Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Zen of Gardening & Why I Love It

I've been busy outside and inside lately, though I have several posts on the way... here is an excellent story from Stuart McLean, host of the Vinyl Cafe, about the vagaries of hard gardening. Click on the link below and you'll see a list of samples, the one to listen to is "Tree Planting".

http://www.zunior.com/product_info.php?products_id=1569

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pure Hogwash

We continue to hear about "socialism" and "class warfare" in reference to Obama's intention to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for the top income brackets. This is absolute rubbish. Most everyone, including Adam Smith, Andrew Mellon, and even G.W. himself has professed support for progressive taxation. The idea being that, the more one benefits from the social and economic structure as it is, the more one ought to be giving back. However, the Bush era tax reforms arguably made our tax structure less progressive, not more. We also hear that the proposed tax hikes on households making $250,000 and over will "hurt small business". Ain't necessarily so. The definition of "small business" is varied, but no matter how it's defined, most small business owners make less than $250,000 per year. The rub, however, according to some folks, is the fact that raising taxes on the upper income brackets has the effect of taxing about 2/3 of small business income. These are the folks who want to avoid taxing capital at all costs, apparently even at the cost of bringing down the financial system altogether.

Here's how I see it: Certainly taxing capital too much can have a dampening effect on innovation and economic growth. We need to reward risk to some degree. Rewarding risk is part of what makes our system in the U.S. different from everywhere else, and why we are leading the world in health care innovation as well as cost. But taxing capital too little leads us into a top heavy system, with an unsustainable chasm between the haves and have nots. It also, in my estimation, leads to exactly the kind of economic collapse we're experiencing right now. Too much capital sloshing around the economy needs somewhere to go, leading in turn to more and more exotic "investments". This phenomenon is very well outlined in an episode of This American Life titled "The Giant Pool of Money".

Finally, this is a tax on profits, not gross income. Therefore, any enterprising person whose business is netting somewhat more than $250,000 could theoretically come up with myriad ways to invest a few (or many) more thousand a year and come in under the limit. Hire a few more people. Invest in new equipment. Weatherize your building, if you have one. To my mind this kind of a tax hike, especially in this climate, makes sense not only because it puts more of the tax burden where it belongs (on the folks who are benefiting most from our economic system), but because it can encourage more investment in the "real economy": e.g. labor, durable goods, and innovative services. And in a time when the basic foundations of our economy are shifting due to environmental and other concerns, small business owners would do well to spend money positioning themselves to respond profitably.

A postscripted "Deep Thought"...I love this quote, which I discovered thanks to the paraphrasing of an FB friend:

"I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization."
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Spring

Spring is poking its lovely little head out of the wet earth today. Willow and I went out and about, in a frosty, sunny morning that turned to a bright, cool afternoon. A perfect Seattle spring prelude. The crocuses are out, and even a few daffodils and one of my favorites, miniature daffodils. As we sat on the bus and I took in the weather, I realized that spring, by the calendar, is only a little over two weeks away. Two weeks plus one day, to be exact. It's been a relatively dry winter, it's seemed to me, and on Wednesday we had one of our quintessential romantic Seattle winter days, warm, cozy, gray, and drizzly. The kind of day where you can walk outside and soak yourself without even noticing.

I've been dilly-dallying and haven't gotten as much done building our vegetable beds as I'd like. I have some cover crop seed waiting to be planted, though it's probably a week or so before I could plant it. I also still have several plants to move. I managed to move the two biggest ones, a Rosa Nutkana (one of our native roses) and a Symphocarpus Albus (snowberry, another native). But when we went down the path today on the way out of the front yard, I noticed that one of the Mahonias (tall Oregon grape) is showing some flower buds. The one that is budding is the larger one, I have a smaller one that is not budding and luckily that is the one that I want to move. But the buds were a little prick of reminder that time is short for easy transplanting... I don't want to stress the plant to much by moving it while it's in flower, and I want to take advantage of the last of the rains. I did also get one of my two pots of Clarkia amoena in the ground, they're looking alright but not particularly robust. We'll see how they go. I don't necessarily think they are too stressed or were potted for too long, but the leaves are reddish. I'm hoping the red is due to the cold and not stress. I'll be looking for some new green leaves to come out soon, but hopefully not too soon. With the unseasonable warmth we had earlier in the week, and now the overnight and morning frosts, we're sure to get lots of bud and fruit damage this year on the less hardy plants.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Watercolor

As an erstwhile artist and someone who wants to learn to draw someday, I really love a well illustrated children's book. Two books we've been reading lately are A Fawn in the Grass and Off We Go!. I noticed that they both were done in watercolor. I've always loved that layered style of watercolor that takes full advantage of its translucency, and these books really do that. Even if you don't have kids, they're both worth checking out for the illustrations. Off We Go! is written by Jane Yolen, author of the "How Do Dinosaurs..." series. That series also has fun illustrations by Mark Teague, but they're not the same style at all. I dearly love that light watercolor style. The illustrator of A Fawn in the Grass is Keiko Narahashi, who endearingly has a childhood picture for her author photo. Laurel Molk illustrated Off We Go!, which is really gorgeously layered though not quite as delicate as Narahashi's work.

Also, the story of A Fawn in the Grass is very moving: the author, Joanne Ryder, had a doe come into her yard and give birth. The fawn stayed in the yard for several weeks, and the mother returned every night. They let the grass grow long so the fawn could hide safely until it became strong enough to go off with its mother. One of these days I want to take a watercolor painting class. After I learn to draw.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Whiteness

Oh, my gosh. I'm whiter than I could have ever imagined. I fancy myself somewhat "multicultural", given that I grew up in a predominantly black inner-city neighborhood, went to inner-city public schools, and took the bus to get places not only through most of my growing up years but also now, since our family does not own a car. But alas, I have found out that I am white, white, white. At least, according to the website Stuff White People Like. Some of the things I like on the list are yoga, The Wire, religions (their) parents don't belong to, not having a TV, and the idea of soccer. At least there are a few things on the list I definitely don't like, such as Apple products, knowing what's best for poor people, and shorts. Well, now my life will be devoted to accepting myself in all my whiteness. Which, I'm just sure, is a very white thing to do.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Frustration & Gratitude

Sometimes I really just want some time to myself. Like this afternoon... we went to the indoor gym at the community center this morning, and out to lunch on the way home, and then by 1:30 we were home for nap time. I suppose I should have taken a queue from the fact that immediately after lunch she started asking emphatically to go back to the community center and play, but I was on a mission to get her to sleep so I could have some quiet time to myself and do some chores around the house.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I did have about 5 hours yesterday to myself. I just started doing a swap with another mom who has a little girl about Willow's age, and it's working out wonderfully. Yesterday was my day, and I spent the time dusting, vacuuming, and listening to the radio. Both of Willow's grandma's are coming into town next week, and I'm working on getting the place a bit more presentable. And the dust is, well, thick. So I listened to NPR (trying to locate a particular sentence I heard last week, to no avail), dusted, put through some laundry, and vacuumed some of the neglected corners. I love that time, and enjoyed it thoroughly, but of course didn't get done all I wanted to and had also a kitchen full of dishes that I left untouched. Which I was hoping to get to, like, an hour ago. **Sigh**

So, I spent more time than I really ought to trying to get her to sleep, because I just couldn't conceive of the afternoon without that interlude. Most times I don't mind much when she doesn't nap, but today I just couldn't let it go. Until I took her out in the stroller and watched as she kept leaning more and more forward in response to me tilting the stroller back so she would rest her head. That was the moment I realized a nap was not in the cards.

Now, I'm sitting here in the living room typing this while Willow watches a video, so I guess I am having that time to myself anyway. And I have an early bedtime to look forward to, which means dinner time is coming up forthwith. I think we'll be having Boboli pizza tonight.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Subconsciousness

I read somewhere, I think in the book The Scientist in the Crib, that memory as we understand it consciously doesn't begin to occur in the brain until around 3 years old. I don't remember exactly how it was described, but basically what I recall is that we have memory before the age of three, but it isn't the kind of memory we have as we get older. The kind of memory we're used to, where we have little stories in our heads that we look at as if we're outside ourselves. Our lives become, as we grow up, a series of these kinds of stories. Before 3, however, our memories are more "in the moment", less self conscious. For example, an infant or toddler will remember from day to day where things are placed in the house, or the order of bedtime rituals. But (this is my rather foggy interpretation) young children before the age of three don't yet see themselves outside themselves; they have no perspective of themselves as part of their story. So, it is very unusual to have conscious memories of ourselves before the age of three. I personally don't have independent memories from much before four.

So, as I was thinking about this one day I began to form an idea that everything that happens in our first few years becomes part of our subconscious mind. Part of that murky space where dejavu happens, part of that dark little garden where our deepest passions grow and our silent fears lay dormant. This was a rather terrifying thought for me... the idea that I could have so much power over another person's deepest underlayments was dizzying. And when I have this thought in my consciousness, I try extra hard to be more patient, more loving, and keep my countenance positive and appealing. It was much easier for me to do this in the first months after Willow was born. As infants, we all are so obviously more vulnerable, and so different from older humans. But now that Willow is walking, talking, yelling, and doing all the things two year olds do, I see her more like me and less like an infant. So sometimes I forget my responsiblity as a primary architect of the substance of her subconscious. Regretfully, I yell sometimes, or get mad and say mean things. Not often, but sometimes. I do sometimes wonder about how I might be contributing to Willow's little slice of darkness. And I do everything in my power to ensure my good moments continue to far outweigh the bad... to give her lots of light to carry too.

Friday, February 6, 2009

What I've Been Doing This Week

Well, aside from being sick and being with Willow, I've been wringing my worn out little hands over the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka the economic stimulus. I've written and called my senators and my representative. Two or three times, in fact. I also wrote a letter to Minority Leader Senator McConnell. And a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal. The letters I sent to Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and to Representative McDermott, were submission style emails that I did not save. Because I spent multiple sittings drafting it, I do have a copy of my letter to Senator McConnell, as well as my letter to the Wall Street Journal. I've pasted the text of both below for your amusement, edification, what have you. Enjoy.

To the Editor of the Wall Street Journal:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is certainly not a perfect bill. However it is a very good bill, and follows what many economists say we need, which is a proportion of about 2/3 direct spending and 1/3 tax cuts. Some have focused attention on minuscule portions of the bill, such as smoking cessation programs, which take up less than one-ten-thousandth of the total spending. It is ridiculous to focus on these details as if that is the bill's primary direction.


A prudent combination of direct spending, tax incentives, and regulation has been historically proven to work in stimulating and growing the U.S. economy. We are in a time of huge upheavals economically and otherwise, from the continuing development of global commerce to the nascent development of the "green" economy. Government investment in the country's infrastructure during these kinds of upheavals, such as our system of land grant universities, the national railroad, and our national highway system, has proven to be a catalyst for further development by the private sector.


Necessary investments in our short term economic health as well as the research and development needed to put our country back in a competitive place globally is well laid out in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Without this bill, our downward slide is sure to continue.


To Senator McConnell:

Dear Senator McConnell:


I am writing to you in your role as Senate Minority Leader, and appreciate your taking the time to read this even though I am not one of your constituents.


I am concerned about the position you and your Republican colleagues have taken on the stimulus plan currently under consideration. I do think your idea of offering low interest loans to qualified borrowers to help stimulate housing demand is a good one, and I hope to see that in the final bill.


However, I have so far been very disappointed in the overall Republican reaction to the proposed stimulus plan. Certainly we want to be careful when spending large amounts of money, and we don't want wasteful or gratuitous programs. On the other hand, some of the things that have been said, such as calling the plan a "Christmas list" are insulting and demeaning to American people who are in real trouble. I personally know people who are out of work or will soon be, and we need to take action now.


Yes, some of the money is going to things like healthcare and education, things that we don't traditionally think of as stimulating the economy in the short term. However these are necessary investments if we are to regain and keep our competitive edge in a global economy. We can no longer afford to send our children to schools whose buildings are falling apart, with teachers whose knowledge is out of date. We can no longer afford the drain on our GDP from people with poor or no healthcare being sick and unable to work. In the short term, investments in education and healthcare will prevent many people from losing their jobs, which will help keep the economy from sliding further and improve consumer confidence. I also believe that investing in healthcare and education could give our foreign borrowers some assurance that we are looking toward a more certain and prosperous future.


I also see the investments in infrastructure as stimulating to the economy in both the short and long term. Many folks who have been put out of work in the construction industry will be able to get back to work as large projects that have been waiting for funds can go on line. In the longer term we’ll be investing in the movement of people, goods, and services as we repair and update our roads and bridges and expand mass transit. In addition we’ll be getting on the road toward reducing our impact on the global environment, as we invest in mass transit and other “green” aspects of the economy. The “green” economy is also in its infancy, which offers great possibility for the application of American ingenuity and I think is an excellent area in which to begin regaining our global competitive edge. If Andrew Carnegie were alive today I think he would be investing in green energy and mass transit.


I realize there are experts on both sides, some saying we should spend more than the current bill lays out, some saying less, some saying we should take out all tax cuts, some saying we need more tax cuts, ad infinitum. I personally think that when lots of experts sit on both sides of an issue, the proposed action is probably a good compromise. I certainly understand your need, along with your colleagues, to make your objections known and I do understand the fears about borrowing too much and getting ourselves into deeper trouble. I share those fears up to a point. However, the current bill I believe is, though not perfect, an overall good bill and will help us begin to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re currently in. I hope you will use your position as Senate Minority Leader and help bring around some of your colleagues to help pass this bill quickly.


Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.


Sincerely,

Katie Kadwell

Seattle, Washington


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Setting Aside Childish Things

For the record, I have at times, especially in the past few months, felt a bit of pity for George W. Bush. He is, to my mind, someone who wants very much to do what he sees as right, but who doesn't know (or really care) how to get the results he wants in a complicated world. He wants very much for the world to be as simple as he perceives it is. He appears incapable of finding a way to comprehend it even just a little bit more, so instead he works as hard as he can to make the world into what he says it is. Of course, this is an activity reserved only for the very privileged and very powerful. If he had lived a different life, a life more like the one most of us live, he would not have the luxury of attempting such futile architecture, especially at the expense of so many people all over the globe.

Last week's Domestic Disturbance blog entry by Judith Warner, "Bauer and Bush, Running on Empty", to me captures very well the essence of what we are left with courtesy of our former President. Even though I have never watched the show "24", I was moved by Warner's assessment of the Bush years, and how his personality affected his egregious actions. And though I know I will continue at times to feel pity for the man, I was also very moved by this poem, which was comment number 7 in the blog:

let’s save pity
for the millions of victims
of bush’s conscience.

for bush
there ought to be
only howls of ’shame’
execrations, and
a speedy trial
where he stands in the dock
with his co-conspirators and -perpetrators.

he is the best proof
of the truth
of his argument
that there actually is
such a thing
as evil

Steve Elkind

I won't weigh in right now on whether I think Bush is evil. But I think another bit of Warner’s piece is instructive: she discusses briefly Pema Chodron and her work. Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, talks about seeking out and using our fears and discomforts in order to grow, to become bigger people, to open up and feel compassion for all humanity. She calls this “leaning into the sharp points of fear”. I believe this kind of uncomfortable search for what makes us who we are when all the lights are out, all the ice cream is gone, and there’s nothing on TV but infomercials, this is the search that gives us meaning and keeps us going in the darkest of times.

And as I sit listening to the children's choir heralding the Inauguration of our new President, Barack Obama, I feel like we are entering out of the darkness and into, at least, some sort of twilight. Obama somehow, as my mother said on the phone this morning, has been able to “galvanize our hopeful selves” in a way that I have not seen in my lifetime. Obama himself, and the whole Obama family, I think embodies the Chodron idea. He grew up bi-racial in a racist society; when he was born his parents would not have been able to sit on the bus together in many parts of our country. As we enter into some very difficult times for humanity working to heal so many violent rifts across the globe, dredging ourselves out of the economic bog we’ve created, and working to stop global warming and the calamities that go along with that, I think President Obama offers us an example of how we can as a people rise to the occasion, make the necessary sacrifices, and make our world a better place.

Certainly Obama’s race brings a new perspective to the White House, and has a lot to do with the jubilation that has accompanied his election and today his Inauguration. Though there are many who see his bi-racial heritage, the fact that his father is Kenyan and not African-American, and the privileges he had growing up a bit better off than many inner city blacks in this country, and say he can’t represent them. But his race is not the whole story. I don’t agree with everything Obama stands for, and I’m sure I’ll continue to disagree with him at times. And that too is beside the point. The point is that we are all one people, we are all one family, and as a country we can come together and realize that our common good means much more than any beefs we may have with one another. And Obama, right now, at this time in our history, seems to embody this truth of our common good not just for our country but for folks all across the globe. Let us each answer the call to hope and find our own kernel of goodness.