January 30, 2005

Emotional Deprivation


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So, have you taken the test ? Maybe you couldn't you bear to pay attention that long. I did, but the subject was my neurosis, so it was a bit easier to stay interested. If you don't have the A-span to take the questionnaire, you can close your eyes and get an image of a time during your childhood when you were having difficulty with a parent. Flush it out, imagine what it was like to be little, imagine your parent's words, imagine what you would have liked for them to have said, and how that might feel to your child.

Now go through the list of maladaptive schemas, and see if you can match any themes in the story to a schema or two.

For example, here's my image. I am in kindergarten. My mother and I are upstairs in our house. I am sitting on the Moroccon ottoman in my mother's bedroom having my hair combed . We have a disagreement about where to clip the barrette on the side of my hair.

The barrette is a blue plastic bow. I would like it down farther than my mother would. There is conflict. I think I am "sassy" , but I blocked that. If there was anything my mother couldn't stand, it was "a sassy child". She was so angered by my noncompliance that she told me that she is going to run away from home. I remember walking to school afterward, listening to my own audible, shivery breath. I was very frightened. Needless to say, it was a most effective lesson in conflict avoidance.

Then I imagined what I might have liked to have happen. My mother would have looked at the way I wanted to wear my barrette, and said "What a wonderful idea. You look so cute with it that way. Let's fix your hair like this alot. " End of exercise

Next you examine the memory and see what schemas are present in the image. Well, it's quite a list.

abandonment (even though it didn't happen, the threat to counts. I asked.)
mistrust/abuse (perhaps)
emotional depriviation
defectiveness /shame (maybe)
unrelentling standards

Here's the useful/painful part, the big question - how are these schemas still active in your adult life? (Assuming you have one, with all your difficulties.) Jeffrey Young prefers not to call them projections, but the schemas do tend to be lenses through which the present is experienced. It's helpful to know just how they are operating.

Since so many themes show up in my vignette, I will have to go grade my questionnaire. In doing so, I can see which schemas get high scores and are still operating, and which have been eradicated by my long term campaign to wrestle my neuroses to the ground. Then I'll read the sections of "Reinventing Your Life" that apply to my high scoring schema, and I will know exactly how to begin working for change .

I'll keep you posted, but I can see that I may have bitten off more than my attention span will accomodate, not to mention yours.

Photo note: Love that steam coming off the icicles. This is a photo of when you know your mother is furious with you, but she hasn't spoken to you in two days because, whatever you did to cause her displeasure, you are likely to do again. The icicle might melt, it might vaporize over time, or it could fall , driving a stake through your heart. Dealing with the tension in the meantime is anxiety provoking..

Posted by Dakota at 07:24 AM

January 29, 2005



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I am spending the weekend with a kind, smart and lovely man, Jeffrey Young, The Schema Theory Afficionado.

Schema Theory is based on extensive research with thousands of neurotic New Yorkers, Dutch, Norwegians etc. The idea is that most people develop one or many of eighteen maladaptive schema (popularly known as lifetraps) during childhood and adolescence, and use those schema as a lens through which to view the world forever after. You can probably surmise that such distortions cause repeating difficulties, unwise choices, and often leave a person bogged down without knowing exactly why. Jeffrey Young has a very good way of getting to the bottom of it.

One of the most wonderful things about Schema Theory is that you can identify your own personal schema all by yourself, using a handy questionnaire. Of course, a warm theraputic relationship adds a great deal to the process of changing some of the old patterns once identified, but, should you be without one of those, you could get a major start, right on line, or by reading "Reinventing Your Life", the amateur's guide.

Unfortunately, I must rush off to the conference, stay tuned for an indepth personal account of Dakota's schematized psyche. I know you just can't wait . I hope I get to it.

Photo note: Just one of those multidimensional reflections I love. This one has both snow and flowers.

Posted by Dakota at 06:14 AM

January 27, 2005



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Well, at least we have a little blue sky to look at, finally, though those icicles are quite ominous. They fell from above and got stuck in the tree, which is why they are hanging at such a peculiar angle. I want you to know that I took my life in my hands standing under them to get this shot.

If you have snowblindness from all the confinement-of-winter visuality on my blog, I have two suggestions. Inez Lenders has a spanking new, beautiful website upon which one can linger and giggle, and Natalie and Augustine have just returned from Egypt with beautiful photos.

Posted by Dakota at 07:32 PM

January 26, 2005

Picket fence


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A dear and close personal friend privately commented that my last few entries have been pretty depressing . Am I not my usual ebullient self?

I do feel more than usually oppressed by the mounds of snow and the six foot walled igloos carved out of snow banks in which I am forced to park my car, when I can find a space that is vacant, within a mile of where I'm supposed to be, within an hour of when I'm supposed to be there.

It was suggested to me, because, to be sure, I would never have thought up the idea myself, that I am projecting onto the snow my relationship with my mother , coming down from on high. Oh dear. I do feel that it is hampering me, blanketing my existence , suffocating , exhausting, demanding time and attention I am reluctant to give but feel that I must. The snow has it's own agenda , which has nothing to do with mine, in fact rolls over mine with a Humvee

I shall have to learn to frolic in its fluffy mounds , admire it's power and beauty, twirl among it's falling flakes. Welcome the time it absorbs, use it for reverie , a break from mundane routine .

Fact of Life: ten more inches of snow are falling as I type.

Photo note: See the moire effect in the background

Posted by Dakota at 07:03 AM

January 24, 2005

Iced Lawn Furniture


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And the Lord and Gaia got together and made a big batch of frosting for the cake. They have been very busy for the last month - a tsuanmi, avalanches, mudslides-- a plethora of hurricanes earlier. A message, perhaps?

When they dumped it down on us, it was just a beautiful, cold, sticky mess, not a lethal one. We were spared. All we had to do was shovel.

Extreme weather conditions fit nicely into the dominionist "end time" doctrine. Global warming just helps things along. Have you checked the Rapture Index lately?

Photo note: When you think of it, it's not such a pretty picture

Posted by Dakota at 03:34 PM

Out the Window


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surfaces in



Posted by Dakota at 03:25 PM

The Barbie


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As you know, I'm never one to complain, but, for a huge snowstorm , (some are saying three feet) it wasn't very photogenic. Today is glorious - blue, blue skies, sunshine, pristine snow, but as far as I'm concerned, it's in all the wrong places. I went out to harvest lots of lovely photos, but high winds took care of all the delicately outlined natural profiles that a snowfall usually brings. Just raw wood folks, that's all there is against the sky.

And so we must be satisfied with photos from midstorm yesterday, sans the brilliant light. Accumulations on household appliances and neglected garden furniture seem to be the only shots that convey the idea of just how much fell upon us. Hence my barbeque , at its most astonishing.

Posted by Dakota at 07:44 AM

January 23, 2005

Watering Can Portending


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This morning I can barely push my door open because of drifted snow. It's a big blizzard , and a photogenic one at that. It's a day to sip hot chai, write, and read the adorable correspondence my mother saved from my children as they found ways of wishing her happy birthdays (there were many- both ways and birthdays), thanking her for her generosity, telling of their travels, and toodling through their lives. As I read, I feel so blessed by my proximity to their creative souls .

My mother also saved my correspondence, which I haven't yet plumbed - that is, my correspondence since 1964. The letters prior to 1964 are quite another story. Sometime in her seventies, my mother copied over all of my letters home, in her own Palmer method hand - a monumental task, since there was a letter per week (given the extravagance of long distance phone calls and the unending obligation of a duty-bound only child), four hundred and eighty pages in all. I have the spiral, blue, lined classroom notebook that she gave me - filled with myself. Although I thought I should have been grateful, I felt more like she had vicariously lived, and somehow ingested my life while copying my letters -- one of those enmeshment experiences that made being her daughter hard. Of course, my letters are jolly , newsy and chock full of cultural activities . I skillfully evaded the considerable despair of those years, to prevent further intrusion. Excellent preparation for writing a blog. Now I try to be more honest about my feelings, but anonymity makes that so much easier.

It's a day to organize underwear drawers and simmer a large pot of soup on the stove, infusing the house with essence of French onion . A Sunday without the mandatory, but time consuming, Wedding Section. (Update: To my absolute astonishment, the paper did arrive. A VERY large tip is in order.)

It's hopeless to begin shoveling. The wind is gusting mightily, and the snow is coming down at an ungodly rate. Now that it's light, I shall go outside and try to take pictures that aren't all snow splat .

Photo note: Captured after a light dusting.

Posted by Dakota at 08:01 AM

January 21, 2005

Happy Inauguration


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Oh goodness! How could I have forgotten! Yesterday was the Inauguration. I spent my day not spending a damn dime in protest, though those of us who unconsumed did not seem to make the front page this morning. I plan to unconsume some more, for the sheer joy of it.

As you may have noticed, in spite of the $40 million spent (from private contributions, what a comfort), the traditional poet was missing. Perhaps all the poets are pissed . Never fear, The Rude Pundit has provided us with some lovely poetry from the president himself. Who needs a poet laureate! W is following Rumsfeld's lead in the muse department, as well as in the defense area. In fact, Bush Poetry is an old and fabled form, emerging from the Outback. It is often sung to a strumming guitar around a campfire on the open plain. Given this context, the repeated refrains, seen below, can be understood as traditional elements of the ballad , rather than the sequelae of alcoholic dementia.


A Poem by George W. Bush:
(All taken from Bush's own words at his press conference 12/21/04.)

Dear Vladimir
I'm optimistic about achieving results, Vladimir.
I will submit and maintain strict discipline, Vladimir.
I intend to keep it that way.
We will provide every tool
We have tools at our disposal, a variety of tools.
We have joint efforts.
Let us keep our commitment a sustained effort.
Because we acted, I will give you a decisive blow in Slovenia.
If we disagree with decisions, we can do so
In a friendly and positive way, Vladimir.
Vladimir, we have got a good personal relationship.
We are two people who've grown to appreciate
Each other and respect each other.
It's a lot less painful to act now
Than if we wait. Otherwise, it will
Make everybody else jealous,
And I don't want that to happen.

Dakota literary commentary: Joint, tool, blow, submit, discipline - I have spared you the clickies. Often in Bush Poetry, one finds sublimal homoerotic imagery, given the same sex nature of a cow poke's life, or perhaps the unbridled unconscious. Most cowpokes are terrified of their homosexual impulses and do what they can to eradicate in others the parts of themselves that they most fear. When this is the case, consititutional amendments come in handy.


Polls go up. Polls go down.
You want to get me to negotiate with myself in public
Polls go up. Polls go down.
I will negotiate at the appropriate time.
Polls go up. Polls go down.
They will want me to start playing my hand.
Polls go up. Polls go down.
I'm not going to negotiate with myself.
I'm not going to negotiate with myself.
Polls go up. Polls go down.
I will try to explain how without negotiating with myself.
Polls go up. Polls go down.
I issued.

Dakota literary commentary: Ah, a Bush Poem that is better sung than read. Note the repeating refrain, and again, the autoerotic allusions.


I know Secretary Rumsfeld's heart.
I've seen his eyes when we talk about the dangers, the youngsters.
He's a caring fellow.
Beneath that rough and gruff, no-nonsense demeanor is
A good human being who cares deeply.
When I asked the Secretary,
I was very pleased when he said, "Yes."
He understands the nature of the forces
And where forces are when the heat gets on.

I said to him, "I will continue to push,
You're painfully aware. You had to suffer.
I'm passionate on it. But we have sent messages.
We've sanctioned ourselves.
People are coming. Yet we will continue to
Work the issue hard." His is a vital issue.
He took that on and absorbed it in the spirit
In which it was offered,
The spirit of two people who've grown to
Appreciate each other and respect each other.
But we have to make it easier to enforce our borders.

Dakota literary commentary: And here we see some romantic sentimentality emerge , as the cow poke gazes into eyes of the man with whom he has merged, sees his heart, understands the nature of the forces -- heat, passion the thrill of hearing "Yes". As the content takes on erotic complexity, the simple refrains of classic Bush Poetry are nowhere in evidence. The poet has moved from a position of no negotiation with self, to one of sanction of self and other. And then, a leap to the future, a wish, a goal, making it easier to "enforce our borders".


I was trying to be really brilliant.
But I'm under no illusions.
I'm not doing a very good job.

Dakota Literary Commentary: Here we see both the delicate influence of Japanese haiku, merged with contemplative self examination, a departure from the bolder, more strident thrusts of traditional Bush Poetry. Certainly a momentary brush with more sophisticated form.

We are waiting with baited breath for Condi to get through those obnoxious questions from Democrats who are standing in the way of her confirmation, so that she can take her rightful place, nuzzling W's armpit, unleash her creativity and join in the poetry slam.

Photo note: Peace on Earth, under the American flag, is somewhat obscured in this picture. Of course, I found it symbolic.

Posted by Dakota at 12:35 PM

January 20, 2005

January 17, 2005



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My mother died early Saturday morning January 15, 2005, one day short of her 97th birthday. I feel fortunate to have been there. I heard her take her last breath.

The doctor called late the day before to say that she had heart arhythmias and that he doubted that she would last the night. Her decline had been precipitious over two or three days. I took the first plane out She waited for me.

When I arrived, her CNA, Maria, was keeping vigil beside my mother's bed with tears streaming down her face. Maria hopped up, threw her arms around me in relief, saying she was so glad I had arrived, she didn't want my mother to die alone.

We cried alot that day. Maria hugged and kissed my mother continually, calling her Lizzie (a name, under other conditions, my mother abhorred), assuring her that her only child would be well cared for without her, admonishing her die. "She's stubborn" Maria would say, "She just won't let go". I, in comparison, was waspishly reserved, but deeply appreciative..

My mother's breathing was close to the Lamaze "hut, hut" pant -an ironic similarity between the hard work of birthing and dying. Sometimes she gurgled as if she needed to cough, but hadn't the strength. It was so disturbing to see her distress. The head nurse told me that aspiration would only produce more phlegm at this stage, and showed me how to touch her throat to ease the congestion.

I stroked my mother's throat, her still unwrinkled cheeks, held her hand, and spoke to her softly all afternoon. I told her that she had worked hard and that she could rest, I loved her and she had done a good job.

Sometimes her eyes opened wide, and she looked as if she was afraid. Perhaps she was hallucinating. She had not taken any medication for four days. I tried to be reassuring, reminding her about Maria's angels, and family members who might be waiting for her.

I did little relaxing, hypnotic visualizations about floating and clouds, which seemed to annoy her, so I stopped. I tried bilateral brain stimulation, alternately tapping her hands, which was also a flop. Silently I asked her to forgive me for comparing her to Joan Crawford not two days ago, and for all the fear and anger I felt in most of the years of our relationship. I appreciated her generosity, her artistry and her good intentions. I forgave her for the shadows she cast on my psyche and appreciated how her influence formed my character and lead me to my vocation.

She knew I was there, she knew it was me. Our gazes were locked for many hours, until she couldn't maintain the connection. She drifted off, one eye slightly opened, but unseeing, her breathing labored and audible.

The staff at The Manor was so kind. Many were grieving themselves. My mother was a popular resident, a "sweet lady"- and she was. Once dementia eroded her intellect, she was also freed from the massive anxiety that drove her to control. She could kid around, wink back at you, take a joke, and, even in her deepest fog, she never forgot to say thank you. So the staff was in and out, with many offerings. At the end of her shift, Maria borrowed a bible from the couple across the way in #117, opened it to the 23rd Psalm, pointed out the precise passage, and instructed me to read it at the moment of passing. She also opened the window so that my mother's spirit would be free to leave. I closed it later in the evening because my mother was cold.

A folding camp chair had been purchased at Christmas, since there was no comfortable chair in my mother's room. The only model left at Walmart was one with a attached footrest, and it was still folded up in the corner. I realized that I could spend the night in that chair, so I did, sidled up to her bed, holding her hand. At about 1:30 AM the staff came in to take her blood pressure (it was 80 over 50, not a very good sign). Afterwards, her breathing was more labored, and I listened for awhile, and then it just stopped. I thought she had died, but I wasn't certain. I read the 23rd Psalm out loud, maybe a little too softly, but I did. Then I went to get the nurse, and the whole staff came in. One sweet young aide, opened the window, and said "I promised Shari I would do this for your mother." Shari was her day nurse. Opening the window to allow the spirit to depart is a popular idea around there, and a lovely one, I think.

They knew what to do. I think they have done it many times. I was very glad she was prepared by people who knew her and cared about her. It took the mortuary an hour to arrive, which I spent watching my mother's spirit leave her body and fly out the window (probably). I had so many ambivalent feelings -- sadness, relief, regret, guilt, remorse, gratitude.

As I shuffled through the papers I had gathered at home and found the name of the funeral home my parents had chosen and prepaid in 1977 (which has changed hands four times) I saw strict instructions the back of the form, scrawled in my father hand. NO FUNERAL, NO NOTICES, CREMATION. In our family this kind of end is known as "The Sparky Special" , Sparky being my father's baffling nickname, given that he was anything but. Both of my parents were of the opinion that funerals are " barbaric", so there will be none.

Since there would be very few friends and relatives alive to invite to a funeral anyway, and most of us were there when my mother died, this is as barbaric as it's going to get. I will tell the story here, and over and over to my close friends as I process all that my mother has meant in my life. It was a fierce attachment.

Photo note: Toward the end of her life, sunflowers were my mother's favorite. The blue sky with puffy white clouds represents the great beyond, where she has gone. The shutters are for the home she made for me. The flaw, or more accurately the unfolding of the flower signifies the complexity and evolution of our relationship.
The center of a sunflower has a seed organizational pattern which is based on the Fibonacci sequence and involves two sets of spirals that criss cross, this is the template that nature uses to build life.

Posted by Dakota at 06:02 AM

January 13, 2005



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I'm away for a few days.

A rather large transition
may be happening, I'm
not entirely sure

Swans are a symbol
of transition

Posted by Dakota at 10:56 PM

The Big Baby Becomes an Inadvertant Brunette


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I have spent the weekend with my Big Baby . She has improved. Usually when I notice her, she is inserting sharp instruments into tender parts of my anatomy . In gratitude, we will have to attend to her at once before she starts somatizing .

In typical fashion, the Big Baby first appeared at the hairdresser. My Good Enough Self asked trustingly for a couple of little brown streaks, in my more or less solid blond coif. Mind you, it has taken many moons to convince my dear hairdresser to deliver me to blondehood. Hours later, when I emerged from under a a Christmas tree of foil, I was definitely a brunette --an enraged Big Baby Brunette, to be accurate.

My dear hairdresser, seeing my obvious distress , spent a few more hours adding lighter streaks. This did not appease the Big Baby , who arrived at her station, the very next day, for another complete redo. Seven hours wasted just to mollify you know who. I hope my hair doesn't fall out in handfuls . I would be wise to find out why these episodes happen - what is triggered from the past that is so upsetting.

Good Enough Self: Look, you're being a Big Baby again. WHEN will you grow up?

BB: You are sounding impatient; impatience will get you nowhere. It's my duty to let you know when you have been victimized , intruded upon, and unheard , I'm just being yourself. It's a lousy job , but someone has to do it.

GES: Oh grow up, dear. After all, it's only your hair, and it will grow out for heaven's sake. Besides, let's face it, there are other more essential things that you could work on to improve your appearance, should you still, at your advanced age, give a shit.

BB: I'm only four, dummy. And how my hair looks seems excruciatingly important. It's mine and I HATE it!

GES: What ARE those feelings you are trying to communicate. Let me remind you that they certainly don't help in our quest for harmony and peace .

BB: If I were old enough to articulate well, I guess I'd call it something like helpless rage, feeling screwed by a trusted authority. But since I can only feel, it feels like I'm going to explode , and when I do shrapnel will be everywhere, and my jaw will be locked shut and I will be emitting a shrill nasal tone between my clenched teeth. Then my head will blow off. But none of it will help. It will only get worse.

GES: Goodness. It's certainly no fun sharing a body with you under these circumstances. You don't attribute sadistic intent to your beloved hairdresser, do you? Do you have her mixed up with someone else perchance?

BB: She hates me blond.

GES: No she doesn't, dear, she just has better taste than you do, and is trying to encourage your general dignity .

BB: THIS is why I feel it necessary to cause you bodily pain. NOBODY knows better than I do, about myself. YOU are a sell out. YOU acquiesed to authority all the time, and I am here to make you pay attention to that. We are going back to the hairdresser for four more hours and get it right or I will make you miserable for at least two months.

GES: Dear, that's known as solving the problem by changing what's on the outside, rather than what's on the inside . A temporary solution at best. When did you first notice this feeling?

BB: I was immersed in it from the time I was born, stupid . That is, until I learned to tune into my mother, instead of myself. Then I stayed out of trouble, I also stayed out of myself. I learned not to have desire. Now, when I dare to have a wish and it is thwarted, it reminds me of the olden days, when I was full of unmet wishes -- a veritable little hand grenade of a person.

GES: I can see that you are much improved. You seem to have lost your thirst for retaliation and annihilation lately.

BB: Don't count on it.

Photo note: A metaphorical portrait of my hair - the green part will probably take some time to develop.

Posted by Dakota at 06:41 AM

January 11, 2005



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Sorry I have been soooo truant. It's because I'm dealing with my Big Baby, (extended entry to follow).

In any case, here's a photo from my new camera, which sometimes gives me a good closeup. I still don't know why.

This item is a genuine nutmeg, plucked from a tree in the West Indies , and smuggled in especially for me, many years ago, by a benefactor. The beige case was once bright red . In my environment, it rests on some once-scented beach glass. Frankly, I simply thought it was pretty, but I just found out that it is a mild hallucinogen, and is said to relieve pain if carried in the pocket. We should give it a whirl. Nutmeg is also a popular pet name . I am trying to bring a new eye to the stuff I see all the time, as I practice with my Olympus .

Photo note: The actual nutmeg is slightly smaller than a walnut.

Posted by Dakota at 08:42 PM

January 06, 2005


trumpet flower

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For some reason, this photo reminded me of a beautiful website, The Eye of Science . Just as I was writing this, I clicked on Natalie d'Arbeloff's painting, and had the thought that my photo was the brainstorm without the brain. As you can see, I am grasping at straws these days. Did you know that the average blog has a lifespan of about two weeks.

Due to political poisoning and my new camera, I have not taken many photos that I like enough to publish. Actually, I haven't been taking many photos at all, and, as someone close to me once commented, if you take 5000 pictures, one or two of them are bound to be good.

In the past month, only about six batches of shots came out of the oven --most of them were oatmeal raisin . Mind you, I am a person who generally fills up her 1GB card (very many photos, for those who use real cameras) once a week, so we know that something's up .

Maybe it's just the winter doldrums . Assuredly, if I were to go to a tropical island for a few days, I'd be shooting all over the place .

Photo note: This is my old camera -- dried Japanese trumpet flowers, I think.

Posted by Dakota at 04:01 PM

January 03, 2005

My New Bike


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This Solstice I was showered with all kinds of new mechanical devices. As you can imagine, I am a person for whom it is difficult to find a proper gift, given my vast archives, my rigidity, my difficulty reading instructions and my peculiar eye . I am often the recipient of a nice potted plant . This holiday was different. I received a new camera, a teeny tiny portaphone and a new bicycle.

Unlike my camera , my bicycle did not come with indecipherable instructions -- at least the kind that were important to read. Thanks to an unseasonable thaw , I was able to hop right on and take to the open road .

As you can see, this model is funky retro , like the PT Cruiser I once heard the frame style called a Dutch Grandmother's bicycle, though I couldn't find one on the net. Notice that there is no boy bar between the handlebars and the seat, so that I will be able to ride easily in a hoopskirt, should such an occasion arise. Other features include a luxuriously soft seat, with cushy shock absorbers , which make the whole cycling experience feel like riding my living room couch . It also has a much more sophisticated gearing system (all numbered, no inconvenient groping around, just a twist of the wrist on the hand grips does it). And the basket is so techno, black mesh , removeable with a handle for toting . You will notice that the basket is already full of my critical equipment, a new lock, a spyglass, earmuffs, gloves, my bike novel, three-in-one oil, latex gloves for tidy derailer adjustments , etc. Last but not least, no toeclips , in an effort to preserve my front teeth .

I know, I know, I should have gone to the dear and skilled cycling champion from Zimbabwe for a properly fitted cycle, but you can see that this is a machine fit for my little old ladyhood , and I know I would have forced him to compromise his principles , especially in the toe clip area.

Posted by Dakota at 09:49 AM

January 01, 2005


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Forgive me for ignoring the monumental devastation of the tsunami for such a long time. I was out at the ranch chopping wood and riding my bike (just kidding about the wood).

Some thoughts and questions.

As I write, the death toll for the tsunami has reached 125,000, approximately equal to the number of Iraqi citizens that we have killed. It took us a year, rather than a day, but the numbers are comparable, as is the devastation of property and intrastructure. And that's a drop in bucket when we consider that the death toll in the Sudan is nearing two million. What captures our attention, and more importantly our empathy? What makes one population worthy of assistance and not another? There were many Muslims affected by the tsunami. Do people realize this? If they did, would Muslim victims be treated differently, demonized? What shocks us? How does the media control our attention? How long can we sustain focus on this event. When will we erase it from our consciousness, and forget the long term consequences of this disaster for the poorest?

Did Norwegian United Nations official Jan Englund's remark about the stinginess of wealthy countries manage to shame W. into increasing his tsunami aid contribution from $15 million to $35 million, then tenfold, to $350 million. What or who convinced our decisive, determined President to flip flop? Bad PR? Why did it work this time? Perhaps Halliburton is negotiating a contract for reconstruction in Indonesia as we speak.

When W. was still at his $15 million dollar aid figure, (mind you, the inauguration party costs are estimated at between $30 and $40 million) The Boston Globe published a graphic (which I wish I could copy), which displayed the contributions per capita in various countries to aid victims of the tsunami. Sweden lead all nations with a contribution of $8.40 per capita, Denmark $2.86, Norway $1.80, Spain $1.69, Britain $1.57. The U.S. was nineteenth with a per capita contribution of 12 cents. This chart should have punctured our delusion of generosity.

Aid to tsunami victims is an example of our tax dollars at work. Although I haven't listened to Rush Limbaugh, I don't think he has the nerve to complain about wasting money on poor people in this context. Why not? Personally, I am happy to pay taxes for an endeavor of this sort. In fact, I would be thrilled if most of my tax dollars went to the assistance of the disenfranchised people of this world (and to those who live right next to me in this country) -- and not just in times of emergency, but on long term projects like education, family planning, public health and sanitation. Here's a little film from Ben, of Ben and Jerry's, that illustrates graphically just how our tax dollars are allocated.

I do not, in any way, mean to minimize the devastation and suffering of the tsunami victims, only to point out that there is much suffering in this world, and even in this wealthy country. As a prosperous nation we have the means to alleviate much more of it than we do. Instead we are allocating our resources to the rich and to the war, and feeling morally superior as we do it.

Photo note: Gaia is angry, and she's trying to get our attention. In reality, this is a mural on the side of a building in Montreal.

Posted by Dakota at 12:03 PM