Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Another Inconvenient Truth

I just finished my most recent Netflix movie, "Reds", a 1981 movie missed during my child raising years. "Reds" is a brilliant movie co-written, produced and directed by and starring Warren Beatty as John Reed, a revolutionary journalist. Diane Keaton plays his wife, Louise Bryant, a writer and feminist.

The film is set in the period from 1915, when Reed meets Bryant, to 1920, when he died in Moscow at age 33 and became the only American to be buried in the Kremlin. How this came to be is the focus of the story. In short, he and Louise made their way to Russia and witnessed the Bolshevik Revolution and each wrote a book about it - Reed’s Ten Days that Shook the World and Bryant’s Six Months in Russia. If you see the movie, also read Louise’s letter home after Jack’s funeral in Russia ("The Last Days With John Reed").

But the point of this writing lies not with the story of the movie but with The Witnesses. Beatty advertised across the country for anyone who had been associated with John Reed and came up with about two dozen people, some of them intellectuals from the Greenwich Village circle of Reed and Bryant. Beatty interviews and films these octogenarians against a black screen with a single light illuminating the face, then intersperses interview bites of these real life witnesses throughout the movie. Brilliant.

At one point one of these wrinkled ladies -- don’t get me wrong, they were sharp in their thinking -- says “Men like war. Otherwise they wouldn’t still be at it”. I sat up. I rewound the movie to that section. Did I hear what I heard? Was this the emperor’s new clothes? Men LIKE war? How could that be with the suffering, destruction, lost lives, economic cost and chaos that comes with war? Haven’t wars come about for self-defense, protection of borders, resources, retaliation, revenge, greed, and conquest. Isn’t it all about oil? Isn’t war a necessary evil? How could it be that “men like war”?

I finished the movie but this uncomfortable concept stayed with me. Men like war. Could this better account for the "WMD" and "spread of democracy" rationales and why Congress endorsed the invasion of Iraq? Could this account for the huge popularity of football -- competition of two small armies who go head to head? Fans say “it’s just a game”, but young men suffer injury, sometimes death from this game in the name of sport and entertainment. Wrestling? Boxing? Well, these don’t involve “armies”.

“Otherwise they wouldn’t still be at it” began to make sense. Warring has gone on from the beginning of known human history but now we have a United Nations for resolution of conflict. Instant world wide communication. Summit meetings. Meetings of heads of state. Seems like infinite opportunities for solving differences. Unless, of course, men like war.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Kathie’s been on me about getting a post up. It seems like a coon’s age since I’ve felt like writing! Perhaps this morning marks the end of my funk for a while.

Things started going whacky last Wednesday. I knew the nice young marketing person who has been helping my little group put together our magnet hospital kickoff event has a lot on her plate, but I was completely taken aback when she sent me a room props proposal late that afternoon for $500 over budget. (The event is this coming Wednesday.) We discussed the proposal and I told her I’d have to clear the amount with my VP.

I drove home and changed into jeans and a sweater for my new part-time job at the call center. (It’s a hoot, but I’ll write about that later.) Remembering that I had to stop and buy gas along the way, I hopped in the Miata to leave home a few minutes earlier than usual. The Miata had other plans, apparently. When I turned it on, the engine sputtered and spit and generally acted like it wanted to die. Ignoring that, I gave it a little more gas, backed out of the garage, and started down the street. The “Check Engine” light blinking on the dashboard made me re-think the going-to-the-2nd-job idea, however, and I turned the car around and went home to watch movies in bed; I just couldn’t face one more obstacle that day.

Thursday evening, I requested online a tow from AAA, suggesting in the comments box that they bring a flatbed rather than trying to pull my little baby all the way over to Mt. Pleasant. Did the tow company show up with a flatbed? No-o-o-o. The nice young man who jumped out of the non-flatbed truck took one look at the low front on the Miata and called back for a flatbed. “Sorry, Ma’am, it’ll be another half hour.” No problem, I thought. It’s not like I was going anywhere.

Friday morning, I called the service department, and the nice young man there said that his master mechanic had estimated my bill would be about $540. Ouch. “While he’s at it, Wayne, would you have him change the oil, too?”

“Sure thing,” he said, and we hung up, me thinking what a nice young man he was.

Then I e-mailed our nice young marketing person and told her we just couldn’t exceed our room props budget. She e-mailed me back and explained very reasonably that she would have to cancel the contractor altogether then, because there just wasn’t anything else that could be cut from the proposal to get the amount down to our budget. She gave me some good ideas for things we could do ourselves. My stomach started to knot as I wondered how I was going to get everything done in time.

Later, I went over to the classrooms where our event will take place to pull up my PowerPoint presentation and see how the colors will look in the rooms’ lighting. “Uh,” I said out loud to myself, “why is there a funny looking black W icon in front of my file name?” Opening the file, I saw gobbledygook. OMG, I’d lost my “Stars of Our Show” presentation that had taken me forever to put together.

I raced back to my desk and pulled up the file with no problem. Whew! I e-mailed the nice young IS man to find out what was wrong, initiating a back-and-forth string of messages that would eventually diagnose the problem.

Between e-mails with him, I received a call from two of our corporate communications ladies, who proceeded to drill me about the accuracy/clarity of the information on the event invitations that had been mailed out to our six hundred Nursing employees weeks before. I explained several times - and as calmly as I could at that point - the details they needed in order to write a news item for the company-wide newsletter.

Then I went over to the classrooms again and, with the help of the nice young IS man, I reassociated my presentation with the correct software and was finally able to open the file. Double whew!

Back in my office, I noticed that it was getting late and I hadn’t heard from the Miata service department that the car was done. At 5:15 (they close at 6), I called and was told by the nice young cashier girl that the car was ready and the bill was $620. “Huh? How much was that oil change?” She read me each item, one of which was a $180 tow bill.

“But I had AAA tow it,” I whined.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, the driver who left off your car said the tow bill was not paid.”

So I called AAA and told the nice young man who answered about my problem. “May I put you on hold a moment, Ma’am?” Sure, I answered, and was then disconnected completely.

Calling back, I got a woman who seemed to prefer talking to listening.

“Ma’am, you’re not listening to me. I’m not stupid. I know I have to pay my own repair bill. I just need to know that the tow bill is paid.”

She hung up and called the dealership herself. While I waited for her to call me back, I noticed that I didn’t have enough snack bars for the event, and e-mailed the nice Dietary man to please order some more.

The phone rang. The AAA woman explained that I have a $180 repair bill.

“Well, actually, it’s a $620 repair bill, but I just need to know that AAA paid my tow bill.”

“Ma’am, you have a $180 repair bill.”

“May I put you on hold and call the shop myself?” Sure, she answered.

The nice young cashier girl explained again to me that I have a $180 tow bill. Hearing the consternation in my voice, she checked with Wayne, who came on the line and explained to me that the $180 item was for labor even though the wording on the bill designated the item as “towing”. Hm...

“Thanks, Wayne.” Clicking over to the AAA woman, I thanked her for her time and explained that everything was resolved.

“OK, Ma’am, but you’re going to have to pay your $180 repair bill before we can tow your car.”

Good grief. By the time Kelly came to pick me up, I had the worst heartburn ever. It would be another evening of watching movies in bed.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

That Damn Flamingo!

Patty has been wondering why I haven’t been blogging over the last several months, starting with the month of October spent in South America. Forget that I’m learning Spanish, working full time, raising two cats, keeping in shape enough to climb to 16-18,000 feet at the drop of a hat, teaching myself how to make movies and slide shows in the iMac. And, oh yes, learning every Andrea Bocelli lyric in English, Spanish, and Italian.

No, I see the real reason every morning as I back out of my driveway. The flamingo needs to be re-painted. Jennifer mentioned this when she was here at Thanksgiving, “Mom, it would be really easy to touch up your flamingo, just a little paint from the hardware store”. At that point Flamingo got in line with clean the garage, arrange for a carpenter to put in a new garage attic, re-landscape the back yard into a Peruvian jungle, get a cap put on the fireplace chimney, get the seal repaired on the back sliding door, re-grout the bathtub ... need I say more?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Renewal and Peril on Cowles Mountain

New Year's 2007 sunrise from the "summit" of Cowles Mountain, San Diego. What a way to start the New Year!
View of the Pacific to the west, Mexico to the south, Cuyamaca Mountains to the east, Palomar and reservation lands to the north. Sounds like a real estate ad.

A few months ago at the top of these steps I spent one of my nine lives... rattlesnake stretched out across the trail sunning himself, gives me that familiar rattlesnake warning -- bless his little cold heart -- as my leg froze in mid-air above him, waiting for him to slither off the trail.

More Evidence for Twinship

Mykonos, Greece