunday. To this day, the opening lyrics tie me with September 11th, with the pain and horror of watching those buildings fall, of watching people fall to their deaths rather than stay in such a toxic, horrid building.

I can’t believe the news today
I can’t close my eyes, and make it go away
How long, how long must we sing this song,
How long?

Now, 5 years later, how am I to put any sort of perspective on that day. On the many, many horrid days since that day. On the loss of American life, the loss of life for our allies from England, France, Germany, Australia, etc. The loss of Iraqi life, the loss of Afghani life in a now mostly ignored war….what to say about the more recent loss of life in Israel and Lebanon…what to say about the hatred in our hearts, that pits person against person so venomously.

I want to say moving, amazing words to remember them all. To remember Ed Abad, of Brooklyn, who I committed to commemorate this day. And truly, I don’t know how.

Giving Tuesday

The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, the day when retailers hope to move from being in the red to being in the black.  It has also become a day when shoppers go forth, hoping to find great deals, either for their Christmas and Hanukkah shopping, or perhaps for themselves.  There is also Small Business Saturday, when shoppers are encouraged to frequent small, locally owned businesses, rather than the big box stores that are so popular on Black Friday.  Yesterday was Cyber Monday, when shoppers go online and shop while they’re supposed to be working.  A person can supposedly get really good deals on this particular Monday, though I find offers of such deals to be somewhat suspect.  (I saw a deal on Amazon for a gift I am intending to purchase, and it was 1/3 of the regular price.  But it was not available, because all at that price had been snapped up.  I have no stomach for such games.)

Now there is Giving Tuesday, a day when we are encouraged to stop worrying about buying gifts and so on for a moment or two, and give some thought to non-profits.  I do not, could not, and will not, offer a gift guide of shopping suggestions.  However, I do have some giving ideas, if you’re looking for help in that arena.  You can give goods, time, or money, whatever fits your situation the best.


  • Food Banks – You can donate in several ways.  You can write them a check (or donate online).  You can put food in the barrel at the grocery store (peanut butter and canned tuna are always popular options).  You can volunteer to go to the food bank and help sort food, which will be delivered to local soup kitchens, or picked up by those in need.
  • Soup Kitchens – A lot of people come out and serve food on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and maybe Easter.  Why not call them up and see if they’d like your help another time of year?  I’m guessing they would.
  • Schools – Public schools depend more and more upon foundations to support not only extracurricular activities, but also art, physical education, and science.  Increasingly, this support funds teacher incomes, not just them staying late to tutor our children.  I’m not sure how much this is a factor outside of California, but here, because of stupid Prop 13, it’s HUGE.
  • Child Abuse Prevention Council – Again, both volunteering and monetary donations are welcome.  A donation in your child’s teachers name might mean more to them than a mug or a box of candy.
  • Meals on Wheels – They can always use more volunteer drivers.  They also need people to go and visit the elders once in awhile, and of course, they can always use money to help them provide this needed service.
  • Toys for Tots – If you really really like shopping, and you want to do some good at the same time, you can contribute to a local toy drive.  Toys for Tots is the most famous one that I know.  One year, my company supported ‘Adopt an Angel’, and my kid wished for a warm coat.  He was 9.  Gah, a 9 year old that wants a coat instead of a toy or a book or a game…it broke my heart.  And duh, I bought the warmest coat I could find.
  • Animal Shelter – All animal shelters can use cash donations.  Some animal shelters use volunteers to help socialize animals, or to clean out cages, and so on.  Some accept donations of food and animal toys.
  • 18,000 other local organizations – There are undoubtedly plenty of other local non-profits that would be grateful for your help.  Perhaps a group of kids that create cards that they sell, and use the money to buy sleeping bags and clothing for local homeless folks; a group that collects and sends care packages to soldiers deployed overseas;  perhaps a dog rescue that brings in dogs for your particular favorite breed, cares for them (sometimes very expensive), and finds them home.


  • American Red Cross – The Red Cross can use your help in so many ways. They are the first responders when natural disasters like the ’89 earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, and Superstorm Sandy hit. They are also there for smaller disasters, like house fires and floods. They collect blood for emergencies, blood which is needed by so many. People with cancer, people in car accidents, people having surgery, and so on.  My grandma received a transfusion during her recent medical stay, and I’m thinking this weekend will find me donating at our local blood center and thinking of her.  Want to help? You can donate money, you can donate blood, and I’ll bet there are plenty of ways for a person to donate time as well. Speaking of Superstorm Sandy, if you’re interested in helping out, the Red Cross is probably not the best place for longer term help. NPR had some other ideas, here. I was especially impressed by the organization of Occupy Sandy volunteers.
  • Planned Parenthood – I don’t know if Planned Parenthood has much use for volunteers, but I do know they can use financial help.  Planned Parenthood is sometimes the only healthcare women receive.  They provide cancer screenings, birth control, and treatment when needed.  They were there for me when I needed birth control, but did not have medical insurance.  They are there for so many.
  • Medical Research and Advocacy – The list is seemingly endless.  Organizations devoted to research to end breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, just plain cancer cancer.  Then there’s AIDS, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, Down’s syndrome, on and on and on.  There are groups working to help burn victims, children with cleft lips and cleft palates, spina bifida, any group you can think of, they surely have a worthwhile organization that can help, and that needs your money.
  • NPR/PBSNational Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, they both produce wonderful programs for children, adults, everyone.  If you believe in the mission to bring this information to the public, if you listen and watch, this might be a good place to plant a few dollars.
  • ACLU and/or Southern Poverty Law Center – These organizations work to defend the civil rights of Americans.  The ACLU focuses more on the right to free speech and due process, and the SPLC focuses on protecting the civil rights of those who have been wronged, and bringing those who commit hate crimes to justice.  They are both very worthwhile organizations.
  • National Center for Family Literacy – Their mission is towards whole family literacy, because when the family and community are literate, the circumstances for the entire community improves, and the children have a better chance of graduating from High School.
  • 18,000 other National Organizations – There are so, so, SO MANY worthwhile organizations out there.  Think about what is important to you…the arts, medicine, animal welfare, hunger, poverty, civil rights, alcohol abuse treatment, etc.  Find what you care about, and then find an organization that helps.  Give them money, or time, whatever you have more of.


  • Heifer Project  – The Heifer Project works to alleviate hunger and poverty, both nationally and internationally, by giving animals to families in need.  A goat that provides milk to a family, perhaps enough that they can sell some to neighbors.  Perhaps they make enough money so that their children can go to school rather than working.  The first offspring of this goat, they must donate to another family in their town or village, who must also pay it forward.
  • Mercy Corps – The Mercy Corps works to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.
  • International Red Cross – Again, a first responder, there in times of crisis, to help people through the most difficult times in their lives.

There are so many more organizations that you can help out.  Give blood.  Put some peanut butter in a bin at the grocery store.  Go serve food at a soup kitchen, or sort at a food bank.  Visit some old people at a nursing home, donate flowers to make things more cheerful there.  Adopt an animal, if you’re ready for an addition of love and laughter to your household.  There are so many things you can do.  Do them.  Today and every day.



I’m a volunteer driver for our local Meals on Wheels, which means that one day a week, I take a long lunch (thanks to my kind company, that agree that I’m adult and if I can get my work done, they don’t mind me doing this…in fact, they encourage it), drive to the Senior Center, pick up 16 meals, and drive them to senior citizens who are on fixed budgets and are unable to get out and shop for themselves, or are unable to cook, or both.  They are in varying degrees of need, but I don’t think anyone goes on Meals-on-Wheels unless they are needing some assistance.

I started volunteering for MoW a few years ago, when I was unemployed for a few months.  I was motivated by my father, who has been delivering for MoW in Portland for several decades now.  I was surprised at how much I enjoy it…it’s lovely to get out of my home office and see people, people who have no real demands of me, other than to be friendly and bring a meal, and sometimes change a light bulb or assist with a hearing aid.  I like driving, I like listening to the radio in my car, I like the feeling I get knowing that I’ve helped someone in a very real way.

Well, today I want to quit.  I just do.  The demand for services has increased so much, and their waiting lists are so long, that they are having to tighten up their rules for who is eligible.   If you have someone who could shop for you, off you go.  If you have a car and could possibly get yourself to the grocery store, off you go.  There are just too many people on the waiting list who are home bound and in greater need of the services.  It’s triage.  It’s not that the people that they’re bumping don’t need their services, it’s just that there are too many people on the waiting list who need it more.

Today’s delivery brought me to Dana’s house.  Dana who always has a kind word, asks after my family, remembers when I tell her that I’m going on vacation and asks how it was.  Who gives me a box of Chocolates at Christmas, and a plant for my yard in the spring.  Who gave me a Christmas Card that said, “Thank you for helping me to stay in my home.”  She’s off the route, because she has a car.  A car which she shouldn’t drive often, because she’s old and her reflexes are not what they once were.  So now she is going to have to figure out how to cope with the grocery store, with the impatient people who don’t want to be stuck behind an old woman who can’t find the canned tomatoes.  She’s going to have to come up with the money to pay for groceries, while before she received her meal from Meals on Wheels.  I had an extra meal that another client didn’t want, so I brought it to her, and asked her if she had been dropped.  She started crying, because she has, and she doesn’t know what she’s going to do.  She understands that there are those out there who need this service more than she does.  But that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t still need it.  I hope that she and her neighbor, who was also dropped from my route, might find a way to make it over to the senior center, where they serve hot meals Monday – Friday, and you don’t have to pay if you cannot afford it.

I came home, disheartened and sad, and I was telling Ted about it, and I started thinking about how much the need for services like this is going to increase, as more baby boomers begin to retire.  Some of the people on my route are in their 80s and 90s, but some are younger, in their late 60s or 70s.  Life doesn’t deal us all a fair set of cards, and some people are forced out of the workplace earlier than others…by health reasons, by the economy, whatever.  Some people have families near by who are able to help them, but others do not.  The demand is going to continue to increase for services for the elderly…and where is the money going to come from to support them?  I’m sure I don’t know.

I won’t quit.  I will make new friends on the route as they add new people.  I will continue to stop and check in on Dana sometimes.  There will be good days doing my delivery route again.  But today just wasn’t one of them.

UPDATED 11/15/12 to say that I had an extra meal again today, and went to drop it at Dana’s house. I also gave her a flyer for the Senior Center, and talked to her about going to lunch there, if she’s able to drive. Then when I got home, I looked up her neighbor Sandy (the one who was also dropped from the program), then called Dana and gave her Sandy’s contact information. Hopefully, they can go together and get lunch sometimes.

Why I vote Democrat

I couldn’t post yesterday, because by the time I had time, my host was doing some maintenance or something, so when I typed in ‘’, I got a message saying, can’t be found. NoBloPoMo fail. However, in the spirit of the thing, which is to post more often, I’ll just post twice today to make up for it, k? This post is cribbed from a Facebook message to a friend of mine. We were talking about politics, and why we vote the way that we do. Here’s my side:

I heard an interesting discussion on the radio a week or two ago, about religion in politics, that you might find interesting. They said that both Obama and Romney are fairly true to their values, just that their religious values are different. Romney believes that compassion and charity are best done on a personal level, by giving to those in need, etc. Obama believes that the best way to help those in need is through social justice, by making it a more fair world that we live in. I don’t know for sure that these assessments are true, but it reminded me of that old proverb about teaching a man to fish. Give us a fair playing field, and hopefully we won’t need so much charity. That’s another way of saying what you said, I think, about wanting a better world for your boys. Amen to that.

I was raised Libertarian, and had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to be. The Libertarian party doesn’t have enough compassion for a safety net, in my opinion, and are willing to let those at the bottom fail. Also, they seem to believe in Ayn Rand’s idea that corporations are ultimately good, which I don’t. I think corporations are ultimately interested in making money, and the morality of it falls by the wayside. If they can make more money by taking good care of workers, they will. If not, they won’t. So I believe too much in legislation and regulations to remain a Libertarian. I listed myself as independent for awhile, but then I found out that didn’t mean I was on my own, it meant that I was part of the Independent party, which I didn’t agree with either.

In the end, I most often agree with the Democrats, because I do think they are (mostly) working for a better world, and that the Republicans are more interested in letting the free market get us there. I don’t think either party is bad or evil, just that we have different ideas of how best to make the world better for our kids.

Vote Baby Vote!

Just in time for today’s election, we have a very one sided (but it’s the side I’m on, so yay!) reminder to get out there and VOTE, people.  Happy Election Day, and to those of you in swing states, I’m sure you’ll be THRILLED that this campaign season is OVER.