Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Earth is Not Flat

I don't have a lot of personal experience to support my belief that the earth is not flat. I've seen the photos taken from space. But they're - you know - just pictures. I've seen the earth from the window of an airplane. But I admit I've been too busy checking out the clouds or the details on earth to reflect on the apparent shape of the earth. People I trust have explained it to me and the logic seems sound. But it's good, every so often, to have first hand experience to confirm my beliefs.

There it is, the shadow of the earth. I took the first photo at 10:55 PM, just as the sunlight started to reach the moon after the total eclipse. And the second at 11:20 PM. Skeptic that I am, I admit it seems that the curvature of the shadow could be caused by the spherical shape of the moon. But (I tried this) if I hold up a flat card in front of a grapefruit, the shadow curves downward.

So, I guess I'm convinced. Well, maybe not utterly, absolutely, totally. But after trying the grapefruit thing, I have no alternative explanation. So, I'm pretty sure.

There's a grammatical thing about beliefs. And prepositions. You know, prepositions cause more trouble that you may realize. I can't seem to get my head around believing IN something. People don't ask me if I believe in the roundness of the earth. And if they did, I wouldn't know what to say. I have been asked if I believe in Santa Claus. Same problem. I believe that the cultural concept of Santa Claus is widespread. But I don't believe that Santa Claus brings the presents. Either way, "that" is not a preposition. In this usage, it's a conjunction introducing a subordinate clause. (Thank you, Miss McFadden and Sister Agnes. In the interest of full disclosure, I went back and deleted an erroneous "e" in Santa Claus before running spellcheck.) Okay. Maybe this is just a day for total nerdiness. But it won't overshadow the awe I feel at the mental image I now have of the earth's shadow on the moon.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mortgage Bailout

Right wing talk show hosts and callers are pushing my buttons with sarcastic comments about the "mortgage bailout." They're unsympathetic with people who are experiencing foreclosure. (Note the unemotional phrase: "experiencing foreclosure" rather the the emotion laden "losing their homes.")

[ABC News photo shamelessly lifted from the 23,500 hits in a Google Image search for "mortgage bailout."]

It should be noted that when subprime mortgage homeowners started failing to keep up with mortgage payments there was nary a peep. Now that banks are finding themselves with all this devalued real estate on their hands, it's time for a bailout. Face it. We're bailing out banks and mortgage investors as well as subprine mortgage homeowners.

Generation Risk pointed me to Brad Delong's explanation in March 2007.

There's an interesting conclusion at The Street in a December article.

In the 19th century, Americans were shocked to learn that the West, the "frontier," no longer existed. It was a major cultural and economic turning point for our country. And now, in the 21st century, Americans are receiving a similar shock -- a recognition that our resources are not unlimited, and that we'll be forced to make tough choices about how we allocate the resources we have. That's the Savage Truth. (emphasis added)
I have much more to say about this. But I have to go to work.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Corn Products

This is the plastic band from my new box of Quaker oats. Not only is the band a corn product, but the manufacturer added a step to the process to be sure we know that. Do you suppose the ink is soy?

I like the fact that the plastic is biodegradable. But I'm not convinced about the "more sustainable" part of EarthFirst's claim for PLA film. How much oil did it take to grow the corn and process it into the bit of plastic? What ever happened to the old oatmeal boxes that were entirely cardboard with a bit of cotton string to open the box?

Oh, look. NatureWorks Polymer is a Cargill company. I'm trying to keep an open mind about this. But Cargill's going to have a really hard time convincing me their priority is protecting the environment rather than maximizing their profit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Spring Fantasy

Here's a belated Christmas present. These just arrived and I happily installed them in the branches of the indoor garden. The cool part is that they sing. I don't know if you can see the little dot on the breast of the cardinal. It's a motion sensor. When it sees me walking by, it bursts into song. It's funnier than it sounds 'cause, of course, I forget they're there. I get up to walk to the kitchen and the startle me every time.

But not as much as they startle the cats drinking from the goldfish tub.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Moving On

Yea. I got the Christmas decorations put away yesterday. And I brought out the Easter decorations so I won't have to open the attic stairway again for a while. Come to think of it, why do I keep these things in the attic? I have plenty of storage space on the first and second floors. I should fill the attic with the boxes labeled, "Things Maggy may want someday."

I actually have boxes labeled that way. Some are already in the attic: the Breyer horses and the complete collection of He-man and She-ra action figures and their accessories. But there are more: stuffed animals, books, ballet costumes, mementoes. Yep. That's a camel, a parrot, a lobster and a fish. These are among the ones I've sworn not to give away without her permission. The camel was from Aunt Susanne. The parrot talks. And the fish was Maggy's first experiment with installment buying. It's a hand puppet from Handwork, where I worked when she was about eight years old. Her allowance wouldn't cover it and she couldn't live without it. So I let her put it on "layaway."

In fairness to Maggy, these boxes are not the worst of my clutter problems. In fact, they're the only part of my clutter that I kind of know what to do with. I'm not 100% sure that huge blue teddy bear my high school boyfriend gave me isn't lurking around somewhere. I know my prom dress and wedding dress are hanging in the closet. And I've had them a lot longer than Maggy's had anything.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


My sister sent me a link to this game. She's right. It's pretty challenging. And fun. It involves locating cities, mostly in Europe. I'm pretty good at Geography. But I don't think I can really be expected to know where Vinilius is. I scored only 24,000 something which put me close to the top one-third of people playing the game.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Thought for the day from If Minds Had Toes by Lucy Eyre. Picture a football. [This is a British story - so picture a soccer ball.] Imagine that the space inside the ball represents everything you know. And the space outside the ball represents everything you don't know. The surface of the ball represents everything that you know you don't know. As your knowledge (the ball) expands, so does the surface. The more you know, the more you know that you don't know. And this, Socrates would say, is the beginning of wisdom.

I think there's a parallel with accomplishments. Say the space inside the ball represents everything you've done and the space outside the ball represents everything you haven't done. The surface of the ball represents everything you want to do.

I'm increasingly frustrated that I can't seem to do everything at once - or even one after the other. I'm really going to have to get better time management skills or start eliminating some things from my "to do" list - or both.

When I turned thirty it occured to me that I was probably never going to climb Mt Everest. Climbing Mt Everest had never actually been on my list, but it was my very first realization that possibly there were some things I was never going to do. I was in my forties when my mother died and I realized there are some things I'm not going to be able to change.

Let me tell you, I'm not happy about it. It's requiring ever more difficult choices about what's important and what can be set aside. "... the wisdom to know the difference."