Saturday, April 29, 2006


Give the cats a break

I grew up in a neighborhood where almost everyone kept their lawns mowed, trees trimmed and driveways free of extra vehicles -- running or not. Children walked to school and back twice a day, because we went home for lunch, and didn't worry about being threatened by stray dogs or by homeless people asking for money. For a child it was a version of paradise, although it must have been unexciting for adults. Most of my friends and I were eager to escape as soon as we got the chance. Many of us have landed in similar neighborhoods as parents and old married people, but we'd like to think the differences are important.

I live in what is variously called the mountain west or the high desert southwest and the differences go way beyond weather. One of my favorites is the live-and-let-live attitude. A relative of mine in Illinois once said "I'd never want to live next to you guys because you would never mow your lawn." She was right. We don't mow our grass. We don't even have grass. In this climate, it doesn't rain enough for grass to grow in the first place unless you water it like crazy all during the spring. With water neither free nor plentiful, what the midwest might call a slob just looks like a committed conservationist.

Recently a member of our city council proposed an ordinance to encourage more residents to spay and neuter their pets and to monitor breeding activities to get rid of puppy mills. These are good motives on their own, although not necessarily a good fit for municipal government. Then another councilwoman -- who represents my neighborhood -- got hold of the concept and went hog wild. Except hogs, of course, are illegal inside the city limits.

Abusive dog owners are going to ignore the new ordinance, or move to a smaller town or unincorporated area where the neighbors still mind their own business. Those areas will become worse places to live.

Every pet in the city will need not only a registration but also an embedded microchip. Who will pay for it? Pet owners of course. The rest of us will pay higher fees so that the city can subsidize the vet fees of those who are able to prove they can't afford it. Can everyone say extensive and intrusive documentation? It will now be illegal not to keep your animals properly groomed (whatever that means) and they've finally done it. It will be a crime to let your cat or parakeet stray into your neighbor's yard.

Even back in suburban Illinois we didn't try to keep cats in the yard. This ordinance is billed as a blow for citizen safety and animal rights, but it's really all about control. My councilwoman and her cronies aren't interested in my quality of life. They certainly aren't interested in my cat Henry's quality of life. They are interested in control, in forcing the rest of the city into their smug little suburban habits. I hope they like mice, because without the cats they will have to control them some other way.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


No. I really mean that.

A friend of mine says she thinks that those of us who are not on the "Do not call" registry are getting more junk calls than ever because we are in a smaller pool now. I can't really tell. I seem to be getting a lot of calls from just a few vendors. I don't see what could possibly be the percentage in calling the same person over and over pushing the same offer that they turned down already.

When they first came out with the "Do not call" registry, I know people who rushed to sign up. I did not, for two reasons. First, the registry exempts political groups and any company with whom you've done business before, so I wasn't sure how much difference it would make. Plus, it seemed a little rude.

I've had caller i.d. on my phone for a couple of years, so for a while I just screened calls from numbers I didn't recognize. The problem with that was that I'd come home from work in the evening and see a whole bunch of messages lit up on the machine. Nine out of ten of them were hang-ups (apparently dialed by a computer or something) and I'd have to wade through them to hear any of my actual messages. I also have a couple of people who call me using calling cards with numbers I wouldn't necessarily recognize.

Most of the time now, I just answer the phone and as politely as I can tell the person I'm not interested. Later, sometimes in the same day, a different voice calls and tries to sell me the exact same resort vacation, credit card or satellite television service. When I inform them that they are the fifth or fifteenth person calling me, some of them offer to put me on their company's "Do not call" list.

Why should this be necessary? Can't the first caller just note that I said "No, thanks" the first time? Do they think they are wearing down my resistance with all these calls? They're just making me mad. If I ever did want any of the crap they are pushing, I would now make a point of finding it somewhere else, not to buy it from them.

Friday, April 14, 2006


about that forsythia

Here are my responses to some items that ran in newspapers and newsletters that I read regularly. By the way, I recommend all these sources.

"Inside Higher Ed" writes about a law professor suing an administrator at his university for failing to rein in secondhand smoke around campus doorways. Here's the link:
My take on this is that the anti-smoking activists went too far when they wrote laws prohibiting all indoor smoking. Public buildings like stores, hospitals and schools used to have smoking lounges. Visitors and employees could go into the smoking lounge, close the door and puff away to their hearts' content. They had a place to practice their vile but still legal addiction while keeping the stench to themselves. The only non-smokers who had to smell it were those unlucky enough to be walking past when the door opened to take in or disgorge a desperate addict on the way to or from a fix. I say, bring back the smoking lounge and get the cloud out of the doorway.

"The Scotsman" covers the sentencing to a two-year prison term of a woman who accidentally crashed a car full of un-seatbelted 13-year-olds, killing the other driver and a couple of the kids.
A sad and tragic story. Sounds like this mom got caught in a bind with having promised to take her son and his friends somewhere and not having anyone to help with the driving. The boys were apparently acting up in the back seat and she made the wrong decision -- instead of disappointing them or pulling over and calling for help once they got unmanageable, it looks like she just tried to get there faster and have it over with....

And at the Commonweal discussion group -- -- they were recently talking about the Boston Archdiocese's decision to stop providing adoption services rather than place children with gay couples. Not the majority, but a couple of people there still seem to be suggesting that any married heterosexual couple makes better parents than the most stellar single or same-sex household. Things like "Girls need Mommy to teach them to be feminine and boys need Daddy to teach them to be real men."
As a working (I won't say professional) woman with two mostly-grown children who so far have turned out OK, I am a bit perturbed by the comments on gender roles in parenting. It is a point of pride with me that I raised my daughter not to be a "girly" girl and she seems to be a more successful young woman as a result. Would it be better to be raised by a mother who teaches her daughter that physical attractiveness is her only potential gift to the world (as many girls are taught) and a father who teaches his son that confrontation and violence are the most manly reactions to disagreement? Is this common and quite legal situation healthier for children than the example of a single parent or same sex couple?
To me as a Catholic, the problem is that same sex couples aren't legally married, so any physical relationship they have is, by definition, extramarital. Of course the solution would be to let them marry like all of us heterosexual perverts.

Finally, spending time communing with the forsythia or walking in the bosque is indeed something more valuable than national, church or office politics. That's why I wish the bosses would really take charge and leave me to my laundry.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Just who is responsible -- for anything?

Lately a couple of columnists have complained about Katie Couric being too much of a lightweight to make it as a major network anchorperson. Who are they kidding? When is the last time an anchorperson, or a celebrity of any professional stripe, did any real reporting? Network news anchors are part of the same aristocracy (it has nothing to do with merit) that stands most visibly at the head of any modern enterprise. Anchorpeople don't do their own work, any more than national politicians do.

It used to be -- or people like me used to think -- that higher pay, shorter hours and more support staff came with a corresponding increase in personal and official responsibility. Those of us with harder, lower paying jobs were satisfied with our part in the arrangement because we didn't have to answer for other people's actions and variable results. Now we come to discover that the people "in charge" are not responsible for anything. In fact, they spend most of their energy finding underlings to take the blame when things don't go according to plan.

So remind me why it is they make more money to do less work....

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


spare me the cheese

This post isn't about politics, religion, or anything of any consequence.

American cheese tastes terrible. No, let me be fair. It has no taste. Not only that, it covers up the flavor of any food served with it.

The other day I stopped at McDonald's and ordered the "two-cheeseburger meal with hamburgers instead of cheeseburgers." Usually this is an easy variation. I've gotten used to the way the package the sandwiches: rather than just putting two hamburgers in the bag (white wrappers) they put in two cheeseburgers (yellow wrappers) with little stickers that say "no cheese" on them. Usually that means they really do have no cheese.

This time they had "no cheese" stickers but the burgers had cheese. I have to be in a certain mood to like the distinctive grease-salt-stale onion taste of the McDonald's hamburger. When I am in that mood, I really don't need the flavor to be muffled by thick plastic-tasting cheese. Normally I would have taken the offending food items back and exchanged them, but I was already halfway to work when I discovered the mistake.

I don't do drive-throughs because I don't really like having to dig in my wallet and drive. I've also had two experiences that confirmed my already negative view. Once I got stuck at a bank drive-through line behind a man who was trying to pass a bad check. He wouldn't proceed and I could have walked in, made my deposit and gone for coffee and doughnuts in the time I sat in my hot car. Another time, I ordered Dr. Pepper on a hot day and they gave me Diet Coke -- not a pleasant substition for a thirsty driver. As I recall I took a big gulp of the drink and spat it out in shock. (I'm not really sure why fast food places even carry diet drinks.)

It'll be a while before I'm in the mood for McDonald's again. I hope by that time I remember to check under the yellow wrappers before I drive off.

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