Trucking to Teaching: #WhyIWrite

Thirty-nine years ago I took a cold shower in the middle of winter in a men's restroom in North Dakota. I dried myself with a dirty shirt while standing in grayish water that had backed up from the drain. My long mousy hair covered my skinny frame, and my bare freckled face made me look rather slight and timid. I drove a Peterbilt truck cross- country, hauling steel from the port in Houston and illegal, overweight, loads of grain back. And I treasured my life on the road. Like most young women, I owned a long list of feminine accoutrements, things I adored: a lacy ribbon of asphalt; an emerald shimmering along the northern sky, a collection of twinkling diamonds, and flowers and birds of every color and every song. The lace unfurled its amazing patterns along the fringes of my hood, and sometimes the emeralds would want to be worn with the sapphires, especially on dark, frigid nights, their colors shimmering in the northern sky. The diamonds bedazzled me by making celestial shapes: virgo, scorpio, and Orion. And a small yellow flower would always wave to me from the crack in the road on that two lane highway near Bozeman, Montana, the highway that runs along the Yellowstone River in a race to Wyoming.  


My ten-year old self stood toe to toe with my middle-aged stepfather and argued.

"But I want to go on the truck this holiday. I don't have anything to do here!"

In typical stormy fashion, my impatient and unprepared stepdad shot back, " You don't have a single A this semester!"

I remembered our deal, and I felt some small measure of guilt blush across my freckles. It's true; to go on the road, I had to make straight A's.

"But I meet smart people on the road, and I learn a lot just by riding along with you!"

"Well, what exactly do you learn out there, Ms. Astor?"

"I learn about math for one thing because our load is always overweight. I also learn about people and geography, and while we are waiting on the scale    to close and the cops to get lost, I get to read!"

Wiping his brow with a shop rag, my step-dad stammered, "I'll talk to your mom." 

These little battles about going on the truck became bigger battles in my adult life. But eventually I no longer needed the support of my male relatives.

I became independent. I could make as much money as the men did!

Grinding away at the gears, backing over the curbs, tearing up mudflaps and chrome bumpers, I eventually soloed my way into a long series of good paying trucking jobs. You could find me in a cafe for my one daily stop, not alone, but with a local paper or best selling book. Problem solving and calculating routes, calculating weight and floor space, and practicing safe driving in all kinds of weather and traffic conditions in any kind of geography, all of this became a way of life for me. 

Now I teach high school with a Masters of English, but I only recently started making more money teaching than driving, even though my new career spans eleven years of my life. This is a sad statement on the affairs of teaching, the low pay, the lack of appreciation, and the hard work all teachers must do to become successful. 

I am a product of two vastly different worlds, but I am not alone. I met many drivers that had spent years in colleges working on degrees but preferred life on the road.

I love my worlds, both of them.




The Fake Man

    When I think of a "real" man, I imagine a figure that forgives and evolves fearlessly, that carefully chooses the battles that define his character, framing his life in a positive light, while refusing to punish or overpower someone in a weak and harmless position. Real men protect their own legacies.

    I recently ventured out, by invitation, to an event in an Austin bar and immediately felt a sense of overwhelming negativity. The first fake man refused to tell me the location of the ladies room even though he is clearly employed there as a full time sound technician. The fact that he felt comfortable treating a strange woman in a rude and hateful manner set the tone for the rest of the evening. 

    Even more awful, a bassist from another band, a band that didn't appear to have a show at this location on that night, hustled up to my rescue dog, without warning or hesitation, and received a well-deserved nip and growl. Most people, even without much understanding of animals, typically ask before they thrust their fingers into the mouth of a growling canine, but not this dude.

    He then proceeded to stomp about the place, craning his neck and eyeballs around to give me glares, so I asked one of the attendees if they thought the guy looked mad or crazy, or if it was possibly my imagination. Within less than a minute of me making the inquiry, before we even had time to walk away to the patio or escape our position from behind the merchandise table, he came over and rudely called me an asshole. 

    This is just a man having a little fit because he realized how dumb it was to suddenly bounce up and fling his arm down to a strange animal. He felt somehow insulted by the hapless dog, tender feelings of misplaced manhood welled up in his shriveled little heart; women like me that hang around with dogs, we are the enemy. 


    Things became significantly worse when I tried to leave this "establishment" with a bottle of water. Another fake man stopped me at the gate, not 10 feet from my parked convertible, and demanded the "open container." I argued back that it was just water, and he tried to physically relieve me of my completely alcohol free bottle of water, water that I really needed due to the hot and steamy weather.

    By this time I realized that I was fuming, so I let him have my water. I demanded to see the owner or manager, and lo and behold, another fake man appears. I will leave this encounter to your imagination.

    The fake man problem persisted throughout the week. One evening while out walking with dogs, I noticed a stench in the air and water running down the curb. I instantly became alarmed because our community is having some sewage problems due to a big apartment building newly constructed. On the porch near the stench, sits another fake man, sucking on a bourbon and smoking on a cigarette. This particular specimen is a product of Pakistan, but he does not follow the teachings of Mohammed in any manner or style. He is the opposite of what Mohammed would expect in a man. 

    I told him I wanted a "second opinion" on the stench and the sewage running down the curb before I alerted the property management team. He proceeded to rhetorically mansplain, a dirty habit of his that he seems reluctant to eschew. He also rudely refused to rise off his seat and carry his bourbon and smoke the 25 feet to the suspicious smelly water. He is one of our board members. 

    I am potentially the target of a fake man in my professional life. I say potential because the threat is not currently present and hopefully it will remain so; however, this particular fake man wrote a scathing email to me many years ago that I received while visiting many miles from my home. The email was so cruel and vindictive in nature that I immediately became upset and needed to leave. I could hardly drive safely. 

    These specific examples in my actual life do not include men like Donald Trump or Greg Abbott. But women every day are reminded of the evil of a fake man whether they want to think about it or not. We are inundated with poor male examples day in and day out; politics is overrun with fake men, think Ted Cruz. But on the other hand, we have excellent examples of real men, think Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And then just when you feel as if you can close the issue, Volodymyr is offset by the cowardice of Putin. 

    If this simple writing contained a call to action, I would ask men to get it together. Think of how you look when you do stupid stuff, whether you invade a country or call a strange woman an epithet, you are not exhibiting the qualities of manhood. You are part of the problem.



Living in the Village During the Summer Record Heat and Drought: Characters in Crisis

Months into a record breaking heatwave and drought, the drunken sots behind me run a lawn sprinkler morning and evening; I suspect because neither one of them are employed or employable, so I think they sit there in the misty rainbow hoping they don't have to cool the house. The water runs down the street 100 feet around the corner to a parking area and ponds on the hard pavement. The water puddles around day and night, the only water that is wasted in the entire community, but nothing is done about it even though we are asked by the county officials to save water, even though we have elderly people living in our community on a fixed income, even though none of us have a water meter because the community water bill is shared by all and comes out of our monthly HOA fees. The drunken sots are renters, so they don't care.

Someone threw a bunch of bricks and other trash into the storm drain 40 feet from my front door, maybe the same guy that runs a chop-shop-style-fix-it-up place out of his residential garage 60 feet from my front door, forcing all of us to endure the noise, the unsightly scene, and the assortment of junk cars that rumble in and out. I wonder if when he goes to dump the chemicals, oils, paint thinners, and compounds if the clown in the storm drain issues him a receipt. 

When I walk around the bayou, I see the beauty. I wonder how a man, a stooge really, could be so indifferent to our natural world, after all we have been through: Harvey, heatwaves, Memorial Day flood, tax day flood, Ike, and so on. We already endure smog and chemical fires, noise, and traffic beyond belief. How can a grown man trash our little get-away village?

We live around an assortment of mentally ill gossip types, but one stand out case is the broad that walks around here with a hat on her head straight out of the Handmaid's Tale. She definitely puts the P in superficial because she lives in this pretend type world were popularity means something, as if she is still in high school, and lies and innuendo are a weapon of power and prestige. She will run up to another resident and go off about how much someone else is disliked and hated, as if that is what makes her feel in touch with her humanity, the deprivation of someone else's reputation or likability. 

But on these hot summer nights, as the water seeps down the road into people's driveways and under the tires of their cars, a few positives remain. A menagerie of honestly good people still live here: the board president unafraid of taking on a difficult hands-on task; the retired teacher that fussed enough to get us a streetlight; my neat-as-a-pin neighbor with the beautiful life on the seas, constantly sailing and sailing; the man across the way battling a vicious illness but working long hard hours; the fellow dog walkers; the elders on fixed incomes watching the water evaporate into nothingness; and the handsome young men with their wonderful wives and girlfriends. 

Maybe, when the next bill comes, the water will finally be turned off.


A Bee Story (Not My Own) 🐝 Random Musings (Not Mine Either, But I Do Agree) 🌤

Sunday, time to reflect on the things that make your life worth living. I don't know what floats your boat, but I am happy to see bees in my garden. There is clover growing in sunny spots in the yard and the bees are visiting there. But what makes me especially happy is to see the sweet, little visitors sipping from a bowl of water that I provided for them to hydrate.
I learned from FB friends that along with planting bee-friendly flowers and clover you should provide drinking water. The bee friends recommended using a small bowl. I filled ours up with pretty things, for us humans to enjoy, but which provided a safe place for bees to land upon. For there, the bees can safely drink the water and not drown.
I took a bowl, thrown by one of Lee's former students, that we had previously used for smudging, and I filled it with colorful marbles, rose rocks, tiger eye, and a hag's stone. What is wonderful about the hag's stone is that they are deemed to hold powers of protection, which can be invoked against all forms of negativity. This particular stone--I can't remember where it came from-- has two holes, one on each end of the rock.
To my delight, when I was watering the flowers yesterday, I saw where thirsty bees actually stood upon the hag stone and sipped the water seeping into the holes. It is almost like the stones were designed for the bee's hydrating pleasure. Seeing the little creatures about is mine.

Random musing on a HOT May afternoon.
Damn it's hot!
It is really hot!
It is really very hot!
It is way too damn hot for this time of year.

The planet and peoples' tempers are boiling.
All the time, I see verbal dueling with pro-right-wing-freestyle--gun-toting fb NRA lovers. When anyone says, let's have us some commonsense gun control, then there is a great wailing, weeping, and gnashing of teeth followed by the thunderous rhetorical cry of , "but who else will stop a bad guy with a gun but a good guy with a gun. "
Now, in Buffalo, we see yet another needless tragedy involving innocents and a gun toting lunatic. A brave police officer did his best to put the assailant down, but, instead, he lies dead--a hero. He gave his life for others, but, to our horror, couldn't stop the carnage from being inflicted upon innocent shoppers.
Looks like, a good-guy-guard with a gun didn't have a chance against a racist, hate-filled guy with a bigger, more expensive gun and Kevlar and rantings that inflamed his brain.

Too bad, Americans can't pass laws that will keep her civilians safe, because there is profit in death to be made.
Pray for me, I'm an American and I'm going to go grocery shopping on an unseasonably hot afternoon in a trigger-happy state, with everyone carrying on cranky.
What could go wrong?


Cancel Russia and its Petulant, Whining Leader: Reject Fascism 🌻 #StandWithUkraine

Russia, a petulant, whining child, complains about the consequences of something that is entirely its own fault, the bloody invasion of Ukraine, an invasion based on obvious lies and foolishness. The rest of the world, according to the Kremlin, must capitulate and give them Ukraine. Why? Well, because it once belonged to them, back in the good old days of Soviet oppression. Don't forget, if you are leaning towards fascism, or if you are someone thinking that kowtowing to the Kremlin will protect you from harm, that Soviet citizens couldn't make choices or engage with the outside world. They lived by a rigid standard of rules that were designed to trap people into a life of subjugation and slavery. Even now the Russian government stealthily enslaves people that it considers unworthy of partaking in the common "civil" society, so what you are worth?

How would you stack up on Putin's rubric?

Frankly I'm sick of their tired and meaningless diatribes, especially that rat Minister of Foreign Affairs, their murderous and ugly intentions, and their selfish imposition on the world order. Just like any other adolescent cry baby, this regime will never be satisfied until they completely dominate the entire free world power structure. Every day they threaten a new border, a new ethnic group, or offer to pony up a nuke or chemical weapon. The world does not have to sit around and look at this.

We can take action too.

As if Putin and his cabal of greedy, rich and ugly, disgusting followers and oligarch zombies didn't already have enough wealth and land, exclusive power over vast populations, and at least prior to this cruel and murderous invasion, substantial prestige and unlimited luxury. How much do they need? Why couldn't they turn their ugly impulses into something beautiful and become kind neighbors to the countries around them? Think of how duplicitous and influential a different kind of Putin could have been. Even if he is just a hardcore Soviet, imperialistic nut-show, he could have seemed so different and thus benefit exponentially for his country, his cabal, and his personal greed. 

Putin and his oligarchs blindly threw away the greatest opportunity in the history of humanity. They took an opportunity of positivity and turned it into the ugliest mess since WW II. No doubt the hand he played in Syria defined him and allowed for future atrocity, but still a shroud of decency, even farfetched, might have been cast over his crimes considering the massive disinformation campaign that precludes such barbarism. His holding of a lighted candle during an Orthodox Easter service seems to parallel with Trump holding a Bible while protesters are gassed and beaten because in every move that Putin makes, rather it be abstract or concrete, a threatening message is sent. Every move Trump makes, even though they are completely amateur in comparison, share the same hateful and indulgent set of goals. Putin is telling us that he will use gas on Ukraine.

The fascists are here even if they are unable to define themselves due to cowardice or a lack of education. They are here and we must acknowledge their presence, just as if they too are whining petulant children. In our country, people are free to think as a fascist, but they are not free to act as a fascist. But I want to make it clear to the people that bother to read my thoughts, the toxic pond we wade in is deep because of Putin and his outdated Soviet philosophy--the modern fascist world will make the old fascist world look like a peaceful playground full of happy children. We must rise up and defend freedom or the suffering and horror will never end. Fascism, in alignment with Putin's world view, will be nothing but atrocity after atrocity. 

Ask a Ukrainian if you don't believe me.



Russia and Putin: Give Ukraine the Planes 🌻

I'm sitting here in Babin's Seafood place thinking about all I am grateful for: the wonderful little rescue Westie; the cozy, modern apartment; my wonderful friends and coworkers; the job that keeps me in society when I'd rather immerse myself in a massive writing project, alone and crazy. I'm grateful for my health, and I pray I continue in life physically and mentally strong.

Babin's reminds me of a typical California restaurant with the dark interior, plush and cushy seating, and the sense that you are invited to linger and enjoy cocktails, desserts, and good conversations. The relaxed atmosphere lends itself to thinking, and I know most of us in our quiet, thankful moments wonder about the pain of the Ukrainian people, how they sustain life in the face of evil and death. I'm not sure that if it were me, that I wouldn't sit down on the curb and beg for a bullet.

If I lost my home, my pets, my family, all of my belongings, and I faced a bleak and meaningless new landscape of destruction and dust, massive holes in the ground, and dead bodies scattered all around me, my work and culture and land, all wasted, my mind would probably turn against me. The constant shelling and gunfire, the fear of dying in horror, in a nightmare, would end it for my sanity. 

At the moment my biggest complaint is that some of my green beans are discolored. While I sit here and gaze on the green beans, I wonder how many people that Putin has destroyed or murdered. How many people has he starved?

I noticed on Twitter that some really vulnerable African nations seem to understate the threat that Putin represents to them. Putin is a Nazi white supremacist to the extreme. It is no accident that he interrupted the Ukrainian planting season. Putin's evil will win if we don't predict his moves months in advance. Putin's evil will win if we fail to meet his brutality with equal force. It's a large picture, not a small one. 

Many of our weak minded politicians are now, and have been, capitulating to Putin's evil. To capitulate seems a lesser threat. These cowards are lining up to save themselves, and at the same time they are lining all of us up as a grand sacrifice. If we succumb to "Tucker Carlson" style fascism, we too will be killed off. 

I know most of you feel skeptical. But, several times lately, Putin squeaks out a whimpering threat about nuking us. You realize, of course, that a nuke there is a nuke everywhere. He already has exhibited his artsy mosaic of human atrocities, even shooting up a nuclear disaster site. Why are we not convinced?

Ukraine, over the past 50 days, requests airplanes. But they can't have them because we are lining up for a disastrous ending of the free world, and signing on to a new, and more heinous form of authoritarianism--with certain death and suffering. While we capitulate and lolly gag around, Putin is raising the stakes. Write to whomever you need to in order to encourage the delivery of world class weapons to Ukraine, including fighter jets. Help Ukraine get everything they need now, or succumb to fascism later. 





President Biden: Why Are You Doing Nothing to Save Ukraine?

I think it is amazing how you have managed to side step this genocide and unfairly and inaccurately minimize the impact on all nations and all free thinking people. For the first time in history we are experiencing this version of horror in real time on video and in the news with a courageous leader, President Zelinskyy, who articulates the details of these massacres and attacks. Yet, you sit there and do nothing, compounding this problem and its psychological effect, the kind of effect that will drive human behavior in future generations. 

Because you insist on sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing beyond handing over a few weapons and a few mild sanctions, more crimes like this will occur in the future. People are begging you to act, but you and NATO, and the UN, seem afraid. Let us get this straight. Because you are afraid of Putin firing off a nuclear rocket, even though the intended target is begging you for air support, you refuse to assist. You refuse in such a way that you leave the door open to Russia to continue these atrocities. 

I voted for you, but your inactivity is beginning to make me feel angry about the lack of choice that the democratic party offered us. I think you are the wrong man for the times. Your military policies are destructive to our security and sense of national pride, and your attitude is one of hubris, rather than humility. If you had a sense of community with the world, if you honestly cared about the violent genocide taking place in Ukraine, then you would make Hitler Putin capitulate. You would join with our partners in a violence of your own. You would stop this madness. The community of nations await your response, but you immerse yourself in domestic duties.

You keep going back and forth with sanctions. You keep throwing money and weapons around like a lazy 5th Avenue philanthropist. You keep talking diplomacy. Do you not recognize your foe? Sanctions mean nothing to a despot beyond inconvenience. Diplomacy? Please, do not make me laugh because it isn't funny. I am sure Hitler Putin laughs at the world concerning this diplomacy nonsense, but it is a nonstarter with a tyrant. In fact, I am sure that your attempts at diplomacy compute nicely with his genocidal strategies.

I am beginning to think you and Blinken know this.

As you sit there on your golden throne, a modern European country could fall to a tyrant. Millions of people are suddenly displaced, and the burden on the world is because of you. Children and babies are once again experiencing death, rape, and violence at the hand of Hitler Putin. A serious food shortage that will affect every single corner of the world is on the horizon because of your inaction. How can you continue like this? 

Give the Ukrainians concrete, major help and assistance: boots on the ground; planes in the sky.

Anything less is rank stupidity. Soon, a missile will be launched into Kiev...can you say you did everything you could to prevent that? I know you cannot. You enable this genocide with your inaction. DO SOMETHING CONCRETE.


Putin: Words Are Insufficient to Describe this Horror

All of these years we have sat around as a country and let Putin unleash genocide and terror on humanity with no consequences to him or his oligarchs. We enabled him to rise to this level where he can get away with threatening us with nuclear weapons and we sit on our hands and do nothing to him in return. People will cry, "Sanctions, we have done sanctions." And I will remind those nice, well-informed, people that while we rely on nonviolent sanctions and while we ship some arms to his victims, we are doing something that does not stop the genocide or Kremlin fury. Genocide perpetuates itself as soldiers and "yes men" get in line for dictator favors. They represent the lowest of humanity, men and women that will literally extinguish life for material gain or their own personal safety.

Sadly, and I am ashamed of this, our President speaks when he should shut up, and he fails to act with force and fury when appropriate. As the clock ticks, more people, including little children, endure horrific violence, suffering and death, but Biden is resolute in his crap decisions. 

Some of you may whimper, "But nukes." Well, go ahead and live on your fears because these fears determine the future for millions of people around the world barely surviving the oppression of a nearby dictator. We fail to recognize the threat that exists for all of humanity when we allow a bloodthirsty tyrant to terrorize one ethnic/cultural group after another: Syria, Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine, and so forth. We allowed these things to take place, these genocides. 

I noticed in the Russian news that the fascists point to our invasion of Iraq, and from me they will get no argument. I completely agree that invading Iraq ranked pretty high on the stupidity chart. But this time it is different. This time the option for survivors is not so-called Western style freedom, but the option is tyranny and subjugation, a stunning loss of freedom and an incomprehensible future. 

These other genocides, the ones that passed from our view, the oft-forgotten, indulgent and hedonistic violence that wiped out entire tribes and communities hid behind other news and dumb, superficial media stories. This genocide, thanks to the digital world, is lavishly recorded for all of us to watch. Even so, some news organizations try to look the other way in some shameful manner of mismanaged priorities; mingling corny jokes, laughter, and silly community stories, while barely glossing over the terrible predicament that our inaction has brought to us. 

This is not the first time I have felt terrible shame and feelings of disappointment and outright embarrassment concerning my country and the president I voted for; now I am not alone; the crowd of disgusted Americans continues to branch out like an angry web. When the details of this inaction comes to full light, no one will vote for Biden. He allows the extermination to go on.



Thoughts on the Book Burning Crazies: Censorship in American Life 📚

A friend of mine recently theorized on the weird book burnings and bannings that are happening around the country, and all I want to say on the subject is that it is only a form of intimidation meant to conjure up images of Nazi boot lickers, and such, so that us open-minded sorts will become fearful. I would like to remind the white nationalist crowd that we live in the modern era where nothing can be erased. Even that embarrassing tweet or fakebook post that you authored several years ago is still out there in the great expansive internet lurking around, waiting to creep up on your dating profile or something. Think about Janurary all of those nifty social media posts made it possible for some of you to do serious jail time. Deleting that from your profile didn't work all that well, did it?

Burning a book or banning it someplace is a tremendous waste of your time and energy. Something so stupid and pointless hurts your image and makes you look like a fool. It really is a sidecar issue because as soon as you make a book a point of controversy, people trample each other to go buy a copy. But out of respect for my friend, I will post her thoughts on the subject. I would like to add that getting any of these fanatics to do any actual work, like writing a book report or something, is not going to happen. If they had literacy skills, they wouldn’t feel any desire to suppress any books:

So, I'm wondering, if it would be helpful to require a book report be submitted along with the complaint on a said book before its being pulled from a library shelf or educational curriculum. Maybe requiring an item be read before being cancelled would cut down on the growing epidemic of book burning that is sparking across this country. At worst, the book burning devotee might actually learn something if required to read the very novel they are striving to stifle.

Just saying that I'm becoming more and more suspicious that some of the authors of these book banning lists can neither read nor write but can only cut and paste.

On the positive side, Gandhi tells us that you cannot destroy an idea. 

What this country needs is another Kirk Douglas, Dalton Trumbo, and a return of the rule of law to come in and save us from the jackbooted crazies.

My dog barks a whole lot, and it is a kind of game for him. I think the same thing is happening with a bunch of these school boards and such, everyone is after power and wants to tell the teacher what to do. They are much like the dog though, just barking and accomplishing absolutely nothing beyond looking foolish. Our children experience things two ways: vicariously and in real-life. Which do you prefer? One way or another, they are going to indulge in these happenings. I prefer to see my students experience the negatives in life vicariously, and that is why we read certain texts. Watching someone make bad decisions in a great book is much better than going out blindly and doing it yourself. Think about it.



Interesting Vaccine Mandate History that Everyone Should Know


~ Professor Lee Hester, author

Due to personal stuff I haven't posted much... but I'll post this note out of frustration concerning people who are against Federal vaccine/masking mandates.

I don't know why there is even a question, legally. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905), made it clear that states could mandate reasonable regulations for public health and the case was SPECIFICALLY ABOUT VACCINES. The plaintiff arguing against vaccination provided evidence that some medical professionals thought the vaccine was potentially harmful or ineffective. The court ruled that these objections were not well-founded given the overwhelming bulk of scientific evidence. Face it, there will always be naysayers, or conspiracy theorists. No matter what, you can find someone to gainsay anything. The court made it clear that states could follow the lead of the best science, rather than fringe groups in deciding policy.

The person that penned the decision, John Marshall Harlan, was a REPUBLICAN. He was nominated to the court by Rutherford B. Hayes... another REPUBLICAN.

Four more Republicans joined Harlan in favoring public health mandates along with two Democrats. Only one Republican and one Democrat dissented.

At one time, Republicans were not only the Party of Lincoln, but also the Party of Science and Reasonable Government it seems.

Some may say that this decision was only about state mandates. But that is silly, especially in the U.S.. With no borders between states, a single state passing such a mandate would constantly face the problem of infected people of neighboring states coming in.

A 50 state mandate of the Polio vaccine literally ERADICATED IT FROM THE U.S. The only cases recorded since 1979 were brought in from outside.

When we can't get 50 state mandates. we may need a Federal one.

Morally, it has always been clear to me that one person's rights end when another's begin and my right not to be infected greatly outweighs another's right to not get a needle prick, wear a mask or quarantine.

I've had three shots of COVID vaccine. Three FULL doses, not just half-dose boosters. I haven't grown tentacles and as far as I know, the NSA can't track me or listen in on me with some microchip. If you are so worried about that GET RID OF YOUR CELLPHONE. A vaccine is the least of your worries. You might also want to check with a mental health professional.

Of course some people cannot be vaccinated for valid health reasons. That is not a problem and would be covered in any reasonable mandate.

We are all part of a society, not individual atoms. We all affect each other, whether we like it or not. We can't all have absolute freedom because of that interaction. Regulations exist, in part, to ensure a balancing of individual freedoms. As an example, traffic laws restrict your freedom to drive 70mph across town without stopping, but they help ensure your freedom to drive across town at a slower rate with a much less chance of getting killed. And face it, realistically we can't all go 70 and not stop.

I'm tired of it. The people that hate mandates should think about whether they can even live within a civil society. The kind of freedom they want can only be achieved by living alone on a deserted island. Perhaps they should buy a boat.


Henry David Thoreau and the Passing of Nature and Time

I'm tan. It's true. This is January, but I have a golden blush on my skin, and I'm worried.

Even though I live in a warm zone, I'm not supposed to look like I've been vacationing in Mexico, so my tan feels and looks unnatural to me. I don't mean Donald Trump orange, but I mean out of season, like wearing a floral boho dress in winter instead of plaid or muted colors. It's really worse than you think because I've been wearing shorts nearly every day for two weeks. Today was the first time I pulled on a warm sweater and leggings, the first time I've seen ice in my bird feeder, the first time I grabbed socks and not flip flops, the first time I made pumpkin spiced tea and pancakes. 

My little dogs quietly snooze on their new Christmas fuzzy blankets, all peaceful and warm. 

Henry David Thoreau, the poetic naturalist from the Transcendental movement, would certainly think a winter tan odd. And even though Transcendentalism faded away into the opulent glamour of the great Gilded Age, remnants of it hibernated within other more modern social and philosophical movements; and now, thanks to the pandemic, it seems reengineered into a full-blown revival.

Outside we go! Once again, elitist progressives become selfish of their leisure time, ponder and reflect on personal decisions and the meaning of life, reflect on brash behaviors, and attempt to make distance between the artificial and the natural. Elitist bigots, conservatives, and supremacists, engage in their own version of adverse Transcendentalism by "rolling coal" and "attempting a "coup d'etat." No matter what poison you ascribe to, conservative or progressive, Henry provides us all with a lesson on health and living well. He died at the age of forty-four of tuberculosis. As you know, tuberculosis continues to spread because no effective vaccine exists to eradicate it. Henry, from a young age, knew he was living with a disease that would end in suffering and death. He also knew his quality of life depended on him remaining physically active and out in the fresh air as much as possible. He appreciated the nurturing aspect of nature, and he accepted the cruel passage of time:

"In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, for there are more secrets in my trade than in most men's, and yet not voluntarily kept, but inseparable from its very nature. I would gladly tell all that I know about it, and never paint "No Admittance" on my gate" (from Walden Economy).

However you interpret Thoreau, whether you appreciate him for his anger over injustice and slavery, whether you appreciate him for his loyalty to his beliefs and his love of nature, or whether you read him for his complex syntax and artistic descriptions, he certainly becomes more relevant with each passing year. As we journey into the Anthropocene, as we ride our planet into unknown territory, Thoreau's writings return us to a time when nature seemed on the verge of becoming predictable and possibly controllable. Darwin published after Thoreau, even though Thoreau seemed to already be aware of natural selection. The idea that the laws of nature were incontrovertible, that we, egotistical little humans, could harness this power like a work horse pulling a plow, is what got us into this ridiculous mess. 

Instead of putting nature first, as the Transcendentalists attempted to do, we corrupted our own menagerie of systems. Not one natural system remains intact thanks to human activity. Until we accept our failure and begin to dramatically change our oppositional handling of nature, we will continue to get these winter tans. And, as you already know, unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, a winter tan is out of season.