bunt sign

Wednesday, February 28, 2001

My old neighbor Grady called me the other day to say that some of my mail was there, at the former Home Office. Apparently the post office hasn't been forwarding everything, and since tax season is coming up, I stopped by yesterday to pick it. Unfortunately, I missed Grady, but he always leaves his door open and I knew where he left my stuff.

When I talked to him, he bragged that he was down to 302 pounds. "That means I lost 127 pounds," he told me. I had no idea he'd ever weighed that much, although when I think about it, it doesn't seem so surprising. I didn't have to ask how he did it, though. He was in the hospital for four months, with one complication after another, so that by the time he was released he didn't even remember what he'd gone in for in the first place.

It couldn't have been too shocking, though, that someone with that severe a weight problem would have a number of health issues. He was back in Los Angeles over the weekend, at the UCLA medical center, to see his doctors and get a progress report. They've given him the best news he could hope for, that he's improving as they expected.

I called and told him I'd make a point to stop by when he's there so I can see him. He's a fragile person, for such a big guy, and even though he seems to have a lot of friends, it means a lot whenever someone visits. He's a good-hearted person and deserves some consideration. I've been neglectful, busy with so many other things, but I wouldn't feel right if I didn't make the effort.

I really tried to keep an open mind as I watched President Bush's speech last night, but I found that I couldn't get past the distrust I have for him and the antagonism I feel for his policies. He's not a dynamic speaker, and I found myself once again missing the presence of his predecessor. At least with Clinton, I was never bored.

On the other hand, it was almost like listening to a Democrat talk. He was promising everyone blue sky and a full moon, without explaining how such a phenomenon was possible. I think there might have been more points I agreed with than those I didn't, but since he gave no details, it's hard to be enthusiastic about what might really happen.

The Bush tax cut is a typical reward-the-rich scheme, the kind that didn't work in the Reagan years, except for the fat cats who were able to get fatter. I realize I'm naturally suspicious of anything he proposes, so I'm willing to wait to hear exactly what substance comes out of all this rhetoric. But it looks as if people who don't need help are going to get a lot more than people who do.

I'm suspicious of faith-based social programs, school vouchers and teaching for testing. Nothing Bush said last night convinced me that he was right and I was wrong about these issues. His speech was long on catch phrases and buzzwords, short on logic and evidence. That'll have to come out in the debates ahead, if it exists.

It's up to all Americans to keep on top of the issues important to them and let their representatives in Washington know their views. Letting Congress and the president move ahead with controversial measures without giving them our input is irresponsible. It's the equivalent of giving up the right to vote, and it's not how a democratic republic should work.

birds, tree

I'm actually more interested in the science pages of the paper lately than the political section. Monday the Chronicle had an article about how baboons, even in a society where food and sex are plentiful (and after all, what else is there?), create tension and stress for themselves.

Even when there's plenty for all, the higher-ranking animals in the group will harass those with lower status, in subtle ways such as body language, and more overtly by forcing weaker members to the fringes of the group. And worry about status takes a physical toll even on those in top positions.

They also measured levels of stress hormones in laboratory rats, but I thought that was a little too close to home. I mean, trapped in a cage, running in circles trying to scratch out a living — all that's missing is weak coffee, slow dial-up connections, and hanging chads.

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And inside very turning leaf
Is the pattern of an older tree,
The shape of our future,
The shape of all our history.