Monday, December 28, 2009

Some Random Thoughts about Christmas

“So this is Christmas
And what have you done?”

So signs John Lennon is his song Happy Christmas (War Is Over). This song always getting me thinking about what Christmas really is about. And what we, as a nation and a culture, have done with this holiday. Long time ago (2002 to 2015 yrs. ago), a little Jewish boy was born to a young mother far from home.

What have we done? We have a big commercial frenzy that excludes his own people from the celebration! What have we done, indeed!!

So, here’s some random thoughts of mine on the holiday we call Christmas

The Fuss and Whoopla
We have all this whoopla before Christmas: the frenzy to buy presents and the bubble in retail sales; decorations in stores, homes, and public places; the music on the radio; and a few voices trying to remember the reason for the season (oh, this Jesus Christ, known to Christians as “Our Savior” is born!).

And Who’s Missing Out on it All?
But wait a minute, who’s missing out on the celebration? Well, one group is our Jewish friends. Hummmm, but wasn’t Jesus born to a young Jewish mother? So, I wonder what this nice boy Jesus is thinking about our present day fuss about his birthday. And who misses out on it all.....his own people! Oy vey!!!!

And When Was Jesus really born?
My little research of internet sites provided a great variety of results:
  • Jesus was probably born on Sept. 29th or March 1st or June 2nd or maybe Dec. 25th.
  • Jesus was probably born sometime in the 13 year period between 6 BC (6 BCE) and 7 AD (7 CE).

The date and year all depend on which “star” marked his birth, and there are a number of significant planetary conjunctions which may have caught the eye of the astrologers from the east.

But, there is a little contradiction with the biblical text, as Jesus was said to be born during Herod’s rule (and he did in 4 BC [4 BCE]). Yet, the census that required Joseph and Mary to travel in Bethlehem didn’t happen until 7 AD (7 CE). And, for the first couple of centuries, followers of Christ didn’t celebrate his birth, so there wasn’t any real effort to come up with an exact day and year. And some believe Dec. 25th was convenient as it coincided with the Roman solstice celebrations.

Personally, I like the September or June date, as it would give some separate space to think about what Jesus did and said and what it means personally and for the world. I have even considered petitioning the major Christian denominations to move the religious celebration to this date and leave the Consumer Holiday in December.

Why Doesn’t the New Year Start on Christmas Day?
If the birth of Jesus marks the years in the current calendar, why does the year start a week later? Well, January 1st represents the day Jesus was named, the day of his circumcision. Most people don’t think of New Year’s Day as the Feast of the Circumcision…..might through a different perspective on the celebrations.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fall in My Favorite Park

Boston's Public Garden is near my office, so I stroll there often. Sometimes at lunch, sometimes walking to the subway at the end of the day. The park is beautiful in all seasons, but the fall foliage paints the park with a particularly stricking palate of colors.

Here's a sampling of my photos of fall in the Public Garden. For more photos, check out my blog Urban Vistas.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do You Need a Perfect Vagina?

Do You Need a Perfect Vagina? How’s that for a questions? But can you believe this is a trend in cosmetic surgery for women?

Maybe I’m getting old, but I still remember when it was the thing to get a face lift or a tummy tuck. Before that, there was always the nose job. Well, at least these alterations related to the part of your body that everyone sees on a regular basis.

But the vagina? I keep thinking to myself, why? Who’s going to notice? It’s not something you’ll notice every time you look in a mirror. And it’s not something someone near you on the elevator will see. So, why spend $5,000 to have a perfect vagina?

A report by the BBC (New warning on “perfect vaginas”) says some women are embarrassed in front of a sexual partner.

Maybe. Depending on the nature of the encounter. But in intimate encounters of, shall we say, the “first kind”, it’s not exactly what’s he’s looking at. It’s usually dark….all he’s looking for is the entry portal. As he’s finding his way in, his mind is not on the aesthetics of the entryway, that’s for sure! For guys, it’s simple: he finds his way into the “happy place,” the big event happens (hopefully, not too soon), and then he’s happy and maybe you are, too. In my perspective, it’s the presence of the vagina, not the perfection of its appearance, that is the main attraction for the guy.

But, that's only one perspective. There may be other reasons…..some women complain of being uncomfortable in tight clothes or riding a bike. Maybe there are other personal reasons to spend $5,000 for perfection in this private region. Leave a comment about what you think.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Saving My Garden

This year, the killing frost is late. Last year it arrived for El Día de los Muertos (Nov. 2). This year, it was unseasonably warm. But as the week progressed, the temperatures plummeted and some frost was visible yesterday morning. So, even though today is sunny and warm, it was time to save what I can from the garden.

I repotted the geraniums which I keep inside over the winter. I also brought in the parsley, one of the few plants that did well during our short, wet and cool summer.

On the right, that’s most of the cherry tomato harvest below: 9 green tomatoes. There was one ripe tomato we had around Labor Day, and one rotted on the vine before ripening. Oh, well, everyone tells me it was a bad year for tomatoes, and there’s always next year.

Below: my ferocious beast stalking in the wilds of the garden.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

El Día de los Muertos

El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is tomorrow, November 2nd. It is no surprise that the late autumn is a time to remember the departed. In the northern hemisphere, we witness the temperatures dropping, the sun lower in the sky as the days get shorter, and the death of annual vegetation. Here in New England, this takes the form of a vivid display of bright foliage.

Today (El Día de los Santos, or All Saints Day) was extremely beautiful, unusually warm and even sunny. I took a bike ride to the Mount Auburn Cemetery, one of the most beautifully landscaped cemeteries in the area. It was an appropriate day to take in the beauty of fall while contemplating our mortality.

One of my favorite reflections is found in Psalm 90 where one translation reads: “teach us to number our days that we may learn your wisdom.” Yes our days on earth are numbered, they are finite. But we must embrace our transitory existence and not be afraid of or obsessed with our eventual death. That is the wisdom we must learn, so that we can make the most of our lives.

The Psalm also says “for a thousand years to you……is like the passing of a single day.” This contrasts the eternal nature of God to our brief existence, with an understanding that time can be experienced differently, something that would be embraced in Einstein’s special relativity centauries later. Our lives pass in snippets of time, maybe a century at most. God spans the centuries (“por los siglos de los siglos”).

So, what becomes of us? Do we wither and fade and our life is extinguished, like the annual flowers in my garden with the killing frost? Christianity, Judism, Islam, and other faiths embrace an afterlife in heaven with God. Hinduism professes reincarnation. Others think death is the end. We don’t know the answer.

But while I was there in the cemetery, one thought came to me. I do know what will happen come April. Those same trees now displaying their brilliant foliage, after 4 months where their branches lay bear through winter winds and snowfalls, those very branches will bud forth in a glorious display of spring colors. Hope and life springs eternal.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The "Man Rules" and My Reply

Do men and women have different persepectives on those little rules of life....those little rules that govern relationships and living together, from how to leave the toilet seat (up or down) to What does the other person really mean by what he/she just said?

Recently, a friend from another web site passed on these "Man Rules" to me. Granted they were offered just for laughs. And a lot of them are funny. But, still, they don't tell the whole story. I think a little reply is due. After all, it is my blog about my thoughts, so here they are!

I'd like to encourage readers to add their comments, too.

So, I've copied the man rules in manly blue Arial font and my thoughts in a contrasting italics and purple Georgia font. And one thing.....while the guy who wrote this numbered all the rules as "number 1" on purpose, I've added letters, to make it easier for my readers to comment on them.

The Man Rules

This is JUST for laughs!!
WOMEN: Continue to do what you want after reading this.
MEN: We ONLY labeled it as such to make you happy!!

At last a guy has taken the time to write this all down. Finally, the guys' side of the story (I must admit, it's pretty good). We always hear 'the rules' from the female side. Now here are the rules from the male side. These are our rules!

Please note.. these are all numbered "1" ON PURPOSE!

1a. Men are NOT mind readers.
Nor are women! If you're quiet and don't say what's on your mind, we don't know whether you're happy or sad or angry or whatever.

1b. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.
It's not the seat so's when guys piddle on the seat (instead of lifting it up!) or when they leave their piddle on the rim. You won't loose your manhood by taking some toilet paper and wiping piddle off the rim!

1c. Sunday is for Sports! It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.
Maybe for some men, but a lot of guys are available on Sundays for social activities other than watching sports!

1d. Crying is blackmail.
So are controling emotional outbursts, like getting angry.

1e. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!
Like 1a, this can go both ways, too!!

1f. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.
Perhaps, but not if I still haven't made up my mind!

1g. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do.
Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
Well, I have to disagree. I want my friends, regardless of gender, to be able to be sympathetic and be able to listen to what's on my mind, particularly if I'm feeling hurt or sad or scared. It's not difficult....all you have to do is listen, you don't have to say much. Maybe a hug or embrase would be nice, too.

1h. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument.
In fact, all comments become Null and Void after 7 Days.
Whatever, but some things I won't forget! I may not tell you, but I can remember hurtful words years later.

1i. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.
But, I don't think I am fat, but sometimes I think I look fat. How hard is it to say "you don't look fat to me" or "you look sexy" or something nice like that!

1j. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.
Well, that's easy for you to say! But you mean it one way or the other, so how do I know which way you mean it? And maybe how do I know you don't mean it the way that makes me sad or angry? I'm not a mind reader, you know!

1k. You can either ask us to do something OR tell us how you want it done.
Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.
But if you're doing it in my place, I want it done MY way! And, if you're nice, you'll be glad to help me and do it my way!!

1l. Whenever possible, PLEASE say whatever you have to say during commercials.
Well, who do you like more: me or that stupid TV show you're watching?

1m. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.
And he thought he had reached India!

1n. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not A color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.
Tough! Women's fashion and house decorating requires a full palate of colors. Maybe you don't get it, but we do.

1o. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.
But, if you have to scratch your crotch, as least do it in private!

1p. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing", we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.
Well, guys are known for not sharing they emotions, but it's not worth the hassle to get them to share them.

1q. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.
Yeah, but you should know that and tell us what we want to hear!

1r. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine... REALLY!
That's fine for guys....but you don't's more complicated for women! I don't want to find I'm overdressed or underdressed, or wearing something that looks out of place.

1s. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as football or motor sports.
Sure, but you can say you're thinking about me (even if it's a lie).

1t. You have enough clothes.
You think? But fashion is always changing. And a woman can't wear the same thing to the office each week like a guy can. A guy just needs a few pairs of pants, some shirts and just change the tie! You don't understand, it's just more complicated for a woman!

1u. You have too many shoes.
Again, a guy can get by with some sneakers and a nice pair of black shoes. A women needs different shoes for summer and winter. Different shoes for formal, the office, nice casual, casual casual, and informal. Heals and flats. And different colors to go with different outfits. And fashion is always changing! A woman simply can't avoid having a lot of shoes!

1v. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!
LOL. You wish

Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight; but did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.
Why do guys always think they did something wrong? Guilty conscience? Afraid of women? Most of the time, a women will get over it, just give her some time.

Pass this to as many men as you can - to give them a laugh!
Pass this to as many women as you can - to give them an even bigger laugh!

Men and women: please leave your comments!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Does Warm Weather Encourage Smoking?

We have a few nice days this week, with the temperature nearly 70 degrees (about 18 deg. C). So, I was walking around outside. But, in front of every office building were the ubiquitous smokers. With indoors smoking banned, they line up outside doorways, spewing second hand smoke in the midst of passers-by.

So, while I thought it should be an great day to enjoy the fall air, but instead, there was a heavy dose of second hand smoke along every sidewalk.

Now, I grew up during the “tobacco age” where smoking was normative. Adults might choose to “take up” smoking. I recall women declaring “I like a man who smokes!” as though nicotine addiction made a man more macho or handsome. Yuk!! Who wants to live with a man whose breath smells like an ashtray!

In my family, most adults smoked when I was a kid and every family gathering was blanketed in a blue haze of smoke. Amazingly I survived! But instead of “taking up the habit” I was strongly against the idea of smoking. Well, I’m glad the tobacco age is over, the health risks are well-known, and we now know smoking is one of the strongest drug addictions out there.

I’m always amazed at those addicts who persist. There are a couple of “professional smokers” in the building I work in. It seems they are always outside one door or another attending to their addiction, sometimes socializing with fellow addicts. I wonder if they actually do work in their office!

But this week got me wondering: does the good weather encourage smoking? Do the smokers come take additional breaks because it’s pleasant to stand outside? In that case, maybe cold and inclement weather is actually healthier – smokers lighting up less and non-smokers exposed to less second-hand smoke.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Snow Globe in October?

October in New England. Fall foliage. Brilliant colors. Hillsides and mountains draped in reds, yellows, oranges, and browns. Leaves falling on tree-lined streets.

That's what you normally expect. But whether it's a sign of climate change or just a fluke of the weather, but the scene was quite different yesteday in Massachusetts. It was snowing! And sticking!

The New England Patriots were playing in Foxboro, Massachusetts while the snow was accumulating on the field. It was like the stadium was in a snow globe!

Was I asleep for 2 months and woke up in December? What's with the weather? First we had rain and cool weather in June and the beginning of July. Then we had maybe 6 weeks of summer when we should have had 3 months. Now snow in October? ¿Qué pasa aquí?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Going to the Fair

Every once in a while, I get out of the city and experience life in more rural environs. While I’ve lived most of my life in the city, my second favorite place to be in out in the country, be it a rural town or out in the countryside. It always seems peaceful to drive past farms and fields, especially where you see cows and horses.

So, on Labor Day I was out in Northampton, Massachusetts, and visited the Three County Fair. The fair included a variety of features, such as kiddy rides, “fair” fast food, farm machinery, monster trucks, a youth talent show, and my favorites, live animals. Now these animals were not of the urban variety (such as pigeons, squirrels, and cockroaches) but of the farm variety, such as cows, pigs, chickens, roosters, and rabbits.

A crowd favorite (and mine, too) was the pig race. The race involves four little piglets running around a small track motivated by a bowl of Oreos, which they much on after the race is over. It takes all of about 20 seconds, but it’s so cute watching the little piglets run. (To protect the health of the piglets, they only do this a couple of times a day, and let them rest in the shade the rest of the day.)

My sentimental favorite are the bunnies – always so cute! But second were the roosters – or, as I think of them, the analog alarm clocks. They are quite handsome and studly and speak with great projection!

Here’s a few photos from the fair.

Above and below: Little piglets after and during the race.

Below: my favorite of the cute little bunnies.

Below: I was tempted to purchase one of the analog alarm clocks!

Below: Something you don't see in the city - a watermelon grows in a driveway.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is it a Dad’s Duty to Clean the House?

Which is more believable:

  • Is it a dad’s duty to clean the house?
  • Is it a mom’s duty to clean the house?
What is your first reaction?

If you’re a mom, do you laugh out loud at the thought of it being a dad's duty to clean? Do you think “I only wish?” Or is it true in your family that dad and mom share the house cleaning?

If you’re the dad, do you do most of the cleaning? Or does your wife do all/most of it? Split 50/50?

A couple of weeks ago I was reading a post titled “Is it a mom's duty to clean house?” by a blogger friend Jenny (of Suburban Jungle And it got me thinking about gender roles in housework.

You see, I’m old enough to recall the ‘50s and ‘60s when TV families all had a husband working a full time job and the wife at home cooking, cleaning and caring for the children. But then came the woman’s liberation movement and a move towards equality both in the workplace and a home.

But today is there equality in the workplace and at home?

Today, women have achieved much in the workplace compared to the ‘60s. Back then, my mother was the rare example of a woman in a major corporation with a professional position (i.e., not a secretary or administrative assistant) and, without a husband, got a mortgage, bought a house and was the sole provider of our extended family household of six! I mention this so you understand I grew up with a mother who was a true pioneer, though she would never admit that herself.

Some 40 years later, my mother’s situation is commonplace. Women can be found in virtually all jobs and professions. And there’s been an evolution in the workplace. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s there was resistance from some men to having women in some jobs and professions. But, my observation is that now it’s more “just the way it is” to have both men and women in the workplace. There is still an income gap and the issue of a “glass ceiling” in some fields, but, still, much progress has been made.

But, while change has come in the workplace, it seems to me that equality in the home seems to be still an elusive goal. When my mother re-married in the ‘70s and they both commuted to the city and worked 8-hour days, it still fell upon her to handle the domestic work. Even today, my observation from some of the comments on Jenny’s blog posts and other sources is that some women still do much of the house cleaning chores, even if some husbands do help out. Although, some comments from women indicated that they don’t trust their husbands to do the cleaning.

For those well off financially (particularly with couples of 2 high earning professionals), “equality” can be obtained by outsourcing the domestic chores to cleaning services or a domestic. In fact, Jenny's blog mentions that now she has someone to do her cleaning for her.

Yet, most families can’t afford that. So why does it seem the cleaning still falls to the woman?

There really is no anatomical reason that men can’t clean a house as well as a woman. In fact, I’ve known men who are quite skilled at the domestic. Now, a good number may be gay, but regardless, I believe any man can do as good a job as a woman.

So, what is the domestic “glass wall” that keeps women “manning” the oven and vacuum and washer/dryer? How does it work in your family?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cycling Along the Cape Cod Canal

Cape Cod is widely known as a famous vacation destination in eastern Massachusetts. Known for ocean beaches, sand dunes, and cranberry bogs, the Cape is an arm-shaped sand bar left behind by the glacial recession about 12,000 years ago. The Cape became a popular vacation spot in the late 1800s, when the industrial revolution filled the cities with smoke and coal soot. Urbanites yearning to breathe free flocked to places like Cape Cod, arriving by rail.

In the 20th century, the Cape became synonymous with summer vacation. Perhaps, this fame is best illustrated in the lyrics of "Old Cape Cod," a 1957 hit by Pattie Page. The song (written by Claire Rothrock, Milton Yakus, and Allan Jeffrey) could have been sponsored by the tourist bureau, praising the Cape for its “sand dunes and salty air, quaint little villages here and there.”

Today, the Cape remains popular with tourists seeking beaches and boating. The gateways to the Cape are two bridges that span 135 feet above the Cape Cod Canal. The Sagamore and Bourne Bridges, opened on June 22, 1935, are also known as the pinch points that back up traffic for miles on summer weekends.

Despite the traffic, the bridges afford picturesque views of the canal. But to see more than a fleeting view of the canal, one needs to spend some times on the banks of the waterway. Perhaps the best way to do that is to bike the pathways that parallel the canal.

Last weekend, as part of our summer hike-and-bike “stay-cation,” we took the bikes to the mainline side of the canal and biked the 7 miles (each way) along the canal. The warm sun was mixed with cool breezes along the canal, at times providing a stiff headwind for the westbound ride.

But overall it was a nice day and a pleasant ride. And an opportunity to mix this with a little photography of engineering structures captured in the scenic backdrop of the cape.

Below: Looking up at the Sagamore Bridge towering above the canal and bike path.

Above: a power plant on the "cape" side of the canal.

Below: the canal meets Cape Cod Bay.

Above: typical view along the canal. With all the trees, you feel far away from the traffic and development.

Below: looking up on the massive tower of the railroad bridge.

Below: the quait railroad station at Buzzards Bay. It was a busy station before the auto surpassed the train as the popular way of traveling to the Cape. Now, only one train a week leaves from Buzzards Bay to Hyannis.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

View from the Mountaintop

With a height of 3,165 feet (965 meters), Mount Monadnock is said to be the second most frequently climbed mountain in the world, after Mount Fuji in Japan. Located in southwestern New Hampshire (USA), on a clear day, one can see 100 miles (160 km) from the mountaintop. What makes the views so spectacular is the bare rock summit above the treeline and in the midst of unique alpine vegetation.

It’s been years since we climbed, so we returned to Mt. Monadnock on July 5th. It was a perfect summer day, sunny and not too hot. But the climb (1,000 feet or 305 meters) and descent were a little tougher than we remembered. Come to think of it, it was probably about 20 years since our last climb! That could be why.

Well, the views and pictures were worth the wear and tear on our leg muscles!

The path to the peak starts out as an easy walk through the woods:

Hikers climing with the summit in sight. This was about 1.5 hours after we started hiking.

Near the summit, a view of miles around:

A disc markes the top of Mount Monadnock:

Hikers rest from their climb at the mountaintop. A nice breeze kept the temperature perfect.

View of vegitation near mountaintop:

Views from the mountaintop:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

O for a Sunny Day

o, for a sunny day in a month lost,
obscured in clouds,
with nearly perpetual precipitation
washing away the joy of solar radiance.

o great orb that rules the day:
can i remember how you feel?
your warmth upon my face,
my body bathed in summer heat
as I stroll the city streets
enjoying the leisure of the unhurried pace
that your warmness imposes.

how can we endure the grayness of another day
where the subtlety of colors is diluted
in such dull diffused daylight?
where an autumnal chill in my bones and
a film of mist coat over our flesh
left my soul in a joyless limbo.

o new month of Julius,
will you restore what we lost last month?
the simple joy of a warm summer day
bathed in sunlight.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

At last, a summer's day! Part 1: Walk in the Garden

Then suddenly, the month of rain ended! Just like in the movie, Forest Gump, when the monsoons stopped in Vietnam: the rain stopped and the sun came out. Suddenly, it was summer!

With the warmth of the sun beaming down, the city came to life. At lunchtime, I walked through the Public Garden. Like a tourist in a new city, I documented the planting beds, the logoon and the famous swan boats.