Saturday, January 30, 2010


I'm at my friend's house using her computer for a little while.

Yesterday morning, when I left for work, I put my computer on stand-by. When I got home from work and tried to bring it back up, it hung up for so long that I held down the power button until it shut down. Then when I powered it back on, it gave me the Blue Screen of Death on the way up.

Last night I got on the phone with Dell's support line. I was expecting an Indian accent, but the guy's accent was different enough that I finally asked him where he was from. He said the Philippines, and I had that "Oh yeah!" moment when the accent and the location fit each other.

We spent almost 90 minutes on the phone and finally came to the conclusion that my hardware is fine but my operating system files are corrupted and I need to reinstall the system software, which will wipe out all my files. So I'm going to have to take my laptop and my external hard drive somewhere and have them back up all my files before the system disks arrive for reinstallation Monday or Tuesday (since I moved, I have no idea where my system CDs might be).

Which is all the long way of saying I don't have a functional computer, so I won't be blogging for a while.

Withdrawal symptoms are not pretty...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not Watching the State of the Union

I didn't get to watch Obama's State of the Union speech last night, because that was my Bible study night. But when I got to Bible study, the speech was on for a few minutes, just long enough for me to see Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden popping up and down behind the President.

It's just as well that I didn't see him speak. I wouldn't have been able to keep a civil tongue and might even have verbally abused the TV every time he said something incorrect. Which would have been often.

Michelle Malkin noted the drinking game that some people play, where you take a drink every time the speaker says his favorite thing. I don't remember the favorite word that prompted a drink when President Bush gave speeches, but I think you had to drain the glass if he said, "nuke-yoo-lar."

For President Obama, the drinking word is, "I." Fortunately for Michelle Malkin, she's a smart cookie and realized that she'd be blottoed in no time if she imbibed in strong spirits, so she said, "Instead of drinking, I’m going to do a push-up every time O says 'I,' 'change,' 'jobs,' 'investment,' or 'clear.'" No doubt she got a good workout. Almost as good as Biden and Pelosi got.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What the Dems Learned from Scott Brown Win

Hugh Hewitt summed it up perfectly today: Democrats Contemplate Going Thelma and Louise.

Congressional Democrats are still grasping for a way forward on the Obamacare plan that the country well and truly hates. To press on via legislative tricks and intemperate tantrums is pure political insanity, the sort of contemptuous high-handedness that could indeed risk every senate seat the Democrats must defend in nine months and scores of House seats as well.

Congressional leaders are trying to figure out how to clean up the House and Senate health care bills just enough to make one or the other palatable to the American people. To quote a comment I read somewhere about this: "How do you clean up a turd?"

Good luck to the Democrats on that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haunted by the Past

As of the first of the year, I have medical insurance through my employer. I had a choice of three plans, all of which are with Kaiser Permanente.

Through the years, I've managed to avoid ever having Kaiser as my insurance provider. I know, I know, everybody who has it LOVES Kaiser. Except for those people who have been royally misdiagnosed. So previously I just went with a PPO plan or whatever my employer offered that wasn't Kaiser. But now I have Kaiser, and I was prepared to love it, because of all the people I know who think it's the greatest thing.

My roommate has Kaiser, and she absolutely adores her primary care provider, so I checked with her to find out her doctor's name, and tonight I went onto Kaiser's website to sign up with that doctor.

Kaiser's registration process, they said, would walk me through a series of 5 questions that would verify my identity before they'd give me my temporary password and let me register. It's understandable that they'd want to be sure, since anybody could (and of course would want to) pretend to be me. The rules were that I'd have 75 seconds to answer each question, and I had to get all five answers right on the first try, or no dice. If I missed, they'd send me my temporary password via snail mail.

First, they asked for the last four digits of my social security number. That wasn't the first of the five questions, though. The first question asked me what month my ex-husband (they named him) was born. Ummm... very odd, but OK. I answered it. Then they asked me if I recognized any of the names in a list of five. The fourth name in the list was my ex-husband's second ex-wife.

The next question was harder, because they asked what year I lived in one of the run-together cities in our area. My choices were 1985, 1988, 1991, 1995, and 1997. Well, I lived there from mid-December of 1985 until I think about mid-1987, and then I moved back in 1995 when my ex- and I split up, and I was there until 2003. But I wasn't thinking that clearly, and I was focused on when we first moved there, so I picked 1988, and it went on to the next question.

The fourth question was another list of names, and they wanted to know which one I knew. I picked, "I don't know any of these people." Game. Set. Match.

My temporary password will be arriving via snail mail in 5 to 7 days.

I hunted around the website until I found an 800 number, and I called, but they said they're experiencing a high volume of calls (at 8:20 pm???) and I should call back another time, like Saturday or Sunday.

I'm really ticked off. My ex-husband and I have been divorced since October of 1996, and at no time was I ever a member of Kaiser, especially not when my SSN and his were joined at the hip. So what on earth are they doing asking me questions about him to verify my identity?

This really stinks, and I plan on letting them know! (Politely, of course...)

Change We Can Believe In

Photo credit: AP

The Scott heard 'round the world...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kudos to CNN's Sanjay Gupta

CNN reported yesterday on the situation at a field hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Friday night.

Earthquake victims, writhing in pain and grasping at life, watched doctors and nurses walk away from a field hospital Friday night after a Belgian medical team evacuated the area, saying it was concerned about security.

The decision left CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta as the only doctor at the hospital to get the patients through the night.

Belgian Chief Coordinator Geert Gijs, a doctor who was at the hospital with 60 Belgian medical personnel, said it was his decision to pull the team out for the night. Gijs said he requested U.N. security personnel to staff the hospital overnight, but was told that peacekeepers would only be able to evacuate the team.

He said it was a "tough decision" but that he accepted the U.N. offer to evacuate after a Canadian medical team, also at the hospital with Canadian security officers, left the site Friday afternoon. The Belgian team returned Saturday morning.

I really don't understand how medical personnel who choose to go to a dangerous place to help injured victims can just bug out when they find out it might be dangerous there, leaving the injured behind to fend for themselves. Why even bother?

Gupta -- assisted by other CNN staffers, security personnel and at least one Haitian nurse who refused to leave -- assessed the needs of the 25 patients, but there was little they could do without supplies.

More people, some in critical condition, were trickling in late Friday.

"I've never been in a situation like this. This is quite ridiculous," Gupta said.

With a dearth of medical facilities in Haiti's capital, ambulances had nowhere else to take patients, some of whom had suffered severe trauma -- amputations and head injuries -- under the rubble. Others had suffered a great deal of blood loss, but there were no blood supplies left at the clinic.

Gupta feared that some would not survive the night.

He and the others stayed with the injured all night, after the medical team had left and after the generators gave out and the tents turned pitch black.

Gupta monitored patients' vital signs, administered painkillers and continued intravenous drips. He stabilized three new patients in critical condition.

At 3:45 a.m., he posted a message on Twitter: "pulling all nighter at haiti field hosp. lots of work, but all patients stable. turned my crew into a crack med team tonight."

The dedication of CNN reporter Dr. Gupta makes me proud to be an American. And his dedication didn't end with his Friday all-nighter. Agence-France Presse reported today that he went on board the US Navy ship Carl Vinson to perform neurosurgery on a 12-year-old girl to remove concrete that was embedded in her brain. She's expected to recover fully.

Great job, Dr. Sanjay Gupta! You make us proud.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Daddy-Long-Legs and Hedges

Shortly after I started first grade, the boys decided on a fun game for them. They would pick a Daddy-Long-Legs off the school's stucco walls, hold it by a leg, and shake it at a girl's face. They did it to me, but I was a stubborn, prideful little thing (some things don't change much), and I wasn't about to let them see how petrified I was, so I just stood there willing myself into stillness.
The other little girls screamed and ran away.

I discovered, not long after that, a surprising advantage to stubborn pride: The boys never shook another spider in my face again. They did, however, do it as often as they could to the screaming, running girls.

I tell this story because after Bible study tonight, I told it to the woman who came to the study in tears over being suddenly separated from her husband, who is delighting in emotionally tormenting her. Another woman's suggestion that the wife should thank her husband for helping her out reminded me of my long-forgotten trauma and its lesson.

Her husband wants to shake up the foundations of her life like the earthquake in Haiti, but if she doesn't let him see any rubble, he loses his satisfaction.

Tonight our Bible study group was at its finest. We didn't get through any of the lesson book (Max Lucado's Fearless), but we shared our fears and helped each other, especially this wife whose life feels shattered. She found a safe outlet for her tears, and she received comfort and encouragement and laughter. Most of all, she and the rest of us got a glimpse of God, because He worked through us to wrap His arms around her and lift her up.

A little after I told her the first-grade spider story, I let her know that I'd gone through an unwanted divorce and that initially, every time I had to go to court, I lost something more of my time with my kids. It seemed to help her to know that someone else had been down a similar road before.

When I was married, the last house we lived in together was surrounded by hedges, and when we separated I felt alone and unprotected in my new place. I would pray that God would put a hedge of protection around the house to keep any bad guys away. And in addition to that, I remembered stories told by missionaries from the deepest, darkest, primitive places, places that had little knowledge of God. The stories would go that the pagan villagers got angry and tried to attack the missionaries at night, but then they'd leave. And later on, maybe months or years later, the villagers would ask who were the strong men that guarded the missionaries' home that night. But there were no strong men, only the mighty angels of God. So I would ask God to post His angels around the hedges around my house, just to make sure my children and I would be safe. My prayers eased my fears enough that I could sleep.

A couple of the people in our Bible study told the wife, when she was still in tears, that God would later use her situation for a purpose. It can be hard to see how that's possible when you're standing in the middle of trauma. But the spider boys and the hedges visibly helped her, and by doing so, they showed me a renewed purpose outside of myself for what I went through in the past.

Tonight was a vivid reminder for me that we are the hands and feet and hugging arms of God, and He chooses to work His will through us and not just around us--if we let Him and are willing to open ourselves up to His leading.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

America Rising

I found this over at Power Line.

I didn't vote for Obama. I voted for a stinkin' loser, just to try to keep Obama from getting elected. Alas, it wasn't enough. But there were plenty of true believers in The One and the message he brought to our nation: Hope. Change. Transparency. Bi-partisan amiability.

And how do some of those true believers feel now?

(Update: Power Line says it looks like liberals are trying to drive this video off the web. This link works for now)

Sunday, January 03, 2010


I saw Invictus with some friends yesterday, and I loved it. My roommate was bored and took a nap. If I didn't have any background on South Africa and its apartheid policies, beyond what most Americans know, I might not have been as enthralled as I was.

When the movie was over, I asked the friends (there were five of us), to wait for a few minutes afterward, so I could tell them about South Africa before we went home. This is what I told them:

In 1983, when my then-husband and I were on a four-month bicycle trip through Europe, we stayed a few nights at a youth hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland. One morning I sat in on a conversation in the women's dorm, with a Coloured woman from South Africa who had left that country and was traveling the world in search of a place she'd be able to call home. I mentioned a story she told, here.

She said the South African government had just begun relaxing some of the apartheid rules, and it was now legal for whites and non-whites to attend the same parties together, at the same time. Interracial marriages were still illegal, and I can't remember whether she said it was legal or illegal for interracial dancing. But it was a change, however small.

She explained the pecking order of the races in South Africa. Imagine a measuring stick as high as you can lift your arm. At the top were the Whites--those people who had all white blood and nothing else. At about waist height was where the Coloureds were--those non-White people who had some white blood, as though any measure of Whiteness was enough to elevate a person to a noticeable level of status.

About an inch from the ground was where the Asians were--primarily those people from the Indian subcontinent. And on the ground were the Blacks.

The educational system reflected this four-tiered status of the races. Whites had good education, with all of their tuition, books, uniforms, and transportation provided free of charge. Coloureds had to pay for their books, but the rest was provided. Asians had to pay for all but one thing (I don't remember which thing she said), and Blacks had to pay for all of it, including transportation from the townships to the schools. With Blacks making very little income per day, and the cost of trains to school taking up a huge portion of that income, very few Blacks were able to send their children to school. So Black poverty was reinforced generation after generation.

In addition to the educational disadvantage, non-Whites were segregated from Whites. Separate "homelands" were established for the Blacks to live in, or for those who had work where White were, there were townships, like Soweto, where they could live. Non-Whites, no matter how wealthy they were, could not live in White areas.

Considering the anger and resentment seething among Blacks, who bore the biggest brunt of apartheid policies and wanted revenge after decades of oppression, this Coloured woman could not see how apartheid could possibly end without violence. Whites feared for their lives if they were to ever overturn apartheid.

(This part I told to my roommate when we were driving home:)

When I was a sophomore in high school, we had to read Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country in English class. It's not a fast-paced book, so most of the students hated it. As far as I know, I was the only one who loved it. The book had a slower pace that I adjusted to, the way a New Yorker who loves the high energy of the city has to adjust to the tropical pace of the Caribbean when he goes on vacation. Paton's book is the story of a Black father's search for his son during the apartheid era of the 1950s, and one or two passages especially stirred my soul.

Later, probably in the winter of 1974, I used the soul-stirring parts of this book as the the main text of the speech I gave (over and over) when I was on the Speech Team in high school. I wish the written word could convey the passion I feel when I recite what I still remember of that speech.

Here is what I remember. I'm not going to look it up, and I apologize to Alan Paton and to lovers of this book if I've left out a line or two or mixed up some of the words, but this sums up the emotional world of South Africa during that time when Blacks were separated and oppressed:

... We shall knock this off our lives and that off our lives and hedge ourselves about with safety and precaution. And our lives will shrink, but they will be the lives of superior beings. And we shall live with fear, but at least it will not be a fear of the unknown.

Cry, the Beloved Country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire.

Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all, if he gives too much.

Which brings me to Invictus.

I was reluctant to see the movie, because Nelson Mandela's political party, the African National Congress (ANC) is a socialist party, aligned with an African communist party. I was afraid I'd be spending my movie money on a propaganda piece. But all these friends were going, and so I went as well.

The only propaganda Invictus spread was in favor of forgiveness and reconciliation. If the film is even halfway accurate, then Nelson Mandela was used by God to work a miracle in 40 million hearts. Mandela started with his own staff, whose desire for revenge was a palpable force in the film. By adding Whites in among his longtime staff members, he sought to lead by example.

Throughout the movie, I was impressed by Mandela, about whom I'd been skeptical before this weekend. By the force of his personality and by his popularity among the Blacks, Mandela single-handedly prevented the violence that the Coloured woman I spoke to had foreseen. And through the course of his presidency, he helped to alleviate the fears of the Whites. The story is told in the context of the country's predominantly White rugby team.

For me the film filled in the post-1983 gap in my understanding of South Africa's race relations, and it left me so much more impressed by Nelson Mandela than I have ever been. I recommend this movie, and I hope that I've given enough background so that you can appreciate more fully just what a victory Mandela won for his beloved country.