Since surviving the pandemic of 2020 Bea continued eating all of her meals at home. Even after the crisis had passed, although she ventured out for work and various activities, for Bea, one dinner was much like the next. Her meal consisted of a plate of rice or noodles covered in veggies, chicken, and cheese, and she zapped it in the microwave. She lived alone and loathed housework and cooking, so anything that kept those to a minimum was a plus. Continue reading
Stories. We all relate through stories. We use them from the time we’re small to help us learn language and other skills we need to function as members of society. We use them in our families to ensure that we don’t forget those who came before us. We use them in school as students and teachers to illustrate new concepts and explore the vast world around us. We use them at work to convey information. We use them for entertainment to draw out emotions. We use them throughout society to help understand where we are, and how we got here. We use them in politics to persuade and move people to take action.
Since before I reached voting age, I’ve held strong opinions on several issues that have never gone away. When I was in junior high school, I remember having a spirited debate with one of my favorite teachers over the just-recorded Roe v. Wade decision. We were on opposite side of that debate, and we were both invested in our perspective, but we also had great admiration for one another. We didn’t resort to any mean-spirited attacks. We did use personal stories to back up factual data that we presented. We told those personal stories to emphasize our positions, not to degrade or berate each other.
In the fall of my first year at university, I was excited to vote in my first gubernatorial election. On that ballot, in addition to the gubernatorial race, an infamous proposition – California’s famed Prop 13, the Jarvis-Gann initiative – was in the balance. I came home on several weekends that fall, and I swung by my old high school to talk with a few of my former teachers. I opposed Prop 13 because of the implications for what it would do to the schools in the state. Sadly, all of my former teachers voted for it along with legions of other CA voters. Three years later the state surplus ran out, and CA schools faced the beginning of a continuing funding shortfall that is still in play today.
In the 1980 presidential election, I was again poised to use my voice at the ballot box, but this time, as a young, idealistic university student, I really wanted to change the world. I didn’t want Reagan. I disagreed with the majority of his platform, and I thought he would hurt the country and specifically my family. At the time I also didn’t want Jimmy Carter, so like many other idealistic university students, I voted for John Anderson in that election. I learned a very important lesson that year. While it’s nice to think that a third party candidate can shake things up, the reality is that until we remove the money from politics, the only candidates that truly stand a chance are from the two major parties, and anything else is at best a protest vote, and at worst, a spoiler causing real damage. This has been born out in several subsequent elections where the popular vote went one way, and Electoral College another.
In the years since then, I have continued to vote in every election carefully researching the candidates and the issues, and casually discussing them with family and friends. I remember a heated discussion during the lead-up to the 1984 general election amongst fellow students and staff at work.
Until the last 20 years or so, I’ve voted strictly on the issues crossing party lines on occasion depending on the individual candidate’s platform and record. Since about the year 2000 I haven’t done that. The partisan divide has gotten so extreme that I can’t.
In 2016, I started writing some articles on social media and on at least one political website leading up to that election. That one felt different. I wanted to do something more, but I wasn’t sure how to get involved, so I wrote. I also had conversations with a very knowledgeable friend that percolated. We all know how 2016 turned out. That year, I had some very serious conversations with some good friends on various sides of the political divide. Since then, I’ve watched, I’ve listened, and I’ve written or spoken out. It wasn’t enough. Over the last four years, I’ve been more scared than I can ever remember being, and I’ve seen sides of some friends that I didn’t know they had. I still care about the issues, but it goes deeper than that now. In 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic that the United States is utterly failing to contain, our lives truly do depend on the outcome of this election. Beyond the pandemic, we’ve got a climate crisis that has been building for decades and must be addressed or nothing else will matter. You can’t tell stories if your species is extinct.
Being tired of feeling helpless and just voting, I decided to do more. Lots more. I’ve been spending some time each day volunteering for the DNC on their text team to help Joe Biden win this election. I started out texting voters. The DNC trains volunteers to use their tools. They are so supportive with volunteer moderators, staff members, and the vast community of volunteers all working together to help reach voters. We listen to voter concerns, give them verifiable, factual data, and we provide critical information on how they can register and make their voices heard.
Before long, I joined the text moderator team, and now I’m helping other volunteers reach voters on a daily basis. Even though I retired a few years ago, I’m finding a lot of the skills I developed throughout my career are coming in handy, and the sense of community and purpose is invigorating.
It’s getting busier, and soon it will be over, but instead of just sitting at home wondering and waiting, I’m doing something tangible. I’ve already voted. Now I need to continue to help get everyone out there who can vote to do so.
Why do I support Joe Biden? Again, this goes back a few years, and I will freely admit that through the primaries earlier this year, he wasn’t the one I wanted to win, though I have admired his public service for many decades. Although I voted for Elizabeth Warren in the primary, I’d be very happy with Joe Biden as our president.
Back in October 1992, during the general campaign between Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, I had the privilege of taking a trip to Washington, D.C. Had I known I’d soon be sent there for work many, many times, I might have gone someplace else for that vacation, but nonetheless, I was there for a week with a very dear friend. We saw all the sites playing tourist for that week, but one thing sticks out in my mind more than any other from that trip. We got to sit in the gallery on the last day of the 102nd Congress Senate Session. It was a big day in the Senate. Three senators retired that day – Garne, Rudman, and our long time CA senator, Alan Cranston.
Those retirements and the tributes that accompanied them were touching, but even that wasn’t the thing that struck me. This was the day after George H. W. Bush appeared on the Larry King show during that campaign. One senator decided to make quite a spectacle on the Senate floor that day. He took the floor and wouldn’t yield, lambasting the Democratic nominee with innuendo and false accusations. Three senators tried to get him to stop and failed. Finally, Joe Biden got him to yield, though I don’t recall exactly how he was able to do that. What I do remember is that Joe debunked every accusation with verifiable, factual data, and then turned the body to address a critical humanitarian effort that needed immediate attention. That’s the Joe Biden I voted for. That’s the Joe Biden we need in the White House.
Please vote like your life depends on it, because it does.
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In theater or in literature, an author’s vivid imagination can be a wondrous thing. A writer can spin a captivating tale limited only by the bounds of their imagination and their ability to capture their vision in words. If told well, such a story can be divorced from reality yet still provide compelling entertainment for its audience. In this context it’s not only acceptable, it’s desirable, and viewers or readers can find escape through immersion in such a story. It can be enjoyable to suspend disbelief enough to imagine what might be, and it can even inspire people to positive action to improve a situation in reality. Science fiction has long posited potential advances, both good and bad, that are sometimes achieved at a later time. The communicators used in Star Trek in the 1960s were intriguing. They allowed people to communicate over long distances from wherever they were with a tiny device seemingly by magic. Decades later, they came to life in the real world as flip phones as a phase in the evolution of mobile technology. Granted, there were significant differences in range, clarity, and required infrastructure, but the similarities were striking given various designs inspired by the fictional story. Since then, mobile technology has advanced in the form of smart phones and devices, delighting consumers and titillating the minds of creative engineers to continue to push even further. Continue reading
Years ago, although I lived and worked on the west coast, I spent a good deal of time near Washington, D.C. on some temporary work assignments. On these extended trips with my technical team, I had some time to explore the various museums and monuments on the weekends after some very long work weeks. Little did I know that one such outing would blossom into a vivid lesson on how easily people can be swayed by exaggeration or even completely false information presented as fact, eclipsing reality in dramatic fashion. Continue reading
Professor Heather Cox Richardson, a prominent professor of American history at Boston College, has gained notoriety in the last several months as the author of a popular series entitled “Letters from an American” which appear on her website as well as on her professional Facebook page on a nightly basis. She began writing these letters in early November 2019 in response to numerous questions she received trying to make sense of the political events of the day. In these letters she provides a nightly roundup of the day’s political news, and along the way, she provides lessons delving the depths of American history to show where many of these ideas and tactics originated. On April 1, 2020 (after she was well into her nightly series), her latest book, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America, was released. In this book, she describes what she refers to as the American paradox. This paradox is based on the principle that throughout American history, equality depended on inequality. She shows how this paradox started before the founding of the country and ripples throughout our nation’s history driving much of the division we see in American society today. Continue reading
This piece of the journey picks up where part 2 left off. When I started college, I was torn. I loved music with every fiber of my being, but I also very much loved science and math. I wanted to become a doctor, but I still considered majoring in music for a very brief moment. I knew that to get into medical school, one only had to fulfill the required coursework and take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), but they could major in anything they liked. Still, I loved math and science, so I decided that I would major in the sciences, but still pursue my music somehow. Long story short, I never got into medical school. In fact I never even applied. Along the way, I switched from majoring in biochemistry to electrical engineering (still heavily in the math / science realm), and I pursued my music as well, just not as a major or even a minor. I also made one very firm decision before I got to the campus to start my first term. I never wanted to march again. Continue reading
This piece of the journey picks up where part 1 left off, the summer before my freshman year of high school. Leaving junior high behind, there was a lot ahead, and that summer was an eventful one. Normally, the incoming freshman class didn’t start band rehearsals until school commenced in the fall, but this particular summer was different. The band had been invited to participate in a massive summer parade as part of the Lions Club International conference in San Francisco, so there was no time to lose. The high school’s band was an award winning organization known throughout the western region as a top notch marching band. Their strength wasn’t in the drum corps style of marching or field shows. They thrived on military-style street marching competitions where everything, including standing inspections of the uniforms, hair length, musical interpretation, and marching precision was scored. My class, as incoming freshman, had a lot to learn in short order. Continue reading
My earlier commentary, Why care about classical music?, got me thinking back to my musical roots. As mentioned in that article, years ago, my ex-husband had asked me if I hadn’t had my early exposure to music at home, would I have still developed such an affinity for it. At that time, though it surprised him, I told him that there was no way to know for sure. Still, music has always been the one constant source of comfort throughout my life. It hasn’t always taken exactly the same form, but it has always affected me deeply, and it has been central to who I am no matter my endeavor. That said, I wanted to further explore my personal musical journey through a series of essays, and this is the first (chronologically at least) in that story.
As that famous Hammerstein lyric states:
“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
I can’t begin my own story without starting with my parents. No, I’m not referring to the obvious fact that without them, I wouldn’t physically exist. I am instead observing that they gave me my first concentrated exposure to music. From the very first days at home, a few things happened. Continue reading
Last fall, I had the privilege of both music directing an exciting community production of Urinetown, and mentoring a very promising young musician through his first pit experience. It’s one thing to watch a production unfold from the podium, keeping track of all the various things that a music director must, but it is quite another to watch the show develop through a young musician’s eyes, particularly one who is new to the pit perspective. This was an adult community theater production, and this young keyboard player was the only kid in the pit. Everyone else in our mighty little orchestra was an experienced adult player. Continue reading
Alex and Rowan Jeffries shared much in life. Being fraternal twins, that sharing started with their birthday. They didn’t share a room growing up, as their parents didn’t think that it proper for a girl and a boy to do so long term. From the time they were out of their cribs, they enjoyed their own bedrooms, independent sanctuaries to pursue their private thoughts wherever those took them. Even though they didn’t share a room growing up, they were very close. Now in their late 40s and well-established in their careers in academia with full professorships in their respective fields at the same university, Alex in biochemistry and Rowan in music, they shared a house. The twins lost their parents in an unfortunate accident when they were finishing up their graduate studies. Since then, they had relied on one another as their only remaining family. Neither Alex nor Rowan had ever been married. They each had broad circles of friends, but neither had time nor interest to seriously pursue any romantic entanglements. They lived in an expensive area, and while neither felt comfortable taking on the cost and burdens of home ownership alone, together they had no qualms. And of course they still had their own rooms. Their house started with four bedrooms including only one master suite. They’d converted a second bedroom into another master bedroom suite by building onto the house a bit to enlarge the closets and add a private bathroom, so in the end, they each had their own suite. One of the remaining bedrooms was their shared office, and the last was their guest room for those rare occasions when they had a visitor or two staying with them. They also had a number of musical instruments including a baby grand piano and an electric piano in their living room. Although only Rowan pursued music as a career, they both grew up playing the piano as well as a few other instruments each, and their parents had instilled in them the attitude that a house was not a home without a piano, so they kept that tradition alive. Continue reading