Sunday, December 31, 2006
I am happy and grateful for special people in my life at the end of this year!
In Zaragoza, Santa is still climbing on balconies EVERYWHERE!
But in the malls in Spain, kids tell their wishes to the Three Kings, not Santa.
We wish you all the very best for the coming year.
What we are wishing now.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
El rey pide consenso.
Las gambas nos miran con sus ojitos.
La ensalada esconde sus tresoros.
Las navajas MMMMM!
Pinya para la ninya.
La dorada tiene dientes enormes, pero poco le valen.
Nochebuena: canapes, gambas, carabineros,navajas, bigaros, sopa de cocido, cochinillo con patatas y pimientos, pinya, turron. Cava. Discurso de SM el Rey y programa de Raphael.
Navidad: canapes, necoras, bueyes de mar, dorada, ensalada, fruta y turron.
Hoy: habia que elegir entre 3 menus para la boda, bwah.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Here are some pictures (courtesy of Diego Perez Velez and the MN Immigrant Freedome Network).
The Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network and New-Minnesotans have also generously shared their experieces in these video interviews. A shout-out to alondra for all her hard work on behalf of the families who are suffering now because the wage-earner has lost a job.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
As usual the STRIB (what a pathetic newspaper) is ignoring the story in favor of the stupid Vikings, so MPR has scooped the "news"paper in its coverage of the impact of Dec 11's budget decision. An interview on MPR's MidMorning show withMinneapolis Public Library Director Kit Hadley reveals how the City Council and the Mayor of Minneapolis have not only failed to deliver adequate funding to keep libraries open, but they have effectively sabotaged the Library Board's attempts to create a reasonable budget for the coming year. Before the City Council meeting, the Library Board had considered three different budget models for dealing with the shortfall, and solicited public input: what was better: maintaining all the branches but with drastically reduced hours and staff? closing three branches and the main library on Mondays? Even more drastic cuts? Public input was in favor of keeping branches open because of their immense value to the neighborhoods they serve, and the Board made a proposal that the City Council's Ways and Means commitee approved, But then on Dec 11, the City Council took back some of the money, making it one time instead of regular funding, and imposing other conditions. It was only at the Dec 11 budget meeting that the Library Board discovered that last minute changes alter their entire budgetary planning options.
Here is an excerpt from the story accompanying the interview"
(and bravo to Gary Schiff for being the Library defender in this one!)
[City Council member Gary} Schiff says if the goal is to help the Library Board keep all of its branches open, then the city should make a solid financial commitment.
"Because it's ongoing money that is most valuable to our libraries," Schiff said. "Ongoing is the most valuable. So this is not an action that we should be worried (about). Talk about sending messages, this is a blow. This is operating money they use to hire staff and keep buildings open. You don't hire staff with one-time money."
Schiff also argued that the Library Board had already counted on the $250,000 when they made another request for $105,000. Board members said that would guarantee that the three libraries on the chopping block could stay open, albeit at limited hours.
The Council did include the extra $105,000, but they also decided to drop another part of the deal that would have added $925,000 per year to library budgets from 2007 to 2016. A city official says that money is still available, if the board decides to use the $1.2 million to pay down debt as part of a long-term funding plan.
However, this and other changes appeared to take library trustees by surprise. The board had included that $925,000 in its $24.8 million budget.
Library Board President Anita Duckor says she doesn't know if they'll be able to balance their budget, much less be able to use the one-time dollars to keep the three libraries open.(full story here)
confusing? Yeah, but it shouldn't be. This is a lousy way to do business, folks! How is the Library Board supposed to make responsible budgetary decisions when the City Council and the Mayor's office don't make all the information available to them? They know that the Library Board cannot levy taxes and that they are strapped by the cuts in state aid to cities. This email interchange shows that the issue of how the library is funded is complicated, but there are solutions. In fact, the City Charter mandates that the City support the library.
My paranoid view is that I think the city is trying to starve the Library in order to force the Board to close and then sell off buildings, or merge with Hennepin county libraries thus divesting themselves of the responsibility, but also removing one of the city's most precious assets from its control. Rybak and Ostrow in particular look bad here.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
It's mid-December, and still no snow in this part of Minnesota!
The new railing by the stairway made it safe to invite a large group that includes children, so we gathered for cookies and treats at the new house--there are still a few details to finish, but it is ready for a party.
and a little dancing!
Louis welcomed us all to the farm, even the dog Bella.
Blas has grown out just enough hair that it looks as if he got it cut that way on purpose!
A special present for papa: a rubbery wig that looks like a sea urchin! We are so grateful for his recovery and good health.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
We had lunch at Cupcake yesterday, where we saw their gingerbread rendition of their wonderful bakery-restaurant.
Things that make me happy on Saturday morning, cruising through my blogroll:
- Birdchick has more pages of rabbit disapproval! And her blog has the usual amazing photos of birds plus videos of starlings asking for kisses.
- Astronomy picture of the day shows the trail of the shuttle Discovery against the Orion nebula and Rigel glowing brightly.
- Dancing salsa On 1 or On 2: can you spot the difference? Even if you can't, the two videos are awesome.
- SF Mike gives me a dose of my hometown: the politics, the music, the beauty, the characters. Check out the gorgeous photos from Golden Gate Park.
- "Playground to posse: what's your quack-pack?" ZeFrank isn't just funny, although he's always funny, when he's talking about space and MyPlace.
- MPR reports that S.Dakota Senator Tim Johnson is recovering well from his brain surgery. No, he did not have the same condition as Blas, but we are all thinking of him in a new way and hoping his recovery is as complete as Blas's has been.
- La Scala aficionados booed the tenor singing Radames in Aida after a "rather labored Bflat" leaving the soprano to sing the duet alone, and was fired. Silvia Poggioli reports, and she always makes me happy.
- Hey, sometimes my "Miss Crabby Pants" letters to the STRIB editors pay off! Here's what they had to say about the City Council vote on the budget and the need to fully fund the Minneapolis Public Library system. No, I don't think they just heard from me, but I know that a lot of us bombarded them with letters, and it made a difference.
- Leo is learning to make the bed, but he hasn't figured out how to run the vaccuum yet.
Friday, December 15, 2006
People with fibromyalgia often have unrefreshing sleep; they sleep but wake up tired and achey, as if they have the flu. Pain is both all-over, and located in "tender spots." I used to say this "feels like someone beat me with a stick." This was my experience--sleep that was unrefreshing--until I stopped nursing and my hormones changed. Then I just....stopped sleeping. I would sleep about 2 hours a night. A good night was when I could sleep for 4 hours, whether they were consecutive or not. My symptoms got worse and doing everything and anything was a challenge. My doctor and I tried lots of different approaches to improve my sleep: acupuncture, physical therapy, nutrition, sleep hygiene (better habits), various medications, even birth control pills to regulate hormone fluctuation. Nothing really had much of an impact. Finally after a few years of this, we decided on a sleep medication, one that is normally only prescribed for short periods of time. In other words, it's habit-forming.
Now, with the medication, I do sleep between 5-7 hours a night. But if for some reason I run out of the meds, as I did this week, I just don't sleep. The rotator cuff pain, and no meds added up to three nights in a row without sleeping at all. I lay in bed, doing the breathing exercises I've been taught, watching the cat do his nocturnal thing, but feeling the whips of adrenaline lashing through my body. Because this is what is keeping me awake: my endocrine system is whacked out in such a way that the adrenaline just doesn't turn off. I can feel it squirting through my system--sometimes it makes my limbs jump, or my teeth grind. My body is getting the alarm! signal. The hardest part is fighting off the fear--it is not called "fight or flight" for nothing. The adrenaline surges can trigger panic, anxiety, paranoia or just plain fear, even when there is no objective cause. Knowing this helps me manage it, but sometimes I'm so tired, so mentally exhausted with being AWAKE! that I just want it all to stop.
I finally slept last night (my Rx arrived in the mail!).
Monday, December 11, 2006
Yesterday, the dictator notorious for his apparatus of state-sponsored torture, Augusto Pinochet, died on the anniversary of Human Rights Day. Families of his victims remember him and his deeds. The most harrowing account of the layers of degradation that were institutionalized by Pinochet is the story told by Luz Arce in her memoir. The history of the victims of Pinochet and his supporters is documented at the siteMemoria viva. Michelle Bachelet (her pictured with her father) and her mother were detained and tortured at the Villa Grimaldi, along with thousands of others. Now she is the President of Chile.
Every month I contribute a small amount to the Center for Victims of Torture.
The following was printed in yesterday's Star Tribune by their acting executive director to mark the occasion of International Human Rights Day.
"Ruth Barrett-Rendler: Again it's time to back up words on human rights
After 9/11, some U.S. leaders condoned the use of torture. Citizens can help end it.
Today is the 58th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the then-fledgling United Nations. For the United States, the essential player was Eleanor Roosevelt, who thought, wrote, cajoled and lobbied the declaration into existence.
But Roosevelt also recognized that words alone were empty.
Ten years after the declaration was adopted, she presented "In Your Hands," a guide to community action. As she said, "the destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities," and urged people to work for human rights, "In small places, close to home ... ."
Americans like to think our country stands for the same values Roosevelt worked to enshrine in the declaration: dignity, equality, freedom from injustice.
Sadly, since Sept. 11, 2001, our leaders have failed to uphold, either in letter or in spirit, the laws and principles that are meant to protect those values. Instead, we have learned, to our shock and sorrow, that they have promoted and condoned the use of torture. They have authorized secret detention and the suspension of due process. They have permitted "extraordinary rendition" -- putting people on planes to be flown to a country where they will be tortured.
At one time, America pushed Iran and China to grant U.N. investigators independent access to prisoners as a way to stop torture. Now we refuse to allow the same access. This means we have lost the moral authority necessary to push repressive regimes to open their prisons. The United Nations special investigator on torture recently reported that several countries justify their mistreatment of prisoners by saying that they are merely following America's example. Our colleagues fighting human rights abuses in other countries have told us much the same.
But there has been progress. And there are new opportunities for more if, as Roosevelt urged, we can commit to working close to home.
In the newly revised "Army Field Manual on Interrogations," most of the abuses that occurred in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay are now explicitly prohibited. Military interrogators fought to reinstate the ban on torture because they know, as we do at the Center for Victims of Torture, that torture is ineffective, producing largely false information that cannot be acted upon.
Legislation passed last year with bipartisan support, including the entire Minnesota congressional delegation, reinforced the standing ban on torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
And since the recent election, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are showing more grit in confronting administration policy and practice.
Here is where they should start.
First there must be an end to secret detention, abusive interrogations, and "extraordinary rendition," practices already illegal under U.S. law. But without congressional oversight and an end to the secrecy under which these programs have operated, they are likely to continue.
Second, lawmakers must prohibit the use of coerced testimony. Evidence and confessions obtained under torture pervert our entire justice system.
Third, Congress must restore the ability for all detainees to challenge their treatment in court -- habeas corpus. This is a necessary tool to prevent torture. If our laws prohibit torture but we don't provide tools for enforcement, it is a loophole for continued abuse.
Eleanor Roosevelt warned about human rights, "Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."
Let's send a message loud and clear to our state's U.S. representatives and senators: Torture, secret detention or denial of equal justice cannot be justified under any circumstances. We simply will not allow it. This time, it is in our hands.
Ruth Barrett-Rendler is acting executive director of the Minneapolis-based Center for Victims of Torture.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Today Blas came home from the hospital, a day early, with some dramatic stitches but a clean bill of health from the neurosurgeons. He was admitted for emergency surgery last Wednesday to have a blood clot removed from the space between his skull and the membrane surrounding the brain (to be technical, a sub-acute subdural hematoma). He received the best of care. We are so grateful for the skill and kindness of all the people who took care of him, to our friends and family for their support and good wishes, to the amazing power of the human body to heal. We have always been keenly aware of our good fortune as a family. Even more so today, I am grateful to have Blas in my life.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
I sent this letter to the Mayor of Minneapolis and my City Council members:
Dear Mayor Rybak and City Council members,
As a resident of Minneapolis, a mother of a junior high student
who attends public school, and a professor at the
University of Minnesota, I respectfully urge you to make full funding of ALL of our library branches a top priority. The Library Board has voted to keep the branches open if you provide the funds. The people of Minneapolis have consistently supported our excellent library system in bonding bills in years past. Please do not starve the library system of the funding it needs to remain a vital service for ALL Minneapolis
residents, not just those in some neighborhoods. As a former resident of
California, I was delighted when I moved to Minneapolis to work at the
University of Minnesota that the city had a superior library, school and
park system. It is with extreme dismay that I witness the erosion of an
ethos of first-class public services in this city.
As a single parent, I am very concerned that children of Junior High age do not currently have enough safe spaces to go after school. After sixth grade they are not eligible for on-site after-school care, such as Minneapolis Kids. Those of us with the means to enroll our children in after-school activities patch together ways to keep them safe until we come home from work. Children this age are especially vulnerable to being initiated into such activities as smoking, drinking, and sex if they are hanging around unsupervised until their parents come home from
work. When I was this age, the library was a safe haven, a place to do homework, a place to learn. Children should be able to WALK or take a very short bus ride to a library.
As a university professor, I want to see all of our city's children end
up in my classes, and for many, the library may be the only access they
have to books or information. Closing branch libraries may seem like a
way to save money in the short term, but the impact on our children (and
on many others who rely on the library for a wide array of vital
services) must be a top priority in any decision we make. Closing
library branches is hobbles the ability of parents and public schools to
partner in preparing their children for higher education.
When the city has Wi-Fi, that will be great for those of us who can
afford computers. But those who cannot afford computers make heavy use of them in the
libraries. Closing branch libraries deprives communities of access to
information, much of which is no longer easily accessible in other
I use branch libraries in more than one neighborhood--in Uptown where I
live, in SouthEast where I work, and in other neighborhoods where I shop
or visit friends. They are always packed with people of all ages,
especially young people. Where will these children go to learn? where
will they go after school when these safe and FREE spaces are closed? I
also note the presence of senior citizens, new immigrants, and folks
from every age and background. Branch libraries are one of the very few
community spaces that are not segregated by wealth, age, race, or other
factors. Closing branch libraries deprives our city of public spaces
that are not commercial in which citizens can interact in safety with people of all walks of life.
Please do not allow the state's shortsighted funding priorities to drive
our city's public service agenda. I consider the library system to be as
important to public safety as the police and fire departments, as
important to education as the public schools, and as important to the
health of our communities as any jobs program. You have the opportunity
to invest in the health of the library now while we work to reverse the
priorities of the state's funding system.
So far, this is the only response I have received:
Thanks for writing.
I'm not impressed with the Council's work on the budget thus far. We
could, and need to do a lot more to help the Library with its 2007
For the first time in five years, the city budget has many dollars of
new spending. With a 2% wage cap still in place for city employees, the
police department not adequately staffed and our libraries closing, I
can't support using our 8% tax increase on new funding for new staff
positions and new programs. Libraries are essential services. We need to
fund the basics first.
I authored motions put before the council designed to give an additional
$645K to the library for 2007, I came up with $250K previously, and my
colleagues have approved another $885. I will keep fighting for the
funds to keep our libraries open.
Please keep writing all elected officials. I am hopeful with the new
leadership at the State Capital we can get our LGA restored and reverse
the corporate property tax cuts that have harmed all city budgets in the
past four years.
City Council Ward 9
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
The winter light shines in from the south: for now, the "office space" is where the dining table will be, between the living area and the kitchen area. There is a lot of room for dancing right now, so we've been doing some twirling.
The first Christmas tree in the new house! in the southeast corner "living room."
The kitchen area: green soapstone counters, orange for the pantry space, maple floors from the old house. The main entrance is behind the pantry wall.
Looking south and west from the kitchen sink.
Viewed from the south, looking up the hill at the back of the house. The barn is just beyond, to the left.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
If you go to literature map you can type in the name of an author, and it will appear, surrounded by a cluster of other names. The idea is that you will probably like the ones that are closer. At another point on this very interesting site, a box asks you to enter the names of three of your favorite writers. This is the kind of question I usually can't answer because, really, how can I choose?
But for many years, my answers would have been Dorothy Dunnett, Joanna Russ and Samuel R. Delany.
I have just discovered that Joanna Russ has been unable to write for the last ten years because she has arthritis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (a condition closely related to fibromyalgia).
Russ's literary criticism I found later when I was in graduate school. I just bought her book of essays To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction when I was out looking for books by Ellen Willis a while back. Some of them I have read before, many years ago, and others are new to me. I will enjoy reading them, and then rereading all of her fiction.
At a Science Fiction Conventions (WisCON) she was interviewed by another of my very favorite writers of all time, Samuel R. Delany. Delany is another writer of fiction who is also a brilliant teacher and thinker, as one can see from this recent interview and an article by Josh Lukin in the Minnesota Review.
Absorbant remarked on regrets about books or other things one sheds when moving, and my first thought was of the huge collection of records I abandoned in California when I moved to Minnesota. But of course, there was an even huger collection of paperback science fiction novels, with their original cheesy covers, that I bought with my allowance (back when 50 cents would buy you a book, and a nickel would get you the same book, used), and that I carted around with me for years. It seemed like a good idea at the time to get rid of them, but now I wish I had them, and the Marvel comic books I bought between 1972-1975. They were what helped me survive those six years of dorkdom, until I could become a professional nerd.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Rob Bresny (Free Will Astrology) offers these words to Scorpios this week:
"Earth Island Journal says scientists have discovered natural ways to clean up old munitions sites. If you plant periwinkle and parrot-feather plants in soil that's been bombed with TNT, they'll soak up and neutralize the noxious stuff. Likewise, pondweed absorbs and transforms nitroglycerin in land where explosives have been detonated. I urge you to find the metaphorical equivalents of periwinkle, pondweed, and parrot-feather plants this week, Scorpio. It's a perfect moment to detoxify the places in your life where past battles left behind toxic debris."
So, I should think about the psychic equivalent of phytoremediation. My favorite crayola color was periwinkle when I was a little. I confess that I am dismayed to find that Crayola has retired "thistle".