Thursday, August 27, 2009


In case you happen to care, here is the response from Senator Murray's office. Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Dear Mrs. Totheworld:

Thank you for writing me to share your thoughts on health care reform. It is good to hear from you.

Health care reform is one of the most critical issues facing our nation. Our current health care system is unstable and unsustainable. Too many people do not have health care coverage and many of those who have coverage are worried about losing it in this uncertain economy. Businesses and families are finding it harder and harder to deal with increasing health care premiums.

In addition, Washington state family budgets cannot sustain the continual rise in health care costs and hidden taxes in the form of rising premiums to cover the uninsured. If we do not get health care costs under control, local, state and federal government budgets will have to take on the weight of rising health care costs. While health care reform may require an initial cost investment, I strongly believe that it will pay off in the long term and the cost letting the system become more unstable is much greater. Without reform to our health care system, premiums will continue to rise, coverage will become more uncertain, businesses will lose competitiveness and it will be harder for Americans to have access to care.

After months of hearings and over 50 hours of public markups, I was pleased that on July 15th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the Affordable Health Choices Act. The Affordable Health Choices Act lays out policy changes for health care reform in America. This package works to rein in health care costs with a goal of lowering them in the long term and ensure that all Americans have access to high quality, affordable health care coverage. It allows those who like their health insurance to keep it and provides options to those who do not have access to health insurance coverage.

This bill includes provisions to implement several key health insurance reforms. For example, insurance companies would no longer be able to refuse coverage to individuals due to preexisting conditions, patients' out-of-pocket expenses would be limited and all annual and lifetime caps on insurance coverage would be eliminated.

The passage of the Affordable Health Choices Act out of the HELP Committee is a major step in the longer process of health care reform. The Senate Finance Committee is also working on many aspects of health care reform and the Affordable Health Choices Act will need to be combined with this legislation in the future. The Finance Committee is expected to release their proposal soon. In addition, the House of Representatives is working on a separate version of health care reform legislation.

As the Senate moves forward on health care reform legislation, I will be weighing the many concerns that I am hearing from constituents all across Washington state. As this effort continues, I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind. You can find more information on my Website at

Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, please feel free to sign up for my weekly updates at Please keep in touch.

I hope all is well in your town.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Berry Picking

I love, love, love picking berries. This is one of the quintessential summer activities that makes me feel the season has truly turned. This summer, thanks to one intrepid friend, I've been on both blueberry and blackberry picking runs, and much bounty was found by all. There is something very satisfying about meandering through the bushes looking for the perfect sweet fruit.

On the most recent run, we were able to find plenty of free fruit at a berry patch in a local park. However, pay to pick places are never very expensive, so they make a great choice too. Remlinger Farms has u-pick berry patches all over the greater Carnation area, and the last time I checked, the berries were only about $2 per pound. This beats the pants off the $4 for a 1/2 pint in the grocery stores.

This morning, there were lovely fresh blackberries on my cereal. Tonight, there will be a decadent blackberry crumble with oat and brown sugar topping. Go find yourself some amazing fresh fruit that is actually ripe for a change. This is a limited time offer.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Great Quote #643

"I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this."

Emo Philips

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Will Make Him in My Image...

Back to school is in full swing, and we have been inundated with ads and circulars from stores hoping to cash in on the bonanza. I guess they must be trying even harder this year than usual because, just like in every other area, so many people are cutting back on their spending. Perhaps this is why we received a "Crewcuts" catalog from the J. Crew Company.

Now don't get me wrong, I have owned items from J. Crew, and I even step into their store from time to time. Mostly their clothes are too expensive for me, but I admit that they are well made. I might splurge on a coat or a sweater, especially if they are on sale, because I know the item will last for several years. However, the same cannot be said for kids’ clothes.

This crewcuts catalog is entirely for kids, and it is both hilarious and ridiculous. For obvious reasons, kids cannot wear the same clothes for years on end (unless, of course, you have a serious hand-me-down economy working at your house). Therefore, spending huge amounts of money on their clothes is a foolish waste.

Not only that, but the fashions in this catalog are so stuffy, and the materials so easily damaged that kids would be prevented from running and playing as they should. Who wants to stomp through mud puddles in their $148 Italian leather shoes? How about climbing a tree in your $98 silk skirt? I'm sure some kids do manage to sneak out and play in these clothes, but then they have to endure the shrieking from Mom about dry-cleaning bills when they go home.

But the worst, the very worst, part about this catalog is not the silly fabrics or even the extreme prices. The worst part is the "mini-me" quality to the fashions. Kids do not belong in cashmere cardigan sweaters with silk shantung shells underneath. They do not need wool blazers, or silk ties, or HERRINGBONE DRIVING CAPS! They are not going to cocktail parties or boardroom meetings! They are KIDS for goodness sake!

Pardon me if I've become a bit shrill. I think all my years teaching in the upper crust may be getting to me. Besides, I don't actually have any kids, so I shouldn't judge. Perhaps if I ever do, I will suddenly feel an overwhelming urge to buy them cashmere sweaters, white wool peacoats, and Italian suede boots. Yeah, and pigs wearing $165 silk dresses might suddenly learn to fly.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Sleep Less Gene?

It seems that scientists are on the trail of a genetic mutation that makes a person require less sleep. A major sleep study came up with two women who just naturally need only about six hours a night. The authors were quick to point out that, unlike millions of other people, these two are actually fully rested after the shorter night's sleep. I wish, wish, wish I had this gene.

Think what a jump you would have on the rest of the world if you only needed four or six hours and then woke up fully rested. You could work, read, exercise, socialize, or do any number of other things, and still be bright-eyed when it was time for the rest of the world to wake up. Now that would be a mutation to be proud of.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Les Paul Dead

What you've never heard of Les Paul? You are probably still a fan without even realizing it. Name the major event in the history of Rock, and he, or one of his guitars, was almost certainly there. When I took The History of Rock in college (yes really) we learned about all his innovations to the electric guitar. He is credited with giving the instrument its "unholy" sound. One of his early converts was Buddy Holly, and there were many more to come. I guess we can't be too sorry for his loss since 94 years is a pretty good run.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The End and The Beginning

Summer has been so relaxing, so rejuvenating, and so simply glorious that I have been very much not wanting to see it come to an end. Sure, I've done quite a few errands, appointments, and house chores, but I've also spent a lot of time doing exactly as I please. Who wouldn't want to take a couple months off like this? Nevertheless, all good things must pass.

Yesterday I went to school for the very first time since went got out in June. I'm not actually required there for another week yet, but I prefer to ease into these things, and so I made a brief visit. I was pleased to note that my head did not explode as I walked through the doors. All that relaxation has worked its magic, and I really am somewhat prepared to get stuck in once more.

On the first day all I did was say "hello" to the office staff, pick up my keys, and head off to my classroom. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the custodians did not pile all my furniture into a leaning tower of horror (as they do some years when they clean the carpets). Everything was pushed to one side, but that was all. I did a little unpacking, and taking down of dust covers, but I only stayed for a couple of hours.

Today, I went and covered my bulletin boards with bright sari fabrics, and managed to not fall of the various precarious perches I used to do the job. Braving the spaghetti of cables and cords, I managed to set up one computer, but I still have seven more to go. I also ran out for lunch with a friend which seemed very decadent of us, but when we got back I saw that only an hour had passed. I am jealous of those people who always get an hour for lunch!

Tomorrow is more of the same. Bit by bit I'm getting closer to feeling comfortable about the start of the new year. I must confess that a small part of me is even finding a bit of that old enthusiasm, and hopefully that will carry me through.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Speaking Your Piece

For what it's worth, below is a copy of the email I sent to one of my state senators. I don't have any illusions about it actually being read by the senator, but I'm hoping that some lacky will put a check mark in the "pro universal healthcare" collumn as he or she sifts through the day's emails.

Dear Senator Murray,

I will keep this simple. Seeing all the yelling and screaming and carrying on in the news about healthcare reform, I feel the need to try and balance out at least one of those loonies. It is essential that we create a system of universal health care in the United States. I believe this is one of the single most significant issues of our times, and it is so important that this issue not fall by the proverbial wayside.

My husband and I have excellent health coverage due to our employment in public education and a major corporation. However, not all members of my family are so lucky, and it makes me ill to think that a person can work as hard as humanly possible throughout their lifetime, and still end up being financially ruined by a health crisis that occurs before they reach medicare age.

I am strongly in favor of a federal healthcare system, and I vote in every single election. Fight, Senator Murray; fight hard.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Camano Island Camping

Over the last weekend, we did our annual camping trip to celebrate the birthday of Elder Niece. This time we visited Camano Island State Park, and found it to be a highly enjoyable destination for car campers. Our sight was on the upper loop, and it was roughly 200 ft from the edge of the bluff. The only thing between us and a view of the water was a stand of tall trees and a cliffside trail.

One night we watched the moon rise above the trees. There was singing around the campfire, and writing activities such as circular poetry and madlibs also filled the gaps. One day we walked along the shore and turned over the rocks to look at all the little crabs underneath. The nieces know how to catch these little creatures without getting pinched, and they carried several around in empty clam shells. There was also a "serious" game of wiffleball in one of the clearings, and I learned that I am still not good at playing sports.

Not only do they have camping at Camano, but also cabins. It turns out that the park has a little village with units that can be rented out year-round for quite reasonable rates. Reservations can be made up to 18 months in advance, so I am already thinking about a return trip. I would certainly recommend the place for a weekend away.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vampire List

It seems that Entertainment magazine has a feature about the recent success of the vampire genre. On the whole, I thought it was fairly boring coverage (I read it at the gym I swear!), but the list of the top twenty made for interesting reading. There's is from most important to least.

1. Lestat, Interview With the Vampire
2. Christopher Lee’s Dracula
3. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula
4. Edward Cullen, Twilight
5. Bill and Eric, True Blood
6. Asa Vajda, 1960’s Black Sunday
7. Angel
8. Mr. Barlow, Salem’s Lot
9. Schuyler Van Alen, Melissa de la Cruz’s Blue Bloods series
10. Gary Oldman’s Dracula
11. Klaus Kinski’s Dracula
12. Zoey Redbird, P.C. and Kristin Cast’s House of Night series
13. Jean-Claude, Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series
14. David, 1987’s The Lost Boys
15. Miriam Blaylock and Sarah Roberts, 1983’s The Hunger
16. Blade, the Blade trilogy
17. Eli, 2008’s Let the Right One In
18. Countess Bathory, 1971’s Daughters of Darkness
19. Selene, the Underworld trilogy
20. Caleb and Mae, 1987’s Near Dark

Now I must confess that I am not familiar with all of these characters (hey, I'm not totally obessed!), but a few of them are favorites of mine. I certainly prefer the sexy vampires to the horrific ones. For what it's worth, here are ten of my favorite vampire characters in no particular order:

1. Lestat (of Rice's Interview fame)
2. Edward Cullen (of Meyer's Twilight)
3. Bill Compton (of Harris' Southern Vampire series)
4. Angel (of Buffy fame)
5. Spike (also of Buffy fame, but deserving his own number)
6. Dracula (how could you not include him?)
7. Nicholas Knight (of Forever Night)
8. Barnabas Collins (of Dark Shadows)
9. Nosferatu (because you have to give a nod to the pioneers)
10. Lord Ruthven (of Polidori's The Vampyre --- if only because it was the origin of the sophisticated vampire)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Bad Gardener

Earlier this summer, I happened to pick up some flowers in hopes of adding color to our back yard (aka the dirt patch). One combination I thought was quite fetching was a pair of young dahlias in striking shades of red and white. I planted them together in a single pot, and, for a time, enjoyed the two different colors of flowers and their fresh green foliage.

Not long ago, I happened to be sitting in the yard when it occurred to me that the pot of dahlias looked different somehow. It was still beautiful and full of blossoms, but now they were all red. Now some kinds of plants can change the colors of their flowers based on soil conditions and other factors. However, I'd never heard of dahlias being able to make a change. I pondered the question several times as I watered the garden over the next few days, but the color change remained a mystery.

Finally, one day last week, I found my answer. While bending in to pinch off wilted blooms, I noticed the skeleton of one plant all but eclipsed by the first. It seems that the white plant died without my even noticing, and then the red grew in to fill the space. This is how observant a gardener I am! This could be why our garden always looks sort of scraggly and under-loved. Ah well, at least I didn't kill them both.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Signs of Summer in the PNW

One of the most memorable sights of summer for me has always been garter snakes. They are common where we grew up in Oregon, and my brothers and I used to catch them all the time. We never did anything with them except to keep them in a bucket for a few hours in order to admire them. There are many stories about the escapades of Elder Brother and his pet snakes, but I don't think I will get into that here. This pic was taken at my dad's house earlier this year. However, garter snakes are also common up here. This one raised it's head a bit and looked at us (Elder Niece and I) while we took the picture.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I Hate Barbie Dolls

In breaking news (okay maybe not this very instant) it seems that the Mattel company, in its endless quest to make questionable choices, has found a fabulous new update for the Barbie doll line. Say "hello" to the Totally Stylin' Tattoo Barbie! She's now available from fine retailers. Your young child can choose from the many adorable tattoos to decorate her doll according to her taste.

For example, your little darling might choose the pink butterfly for her arm, or perhaps the name of Barbie's boyfriend as a "tramp stamp" on her lower back. Some might argue that these are supposed to be temporary tattoos, but that is not clear from the name or the packaging. I know, I know I sound like an old lady to be complaining about this, but I can't help myself. Yes, I suppose people should have the right to choose if they will have a tattoo or not, but I don't think they need to start contemplating that personal dilemma when they are four years old.