Mr. Sandman's Sandbox

The musings of a Deaf Californian on life, politics, religion, sex, and other unmentionables. This blog is not guaranteed to lead to bon mots appropriate for dinner-table conversation; make of it what you will.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Pizza Farm

I've been rushing around the last few hours, getting ready to leave later tonight for D.C. We can barely afford this trip, but our birthdays are right around the corner, and I'm missing the other occupant of this address. So I'm headed off to the nation's capitol for a few days. I'll post when I get back, of course.

In the meantime, I thought this was neat: there's apparently a "pizza farm" in Alton, Illinois (see here and here). Lest you think pizzas are actually grown, not tossed, it's a farm where a circular plot is divided into wedges, with each "slice" containing a crop that is used on a pizza. For example, one area is all tomatoes, while another has peppers. Fenced in areas have pigs for pork toppings, and goats for milk and cheese. While I'm sure the farmer was having fun, I think the idea is a great one. Too often I don't think people make the connection anymore where the products they buy at the grocery store come from; certainly I think it would be great for kids to understand that the supermarket isn't some magic place where they can just get anything they'd like whenever they want it. For example, in the article, a 62-year-old is quoted as saying she didn't know that pepperoni came from pigs. While I'd like to make sure my future kids never go to the same school she did, I think the concept of farms, ranches, and other similar places doing things like this would benefit everyone immeasurably-- not only do you have a working farm, you also have opportunities for education, with tourism thrown in. In an age when the family farm is struggling at times against huge corporate operations, this is the kind of enterprise I'd love to see more often.

I'm not planning to drive to Illinois, though. Hopefully some farmer out here in the Central Valley will seize upon a similar idea. In the meantime, I'm off to D.C.!

Friday, September 16, 2005

When You Need a Doctor...

For heaven's sake. I posted last week that I thought FEMA was doing a crappy job, and that they should change the response to natural disasters. I even made some suggestions.

Looks like no one in the gummint is reading my blog, because I found this article today-- totally disgusting. Apparently FEMA ordered a doctor to stop treating a patient. Why? He wasn't registered with FEMA.

I'm all for gummint, gummint regulations, and the like, but this is ridiculous. This is where maybe we need to streamline bureacracy, and stem mindlessness a bit. I'm sure if one of those FEMA stooges who ordered the doctor to stop suddenly needed a doctor themselves, they sure wouldn't give a hoot about FEMA rules; they'd just want a doctor, stat!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Actions, Not Words

Just yesterday, Smirk said something that shocked the boots off a lot of people in this country, and maybe outside our borders too. He uttered the "R" word. Yep, Bush is actually gonna take some responsibility.

Or maybe not. What he said exactly was, "To the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility." [emphasis mine]

He's not really taking responsibility-- at least not fully. It all depends on the "extent." It's parsing words all over again-- what the definition of "is" is, and all that. Someone more mature and responsible might have said something like this: "I take full responsibility for the failure of the federal government to respond to Hurricane Katrina." It minces no words, leaves no wiggle room, and is something a man would do-- stand up and take it on the chin when he knows he's to blame. Not Smirk.

So now the Corporate Media will probably move on to something else- after all, he took responsibility! Well, hold on one minute... there's all these promises, all these words. I'd rather see what *actions* Smirk, Scowl, & Co. take, not just their empty words. Anyone can say a nice, flowing sentence written by ghostwriters and speechwriting hacks. It takes a real leader to put some action, some force, behind flowery phrases. So if you'll forgive me, I think I'll reserve judgment until I see what this gummint does. So far the last four-some years, I haven't been too impressed.

As for Smirk himself, let's check his record thus far. Has he taken responsibility for Iraq, the Downing Street Memo, and all of his hyping in the pre-war months? Nope. Enron and Kenny Boy? Nope. Federal budget deficit (a surplus he squandered- can't blame this one on Clinton, people!)? Nope. The abuse at Abu Ghraib, and the circumventing of the Geneva Convention at Guantanamo Bay? Nope. Misleading us on WMDs? Nope. The Patriot Act and its weakening of constitutional protections? Nope. The Valerie Plame leak? Nope. No-bid contracts for companies like Halliburton? Nope. Lots more stuff too... but of course, it's nothing he needs to apologize for, or take responsibility. This is a man, who, during the debates, couldn't think of any mistakes he'd made during his time in the Oval Office. I'm not anywhere near Washington, don't have any connections or particular influence; not a journalist, etc., yet I just came up with several. Makes you wonder.

So at this point, he's sort of taken responsibility. For me, I'll wait and see: Actions, not words, are the hallmark of responsibility, whether you're sitting on Air Force One, in a relationship, managing a Fortune 500 company, going to school, or in any type of job or duty, really. Takes no energy to open your mouth or sign with your hands; takes a lot more to accomplish something lasting.

Monday, September 12, 2005


By now you've heard about the big blackout we had today here in L.A. Seems like someone messed up on a connection somewhere. I'm sure I'll hear more about it in the morning in the paper. Luckily I was visiting relatives in Redondo, which wasn't affected. But we watched the news. Unlike some easily panicked people, I didn't think there was anything sinister about this-- nothing foreshadowing an Al Qaeda strike on the West Coast (although, given their criticism of Hollywood and its mores, I do not doubt that L.A. is on a list of targets somewhere in someone's evil, twisted mind). In fact, my first thought was, "Someone screwed up." Which seems to be the case so far...

There was some wondering or not while looking at the graphics on the television whether my area had been affected. I left just as most of the power was being restored, but prior to rush hour, which I knew was going to be a mess because of traffic signals being out all over town. Sure enough, when I walked in the door, I checked the clock in the bedroom-- it was flashing just like a storeroom display. The power had gone out here, but I hadn't been doing anything here that would have given me fits (like typing out a nice blog entry for you folks!).

While staring at the helmet-head blathering on about the blackout, while waiting for news of the Judiciary Committee's hearings on Roberts, someone remarked that it looks like Brownie got hired by the LADWP. Somehow I wouldn't be surprised.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Abusing History

Today, of course, is September 11-- a date that for those of us who witnessed it will never be forgotten. Red-letter days like these checker our history books; but while they have meaning for decades, even centuries beyond, the most emotional impact of any event is on those who lived through it. My students sat through videos and movies of the civil rights era protests, and discussed Vietnam and Watergate, but to them, it's exactly what it is: history. For those who lived through those days, read about or saw the events as they happened, and especially those who were eyewitnesses, it's a completely different take. To use September 11 as an example, I experienced the horror of that day along with the rest of you, but for someone who was actually in NYC or D.C., or knew someone who was on the flights, in the Pentagon, or was in the World Trade Center that awful morning, it's vastly different.

So today, like many others across this nation, I'm remembering September 11, from my own vantage point. While I have no problems with ceremonies, remembrances, and the like, I do have a serious problem with certain elements of our society abusing September 11 for their own purposes. Chief among them is our "President," who has invoked "September 11" as a mantra or response any time anyone wants to question or challenge him about anything. But many in his administration are guilty as well, along with many right-wingers, religious extremists, and their ilk. What these people attempt to do, and what they seem to have done well so far, is plant fear into our minds, our hearts, our souls. They've abused history and a solemn day in our national consciousness just to instill fear in anything that happens outside our front doors.

Unfortunately, fear is not the best way to go about anything. As FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror..." The same is true these days as well-- rather than let ourselves get tangled up by our own psychological fears, we need to assess how we've reached where we are now, figure out what's wrong, and set things right so that we can achieve our best. While many people may disagree on how to achieve that, we need to first vanquish the fear that has dominated the national discourse the last few years.

We also need to look at the issues and problems we have before us in a rational manner. Since September 11, religious extremists here in the U.S. have browbeaten us over the heads with the Bible, with the word of the Lord, the wrath of the Lord, the anger of the Lord... An angry, patriarchal God-- where have we heard that before? An angry Allah inciting his legions forth... It's the flip side of the same coin. Jesus is the Messiah in Christianity and a prophet in Islam. Why can't both religions look to his counsel, and less to the harsh commandments of bellicosity from the Almighty?

Fear and religion-- they've gone hand in hand for a long time, as anyone who's read any of Jonathan Edwards' sermons or listened to an imam's fiery speech can attest. How to promote peace and love, which are the ultimate tenets in so many faiths? While I could tax my brain and lay it all out for you, I'm fortunate to be able to save my fingers a bit of work, since Bill Moyers gave an excellent speech on Wednesday, September 7, which was excerpted and presented as an article on Salon. Here is his piece: "Hostages to Fear."

My wish today is for there to be increased peace, love, and understanding among all peoples by the next September 11. The first step, I think, is to conquer fear in all its forms, and try to establish bonds of commonality. An impossible task, you say? Perhaps, but that's fear talking...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bar's Middle Names

The country knows her as Barbara (Pierce) Bush; I think her real full name, though, is Barbara Marie Antoinette (Pierce) Bush. She now claims that her comments were of a "personal nature;" how personal can they be when she said them over the radio??

It's scary that racism is alive and well, and that our dear Smirk's mother apparently has no problem speaking about "those people" and how "scary" it will be to have them in her backyard. Heavens! They're going to skew the ratio of Republicans to Democrats! They'll be on every street corner! But, you know, of course, it's so wonderful for them; they're homeless, but they're in our stadium, our shelters, our homes-- we must be charitable and remember to help those less fortunate than us, even if, *ahem* they were "underprivileged" to begin with. "Those people" just love going through a hurricane, losing their home, their belongings, and in some cases, many of the people they love, know, worked with, played with, etc. A great deal for them, yessir!

What's *really* scary is a lot of those people who can never go back, or choose not to go back, or want to go back but their home is declared a total loss, still owe on their mortgages. They still owe the credit card companies, they still have to eat, be clothed, sheltered, and maintain some kind of level of human existence. If they just happen to realize they are totally at rock-bottom financially and want to declare bankruptcy, I hope for their sakes they do it before October 17. That's when the changes in the Republican-backed sweetheart deal for the banking and credit industries becomes law. It's going to be very interesting (and scary) to see what happens come October...

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Heck of a Job

Well, Brownie is just the tip of the iceberg: the entire administration has essentially been sitting on its duffs (I'm especially outraged by Condi Rice-- how could she be enjoying plays and shopping on 5th Avenue?? If she dares try in 2008, I hope all the decent people in this country rise as one and remind the press and the voters of this disgusting behavior!). This isn't to say the good folks in the Louisiana gummint are doing a whole lot better; this is all sort of Monday morning quarterbacking on my part (and a whole lot of other people's parts!), but it seems to me that given that hurricanes have been a fact of life in the Carribean, the Gulf, and the Atlantic Coast since time immemorial, given that New Orleans has basically been a sitting duck for a direct hit since it was founded in 1718, and given that hurricanes like Camille (1969) and Andrew (1992) have proved the folly of just sitting around and letting it all blow over, that gummint at *all* levels should have had a much more solid plan than they did.

As usual with this administration, there's a lot of jabberjawing, and usually the docile, subservient press just gushes, or ignores, or accepts whatever is said and done, as may be the case. But this time there's some real reporting going on, some real attention being paid to what's being said and what's actually been done. Hint: actions say a hell of a lot more than words, whether it's your basic boyfriend-girlfriend rapport, a marriage, a boss-employee relationship, or the gummint and the governed. CNN posted a good outline of the differences between what Brownie and Chertoff have been spouting, and what Nagin, the evacuees, and eyewitnesses state.

Brownie apparently directed FEMA to the Gulf region *hours* after the hurricane struck, and *not* at any time before. I'd like his punishment to be this: shuttled to ground zero of any predicted hurricane strike during hurricane season for the next 20 years. That should cure him of any notion of taking his time hereafter.

As usual, Smirk, who was already AWOL in Arizona and California, shoved his foot in his mouth alongside his outsized silver spoon and said that he didn't think anyone could have anticipated the levees failing. To be charitable, I don't think Smirk's smart enough to have realized that, but I'm sure someone around him-- Scowl, Rice, Rove, or his former babysitter, Karen Hughes, for heaven's sake, knew perfectly well that there had been many, many years of concern about the levees in and around New Orleans, and could have told him as much. Not only that, but funds were diverted to Iraq and Homeland Security, instead of to the Army Corps of Engineers to work on the levees and hurricane and flood-control measures.

What really bugs me is that Bill Clinton is stepping up to defend Smirk; given that Smirk replaced Clinton's man at FEMA with hacks and cronies, I'd think it'd be politically prudent of Clinton to just not say anything. Why stick up for a totally incompetent leader at a time when he needs to just accept responsibility?

It's pretty sad when people on their own initiative do a better job than our gummint. It's even sadder when they get punished for it. I hope this outstanding young man ends up much better than the raw deal he's getting right now: being jailed for taking an abandoned bus, picking up survivors, and driving to the Astrodome.

Another disturbing thing is that doctors were apparently blocked, thanks to bureaucracy and a lack of common sense, from doing the job they should have been allowed to do.

I'd like to make a couple of humble suggestions for the future.

1) A national database be administered by a *competent* and independent authority, comprised of contact information of doctors, nurses, paramedics, and emergency personnel who are willing to volunteer and assist in an emergency. A National Medical Guard, if you will (but not one that is subject to fighting in morally dubious wars!). This way, credentials can be checked in advance, red tape eliminated and bureaucratic rules relaxed, while any essential guidelines remain enforced. Once an emergency occurs, a central headquarters can quickly access the database, contact medical personnel, and direct them where they are most needed. This would resolve the lack of communication, the uncertainty, and the boondoggles many have faced in the last week or so.

2) In the wake of the Pentagon's pending closures of numerous bases, depots, and other military installations, that an amendment be made to existing statutes to permit a portion or section of each site to be closed now and in the future, to be permanently set aside as a camp/barracks/dormitory area for natural, biological, and military disasters. This way evacuees, refugees, and others needing temporary housing can immediately seek shelter, be housed or relocated, or otherwise assigned a place to stay without resorting to more extreme measures. The military has tons of land all over the country, and I'm sure could easily allocate a few acres, if not more, for this purpose, before turning over to local and state authorities the remainder of the property when the base/depot is closed.

3) Federal, state, and local transportation be centrally coordinated during a time of emergency. The so-called Department of Homeland Security has just been shown up as a joke; FEMA was absorbed into DHS, and nothing's happening. I say disband DHS, and enable the agencies under it with the tools they need to function. Instead of DHS, improve coordination and communication between the various agencies.

In the case of transportation, buses (such as those school busses sitting in the yards in New Orleans!), trains (Amtrak is under the gummint- why wasn't it utilized better?), and planes could have been placed under immediate requisition *prior* to the hurricane and used to transport people out of the city, rather than abandoning them. Even if all of these methods could not have taken everyone out prior to the hurricane, there certainly could have been ways to try to get people out faster immediately afterwards. From what I'm reading so far, there was absolutely no attempt to use every transportation method possible beforehand, and certainly it's not happening fast enough posthaste.

I'm sure, given more time, I could come up with more ideas. I'm sure a lot of you could come up with suggestions. It's a shame our gummint is run as a sort of glad-handing glee club, with chumminess the prerequisite, rather than as a meritocracy as it should be. I highly doubt our Congress will step up to the plate and do a full-scale investigation as it should be done, but I hope some lessons were learned here, and that they stick. I'd hate to see this happen a second time...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A New Interest

I grew up in a somewhat rural area, but not too far from my parents' house is a park that had a disc golf course. Being young and naive, I simply assumed that it was sorta like golf, that you could just use a regular frisbee, and follow the course as if it was akin to the links. Just toss, pick up, toss again, pick up, toss into the "hole," and move on to the next hole. I did this for several years, blithely going along my merry way.

Wrong me... Disc golf, or Folf as some like to call it, is definitely a sport, with tons of courses all over the country, and a devoted following that grows year by year. I discovered the errors of my ways recently, when a new acquaintance revealed he played disc golf.

"Me too!" I exclaimed enthusiastically. "Maybe we can play sometime."

Turns out he's part of a deaf disc golf group here in Southern California- and usually went to practice/play at the course at Huntington Beach. Well, if you've been following this blog with any regularity and you have any idea of what L.A. is like, you've probably picked up on the clues and deduced that I live *nowhere* near Huntington Beach. The way gas prices are these days, I'd like to go somewhere a little closer than that, if possible. He mentioned a course in Sylmar. Ok, a bit closer, but still not exactly down the block. Then, as we discussed the deaf disc golf association, a new course in Manhattan Beach was mentioned. Ok, that I can definitely do! So we made plans to get together for a game yesterday.

I showed up a little bit ahead of time (surprised, people??), parked my car, hauled out my old, trusty frisbee, and waited. I watched a group of teens and young adults make the circuit, and they all seemed to have these cool-looking flat sort of discs. Hmmm... Not sure if I fit in-- older guy, greying, not exactly lean and trim, with a... frisbee. Ok, whatever.

After a short time, my friend appeared, hauling a bag on his shoulder. I hailed him, explained I'd been figuring out the course, and showed him my frisbee. I was met with something somewhat in the neighborhood of a snort, with a hint of a gasp, and definitely a healthy heaping of pity, along with a definite chuckle.

"Um, that's a beach frisbee. We don't use that here."

"We don't? I used to play with this all the time back home."

"No, no, that's no good. You need something like this." And with that, he lowered his bag, unzipped the cover, and took out several discs. Ok, I'm definitely not fitting in here...

Within a few minutes, I got a crash course in what disc golf is all about. Beach frisbees definitely brand one as a) complete novice, b) a fool, and c) in the wrong place with the wrong equipment. I learned that discs have different functions (some are best for long-range, some are all-around discs and good for medium distances, while some are great for putting and short tosses), and have different weight, diameter, and rims. My new teacher graciously loaned me a couple of discs that were a tad more appropriate for the course. We circled about and after asking a park employee, found the first tee.

Just seconds later, we were approached by a hearing guy, probably in his early 20s, who asked if he could join us. My friend said it was fine, and explained to me that that was normal to join a group; I had no problem either, figuring now I'd have two people to observe. I sheepishly explained it was my first day. I was assured that it wasn't any problem.

We set out, and both of my companions offered suggestions, tips, and corrections throughout. The big surprise came on the third tee; It was a long section, with a shallow depression curving upward into a hill, with the basket on the far side. There were trees, shrubs and the like surrounding the tee itself. We stepped back to let our hearing player take his turn. As he aimed, stepped forward, and followed through, we watched his disc soar through the air, hit a tree, bank to the right, and... a hole in one. As my friend said, holy shit.

No way am I competing with these guys! Both of them were quite good. I simply concentrated on learning proper form, getting a feel for the discs and their use, and enjoying a pleasant day (the park where the course is is maybe two or three miles, if that, from the ocean, so it was a comfortable environment on a very pleasant late summer afternoon).

After completing the course, our hearing companion spotted a group that he usually played with, excused himself, and left. We decided to continue and play one more round-- partly because we were having so much fun, partly because of rush-hour traffic -- no need to hop in the car! Why bother? Let the peons enjoy the bumper-to-bumper atmosphere, while we soak up the rays and get a little exercise. I improved somewhat over the second set, and definitely gained an appreciation for what I initially thought was a fun game, but is actually a sport.

Once we hit the final hole, we decided to take off, stopping first for a quick bite on the way. My friend was kind enough to give me a few of his discs so I could practice on my own as well as have them for future games. A very generous gift! I left after the meal knowing I now had a new pastime to pursue.

Today my shoulder is a bit sore-- I hadn't felt anything different yesterday, but obviously the repitition took its toll. Still, I'll be headed back to Manhattan Beach, along with other courses, to practice. But don't expect to see me entered in any tourneys soon!