Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Physics lesson

Welcome to my TED Talk.

Force equals mass times acceleration.

Wear your seatbelt.

Every object in a state of uniform motion will remain in that state of motion unless an external force acts on it.

Do not text while driving.  Just don’t.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Leave a good distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you.

Newton’s Laws of Motion are true and cannot be repealed.

Do not, do not, do not drive while under the influence of a mind-altering substance.  Whether that’s alcohol, pot, antihistamine, opioids, or your mother-in-law’s comments, just don’t.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

* * * * * * * *

Please do not tell my mother about this.  I will tell her at the right time.

On an average day in the US, there are about 18,000 car crashes.  On Monday, I was in one of them.  On an average day in the US, there are about 90 fatal car crashes.  On Monday, I was not one of them. I walked away without a scratch.  Just achy, and very, very grateful.

The force with which the car hit me (from behind) felt stunning and sudden.  But the airbag did not deploy, so maybe it was not that large a force, in the grand scheme of Newton’s Physics Rules.  It felt pretty damn forceful, and it pushed my car into the opposing lane of traffic.  That lane was empty, so I did not get hit twice.  The other driver was not hurt physically, at least as far as I saw.
One of the few photos I have of my car intact.
Mine is the maroon car, third from the front.

One more photo, from back in February, moving
my son back home.  This is such a great car for me.

I do not think that God intended for this crash to happen, nor do I think that a car crash is a good thing.  But I do see some of the hand of God in this:  the hand of God that created the human ingenuity and the political will to invent and implement: 
·      seat belts
·      car bumpers
·      headrests/whiplash preventers
·      fire departments with large brooms to sweep up glass and metal shards
·      taxpayers who pay local taxes to support a trained Emergency Medical Team, trained police force, and trained fire department, with adequate equipment to handle car crashes
·      technology to make 911 calls possible
·      a church full of people to pray for me and the other driver
·      a gas tank that does not automatically explode on impact
·      windows, through which an observer in the nearby school could see the whole thing happen and who then came to me before any emergency officials arrived, to check on me and give me a hug, and waited around to give a statement to police.

Thoroughly smashed up. 
* * * * * * * *

A few other observations

O Best Beloved, do not become too fond of thy car.  You never know when someone will smash it to smithereens. 

After the crash, I could not stop shaking.  My husband told me afterwards that the shaking was probably an element of being in shock. 

I found out that the fire department was not particularly necessary for this incident, but the fire station was in a training period.  So this car crash was used for practice.  You done good, fire fighters!   Never have the shards from a car crash been swept up more quickly and thoroughly.

A friend tells me that air bags do not usually deploy in a rear-end collision.  Which makes that seat belt even more important.  Please refer to my TED Talk above.

It still looks pretty good from the front.

But it's all jumbled up in the back.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Promises, Promises

The promise made to us was that we Americans would be able to file our taxes on a form the size of a postcard.  Well.  It’s no surprise that this was a lie.

What a joke the new form is. It’s as if the purveyors of this tax scam took all the lines of the previous tax form, threw them up in the air and let them fall haphazardly on their dirty trickle-down floor.  Then they swept the lines into random piles, and pasted some of them onto six or seven new itty-bitty half-pages of forms.  They made sure to leave out the lines for your exemptions. The 1040 has turned into a monstrous pile of numbered “Schedules”. 

I knew the old 1040 form better than the back of my AGI.  For simpler returns than mine, we already had the 1040A and the 1040EZ.  Why go mucking it up by destroying the old mainstay 1040?   Just so you could say you shrank it to a postcard?  5” x 8” - that’s a mighty big postcard, Paul Ryan.

Last year our return had 5 forms; this year we have 9 forms.  Instead of my self-employment income getting its own line (copied once from Schedule C) it is like an afterthought, jammed into a little space where you can easily forget to add it in.  My self-employment income is downright insulted.  Maybe to make up for that, they made me copy that number to three different places.

This reveals the High Muckety-Mucks’ assumption: they assume the average mortal is not able to do her own tax return and turns it over to a software program or a paid tax preparer.  Well, I do it myself and it used to make sense to me.  This year it was needlessly complicated.  I generally don’t object to paying taxes, but I do object to having to jump through hoops to file and pay.

Welcome to this Brave New World.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

First lines: January-February 2019 edition

Lift every voice and sing

Below are the first lines of the books I finished reading in January and February.  Several of them were books that I read in February, in honor of Black History Month.

Book 1
If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “I am spiritual but not religious,” then I might not be any wiser about what that means – but I would be richer.

Book 2
Yeongdo, Busan, Korea

History has failed us, but no matter.

At the turn of the century, an aging fisherman and his wife decided to take in lodgers for extra money.

Book 3
When I was a child, my ambition was to be pope.  I remember watching the funeral of John XXII and asking my mother, “Who was that man?”

Book 4
In honor of my dear, beloved friend Reb Sholem Aleichem, may God grant you health and prosperity together with your wife and children, and may you have great fulfillment whatever you do and wherever you go.  Amen. Selah!

Book 5
Four young girls busily prepared for their big day.  It was September 15, 1963, the day of the “Youth Day” Sunday service at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and the girls, along with the other young people of the congregation, would spend the next few hours singing songs, reciting poems, praying, and giving encouraging messages in front of hundreds of beaming parents.

Book 6
A Movement
There’s something moving inside the walls of my body.  It’s tiptoeing across the high arches of my feet, break-dancing on my kneecaps, running figure eights around my hips as if they’re orange cones at recess, skipping up my sides, and climbing up to my shoulders’ peaks before swinging across my chest, back and forth, to a steady beat.

Book 7
The fate of America – or at least of white America, which was the only America that seemed to count – was at stake.  On the autumn evening of Thursday, October 7, 1948, South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond, the segregationist Dixiecrat candidate for president of the United States, addressed a crowd of one thousand inside the University of Virginia’s Cabell Hall in Charlottesville.  The subject at hand:  President Harry S. Truman’s civil rights program, one that included anti-lynching legislation and protections against racial discrimination in hiring.

The titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, by Barbara Brown Taylor.  © 2009.
Brown Taylor takes us through a series of spiritual practices, such as The Practice of Paying Attention, The Practice of Wearing Skin, The Practice of Saying No.  I already need to re-read it. 

Book 2
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee.   © 2017.  
Fictional history of a Korean family living under colonialism in Japan, a topic I know little about.   I read it for book club.  The characters and plot were intriguing and sympathetic.  But when it got to the fourth generation of the family, I was done and wanted the book to end.

Book 3
The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus, by Amy-Jill Levine.  
© 2006.    
My second reading of this book.  The basic point is: don’t set up Judaism to be the foil to prove Christianity virtuous.  Christians must realize the polemic nature of the gospels and other New Testament writings.      

Book 4
Tevye the Dairyman by Sholem Aleichem, Translated from the Yiddish by Aliza Shevrin.  
Sholem Aleichem is the pen name of Sholem Rabinovitch (1859-1916). This translation first published in 2009.  The “Tevye der milkhiker” monologues were written (in Yiddish) in 1894-1910. 

The stories are the basis for “Fiddler on the Roof.”  The stories are not always the same – some quite sad ones have been left out of the musical.   The main purpose of women in this society is to get married.  Tevye’s main goal is to not become emotional like a woman, and he keeps repeating that phrase, which got annoying.  But overall, Tevye is an amusing character.

Book 5
The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, by Jemar Tisby.  © 2019.   
This book sought to address a particular audience - American Christians - on a difficult topic.  It's an important effort to make.  The book helped me understand the complicity and hypocrisy of early Europeans, in how evangelism in the American colonies was entangled with colonization and paternalism. However, I felt the book was short on concrete examples of racism in the modern church and also short on explaining structural racism.  Yes, we need it spelled out for us, because our definition of racism for years has been that it is an action by one person against another, and it is very hard (for some of us) to see the racism in how a system operates.  An example from the news just yesterday:  Minorities Likely To Receive Less Disaster Aid Than White Americans.  Certainly the American church has been complicit in racism, both in history and today.  The book does offer some ideas on how the church can move forward away from complicity.

Book 6
Calling My Name, by Liara Tamani, © 2017.  Young Adult novel.  
The author is an African-American writer of Young Adult fiction. This was a coming of age story of a girl in Texas making her way through school and church and teen angst.  It seems to portray well the crushing insecurity and budding power of adolescence, and the repercussions of how teens act on that insecurity and power.  There was some portrayal of racism, but mostly the point is made, once again, of how girls and women bear the brunt of the consequences of both male and female actions.

Book 7
The Soul of America:  The Battle for our Better Angels, by Jon Meacham, © 2018.   
Meacham tries to calm our souls by proving that America’s democracy has been through perilous times before and has survived.  He says that what brings us through is ordinary citizens stepping up to protect democracy, and leaders doing the right thing.  Furthermore, US democracy has been far from perfect, and mostly undemocratic for a large portion of its people.  But, I ask, have we ever been in such a time as this, with a fiercely polarized electorate, a kleptocratic autocracy-admiring president, and a complicit Senate who exists simply to rubber-stamp the destruction of democracy envisioned by the Liar-in-Chief?  I was not overwhelmingly convinced that American democracy will pull through.  We have met the enemy of democracy, and it is us.  We have met the savior of democracy and it is us.

“When we are dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019 what did we do to make sure we kept democracy intact?  Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?”  -  U.S. Rep Elijah Cummings, Feb 27, 2019 

As always, I like to hear what you are reading these days.