Sunday, May 31, 2009

What a tangled web we weave...

I read a fascinating article about heroin dealers from Mexico who deal the US. The drug problem is of epic proportions. At first I couldn't understand why - but three things became clear -
1 - the cost of heroin is cheaper than the cost of perscription drugs for pain. (the article is not clear here - it says 'on the street' which may mean that the doctor has told the patient to stop, but he is intent on getting more pain killers illegally, and buys them from dealers on the street.)
"Investigators say that Arthur E. was not alone in switching from a prescription painkiller to heroin. It gives a similar, euphoric high at a fraction of the cost, $10 to $20 for a “balloon” — one dose, usually a gram or less — as opposed to upwards of $60 for a typical prescription pill dose on the street."

2 - and doctors seem to perscribe these pain-killers as if thery were, well, candy (in France, reports say that perscription medicine addiction is completely out of hand, for example - and yet doctors love to perscribe them. Question - do doctors get kick-backs from pharmaceutical companies?). "When Arthur E. injured his back in a car accident in 2005, he started taking prescription medication, Percocet and OxyContin, for chronic pain, under a doctor’s supervision. His brother, Rob E. said he had been taking similar medications after he broke his arm on the job as a maintenance worker at a golf course. Soon, all three brothers were acquiring OxyContin illegally and sharing it. When supplies dried up and their dealer suggested heroin, they tried it and quickly developed an addiction."

The drugs come from Mexico but the US is responsible for the rise in power of the drug cartel because... "it is American drug consumers who fuel demand and American guns smuggled into Mexico that are used by the drug gangs." (NY Times article comment)

Three years ago, the Mexican president moved to crack down on the drug cartels. Since then, 10,000 people, most of them innocent, have died in a vicious war that pits police and investigators against well-armed drug dealers.
It's a tangled web made of the cost of drugs, the facility to obtain high-powered weapons, and especially, the huge discrepency between the average salary of a Mexican and an American, a poverty ascerbated by the fact that in this day and age, everyone can turn on the TV and see the ease and comfort Americans live in. Mexicans intent on getting jobs and caring for their families in a fragile economy are easy pickings for drug cartels.

I suppose that if wages were evened out between the US and Mexico, there would be far less poverty in Mexico and less people tempted to risk life and limb to sell drugs. If gun controls were stricter, less guns would end up in the cartel's hands, and Mexican police could control the problem with more ease. If perscription drugs were cheaper, and if doctors were more careful how they perscribed them, less people would be hooked from the start, and they wouldn't turn to illegal venus to get them. And if, if, if all this were true... maybe poor Arthur E. would still be alive.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A new book at Calderwood!

SAFETY FIRST FOR SAVVY SENIORS by Ron Smith ~ Self Help - Practical Advice
“I've fallen and I can't get up." We've seen that commercial time and time again, but for seniors it's no joke. The Home Safety Council reports that deaths from home injuries and car accidents triple for adults between the ages of sixty-five and eighty-four, and are eight times as much for those eighty-five and older. Seniors: Stay safe at home and elsewhere by following the hundreds of safety ideas contained in this book. Proven ways to prevent accidents and remain healthy.

Ron Smith, a seniors advocate, is the author of SCAMBUSTERS, SIXTY WAYS SENIORS GET SWINDLED AND HOW THEY CAN PREVENT IT, (HarperCollins, 2006) and a former columnist for a large Catholic newspaper and an Atlanta area magazine. He has appeared on the CBS Early Show in NYC, Christian TV in Atlanta, and on dozens of radio shows nationwide.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The ferret story

I was just over at Travis's blogspot and he blogged about a raccoon, and as I read the story I remembered the day I saw a big ferret in our backyard. We lived near a big woods, but still - ferrets are nocturnal usually, and this one was sniffing through the yard, right in the middle of the lawn. It didn't look quite right, and I thought maybe it was sick - perhaps with rabies!? I panicked.
My twins were about 8, and my daughter just toddling, so I grabbed the kids, (they were playing outside) shut the door, checked the windows, and called my husband to come quick and look.
He did, and said "It's a ferret."
"But it might have rabies. Look, it's heading to the house. It's on the gravel driveway now! Ohmygod - get your gun!" I can be persuasive when I want.
My husband sprinted for the gun and went outside (slowly) stalked around the corner of the house and came face to face with the ferret. He aimed the gun at the creature, who immediately waddled over to him and sat up, begging, at his feet.
My husband said he never felt so silly standing there aiming at a critter who walked right up to him and sat up. Practically stuck its nose up the gun barrel.
He put the gun down, and the ferret scrambled up his leg and cuddled under his chin. It was a pet ferret someone had lost.
My sons were estatic - and got to keep it for the three days we searched for the owner. Happy Ending - (or 'Appy Hending, as my husband would say) the owner came and got his ferret and told the boys they could come visit whenever they wanted.
Ferret went home.
Things went back to normal.
The next week, our Lab came in with a baby rabbit in her mouth.
Another pet.

Give 'em enough rope...

In their own words, the Republican 'angry white men':

On Obama: "
We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds... because his father was black." Rush Limbaugh
On the Presidency: "Can we pray for the re-election of George Bush?" Sean Hannity
On religion: "It doesn't say anywhere in the constitution this idea of the separation of church and state." Sean Hannity
On climate change: "If you believe the mainstream media hype, you'd think that every time you drive your SUV, the Earth's temperature rises six degrees." Glenn Beck
On waterboarding: "I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." Sean Hannity
On the UN: "I just wish [Hurricane] Katrina had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else, just had flooded them out, and I wouldn't have rescued them." Bill O'Reilly
On weapons of mass destruction: "If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologise to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush Administration again, all right?" Bill O'Reilly
On race: "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship." Bill O'Reilly
On Islam: "I have a number of things that I am gonna demand and one of them is that no more Muslim immigrants come into this country. No more mosques be permitted to be built in this country...and yes we need racial profiling immediately..." Michael Savage
On immigration: "You don't have the right to protest. You're allowed no demonstrations, no foreign flag waving, no political organising... you're a foreigner, shut your mouth or get out." Rush Limbaugh
On politics: "Good for you, you have a heart, you can be a liberal. Now, couple your heart with your brain, and you can be a conservative." Glenn Beck
On homosexuality: "The gay and lesbian mafia wants our children. If it can win their souls and their minds, it knows their bodies will follow. Of course, it wants to homosexualise the whole country, not just the children" Michael Savage
On feminism: "Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society." Rush Limbaugh

Compiled By Enjoli Liston

Monday, May 25, 2009

How old was that old bottle?

The manufacturer wrote back after I sent the photo - the bottle dates from the 1860's.
So it's pretty old after all - older than I thought even. (I was guessing 1930's).
It's as old as the ring I found at the flea market (1850 - date engraved in the ring) and as old as my car...(just kidding). My car is awfully old and falling apart. Lately it's started backfiring. The first time it happened my daughter panicked. I just told her the car was getting old and starting to fart. I'm hoping it will last one more year (I say that Every year).
What other appliances and things do I want to see lasting the year?
My computer. (please please please last one more year - at least - you're 6 now, that's young - you can do it!)
My refrigerator. (Yes, I know you are second hand. Yes, I know you make funny noises and suddenly get either way too hot or too cold - but I need you. Honest. You're my widdle wefwigerator *gives it a pat* Hang in there!)
My lawn mower. (It's already broken - parts of it keep falling off. But it mows - keep mowing!)
My keyboard. (I keep swearing at it and swearing I'll get a new one, but all the buttons still work, so I guess it's a keeper. For now.)
My vacuum cleaner. (I'm not really worried about it breaking, I'm worried that the filter will get so absolutely full of dust it will break, and the model is so old I won't be able to get a new filter. Filter, keep breathing!!)
My jeans. (You still fit, even if the zipper is wonky. Who cares? You don't have any holes. Keep it that way.)
My blender. (I got it for a wedding present. I have lost all the extra 'whistle and bell' accessories. But the basic blender is still there - still intact, and still working even though the speed can't be adjusted anymore (it's full speed or nothing) - it still chops, blends, mixes and makes soup. What more do I need?)
My dishwasher. (I fixed you three times. The repairman said there won't be a next time - you're old, everything is working through sheer stubborness and a refusal to break that I admire, even though your electronic panel is shot and I can't tell what cycle you're in - and you only have one cycle that works anyhow - I still think you're terrific and could you please last another year?)

What appliances are you praying will last out the year?

Friday, May 22, 2009

An old bottle

There was no message in it, just an old bottle found buried in our garden. How old is it? I have no idea - not too old - the stopper is made of rubber (natural, I think) but the bottle is made of thick, swirly glass and the letters are raised. It says EAU DES CARMES BOYER. I looked it up on the internet, and they are still selling the stuff in parmacies here in France. It's some sort of distilled plant and spice alcohol. You put a few drops on a sugar cube to take it, or dilute it in a glass of water. It's a digestive, it helps you if you've had a shock, it can give you a burst of energy (I think that's the sugar cube but then again, I'm naturally skeptical...)

I'm also curious and so I wrote a note to the manufactuerer and asked if they could date the bottle for me. They wrote back asking for a photo and I sent this one. Now I'm waiting to see how old the bottle in the garden is.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nobody said it was easy...

Cold Play is pretty hot. Love their songs. Also been listening to a bunch of Beatles things. I have a lot of work and it's nice to be able to listen to music while typing away.
I won an MP3 player at a party the other day. (Birthday party - family loves to organize 'games' - so there was pitching (golf), tennis, skeet shooting, archery and guess what - I won it at archery. I am not really good, but most of the other gals didn't want to do archery - so I gave up my tennis place for an archery shot, and won an MP3 player, which I gave to my daughter. She has good taste in music, so I took it back and use it while she's in school.
I was over at Kate R's blog and saw she had the rejection blues. Sending over some cyber hugs and tea and stuff. I hate rejections. She said silence was worse - she's right, actually. I'm waiting to hear from 3 subs and it's like they fell into some big, black hole. Silence.
Well, what I'll do is this:
Turn up the volume for the MP3 player.
Keep writing. I started another book.
I must be insane.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The United in Paranoia States of America

I was talking to a woman the other day and she mentioned that her daughter had a phobia about electric lines. The girl was afraid to be near them. She asked me if I had any unreasonable fears as a child.
"I was terrified we'd get hit by an atom bomb," I said.
I remembered the atomic bomb drills in school - everyone out of their seats, line up in the hallways, arms crossed over your head, facing the wall, while the siren wailed and teachers walked up and down the lines, pushing us closer to the wall if we were too far away. This was nothing like the fire drills. We were told that in case of an atom bomb falling, we were to close our eyes (not get blinded) and try to find a spot with no windows if we were indoors, and if outside, to seek a bomb shelter (most people were digging them in their back yards) or if none were available, find a ditch. The USA was united in its paranoia of atom bombs. I had nightmares for ages.
No small wonder the US was paranoid - after dropping two on Japan the US knew the damage they could cause, and like most paranoids, developed a strong feeling that 'everyone is out to get me'.
It's still going on. The US is convinced that everyone is out to get it, and it's now training boyscouts and girlscouts how to fight terrorists. Kids are being armed faster than child soldiers in Africa. These kids are all convinced someone is out to get them - Mexican wetbacks, Arab terrorists, or Someone. Anyone. And that's scary. Reality is being warped. At first in the US it was warped against black people, and blacks filled the prisons faster than you could say 'up agast the wall". Now it's terrorists and anyone with a slight accent or odd clothes is suspect. It's a wonder they even let planes land at all, and going through customs in the US is to begin to understand the sheer weight of their fear and paranoia. My great-aunt, in her 80s - was strip searched twice at the airport, and that was for a domestic flight.
Pretty soon no one will be safe - already so many people have guns and there are so many murders commited with guns (over 30,000 a year) that adding more (and making a whole new generation of kids paranoid about something) will just make things worse.
Welcome to the United Paranid States of America.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

all work and no play...

Since I've been doing nothing but working lately, there is not much to report.
I did take a break because it suddenly got hot and sunny this afternoon. I went to the golf club with my daughter to hit some practive balls.
Otherwise, translation, work, more work, drawing, scanning, touch-up, and I still have another drawing to do tonight due tomorrow (what am I doing on my blog??)
The boys are back in school - the longest academic strike in France's history has ended - well, mostly ended. There are still some classes missing and exams will be held later than usual.
I've been reading about the British MP's scandal - the bad ones make the good ones look really good, and the good ones ought to step up and say something, make a speech or something.
And I wish my son would quit interupting me asking 'what is for dinner?' I have no idea - I put some sweet potatos in the over and there is homemade spaghetti sauce on the stove - but I havn't gotten beyond that. The sauce was meant to be frozen for later - but maybe we'll have it tonight?
What was I talking about?
Reading newspapers (any newspaper, but today the Guardian, to be precise) usually depresses me, but it cheered me up no end to read a huge article about the first 2 years of our not-so-beloved president Sarkozy, and see him raked over the proverbial coals for two years of dreadful politics. About time. President Bling-bling is now President Barracade. Ha. He has a 32% approval rating. My husband is part of the 32%. I am now in the majority, however.
About time.

Friday, May 08, 2009

May 8th

The ceremony for the 8th of May was today. The mayor's speech was marred by the garbage truck passing through the village - the noise drowned out most of what he said, but I know the theme by heart. After the speech and the national anthem, we went to the village cemetery to lay a big bouquet of flowers on the soldiers' graves. Five English soldiers and one Australian soldier lie in the small cemetery, in a corner of their own. Their graves are impeccably kept. There are several villagers who were there the day the airplane was shot down, who helped bury the men, and who still talk about it. Last year, one of the men's brothers came to see the graves. He looked at it, shook his head, and said, "he wasn't supposed to be on that flight. He was a replacement. Lat minute.' I looked at the age. 19.
All the soldiers are so young. The eldest was 24. It's the tragedy of war, I suppose. Perhaps war should be fought by old men, the same ones who organise, plot and plan them. The worst thing about the American cemetery in Normandy are the mens' ages. All so young. It never gets easier to look at all the white crosses, with the names and ages carved in them. The names mean nothing, but the ages - they get to you. They get to everyone. Silent, striken people walk in the cemetery in Normandy - only my daughter, age 4, sang and danced through the graves. She thought they were fences.
After the ceremony in our small cemetery (a lovely place, on a small bluff with tall trees all around it) we went to the town hall for drinks and crackers, and the mayor came up to me and asked, worried, if he had pronounced the soldiers' names correctly.
"Perfectly," I said.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Just some stuff

Wednesday - school in the morning for the kids - afternoon free and most kids are members of some sort of sport club. There are athletic clubs in the schools, soccer clubs, pony clubs, rugby clubs, archery clubs...It's a rare kid who doesn't do some sort of sport on Wednesday.
My sons tried everything - karate, soccer, ping-pong, golf, riding, polo, and even rock climbing. They eventually ended up liking karate best, and stuck with it longest. My daughter is into horses, and so she spends Wednesday afternoon at the pony club. Moms are usually chauffeurs on Wednesday - and most women who work full time manage to get Wednesday afternoons off.
Today my husband and son spent the afternoon wrestling the ivy off the wall at the front of the house. 25 years of ivy growth and the damn thing had a trunk as thick as a man's thigh. It is holding the wire fence up, so the only part that came down was the one growing over the stone wall. That part of the garden wall looks strangely bare now - like someone who's just cut hip-legnth hair off and stands, bemused, in front of the mirror.
I spent the day working - and I wanted to finish, so I was peeved to have to go shopping as well. I went down to the little shop in the nearest village, the one that used to be independent and is now part of some huge chain. Prices are lower, but the produce isn't as nice, the meat isn't at all as nice, and the place looks like what you'd think one of the outer rings of Hell would have as a 7-11 shop - echoey bare spaces, glaring lights, and somehow all wrong. It used to be owned by a family and it had lots of aisles, crates holding veggies, and the nicest, jolliest butcher who would tell you exactly how long to cook his roasts, and on Christmas, would leave a little cup out with 'tips for the butcher, thanks' taped to it along with a sprig of plastic mistletoe.
I can't see that happening now.
I stuffed food in the bags I'd brought with me (stores don't hand out bags anymore - too polluting) paid and left. My daughter remarked sourly that the whole world was getting bought by big conglomerates. I don't suppose I'll find my favorite brand of Chinese noodles there anymore.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Last night I made fresh asparagus soup. I found I missed going to Germany in May for the Booklovers conference. I always had such a good time there, and it was asparagus season.
The first time I had the soup I thought there had been a mistake - they serve it with whipped cream - (not sweet - just plain cream whipped until fluffy) but I thought it was vanilla ice-cream and tried to send it back. "No, it's your soup!" insisted the waitress, so I tasted it, and it was wonderful.

recipe -
1 large bunch White asparagus (about 2 lbs)
2 or 3 spring onions (or 1 regular onion)
6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you prefer)
1 cup cream (and put some cream aside and whip it until fluffy)
fresh parsley
ground pepper
and white wine

Cut up the onion and soften it in the butter. Peel the asperagus (you must peel white asparagus! Pare the hard skin right off, and make sure there are no stringy parts left!) and cut off the tips (save the tips for later). Put the chopped asperagus in the pan and cook a few minutes. (be careful not to let the onions brown at all) Add the chicken broth and cook until the asparagus is very soft (35 minutes). Puree in a blender. Return to heat and add the tips, cook until the tips are tender. Add the cream.
Serve with a big dollop of whipped cream, a of sprinkle parsley, a dash of freshly ground black pepper, and a glass of chilled white wine!