Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Some recent thoughts

It looks like the Delta Queen is in trouble - though she has a steel hull, she is an older riverboat with a wooden superstructure, and she may soon be denied certification to carry more than 50 people at a time for overnight. If that happens, she will be out of business as a cruise ship. This really saddens me. I've never gotten to ride on board her, but like many people who live in the Ohio River Valley, I took several paddleboat rides as a girl. It's quieter than you'd think, and a lovely way to see the small towns along the river, many of which depend to a certain extent on tourism. Our school picnics would often involve packing a lunch for each student and then going by steamboat to a historically significant town to learn about the local history. While we could certainly not have afforded to ride the Delta Queen, those who could helped support the local economies up and down the river. (Plus, well, a girl can dream...)

Plus, my own family has a bit of history with the Delta Queen. I had an uncle who was a salvage and rescue diver in the Mississippi. He once helped untangle the Delta Queen from a bit of difficulty, and got to ride her, even dining with the captain. Another uncle used to watch her glide by and would dream of the music he could hear from her deck. The music of the riverboats inspired him to become a musician himself, and to this day, he loves the music of the river.


Christine, over at Quiet Paths, got me laughing with the lolcats translation of the Bible. Which is Just Wrong, about as bad as a poem by Catullus that my husband and I still sometimes bring up*, but there you are. One of the things it got me thinking about, however, is the amount of commentary that winds up happening just by interpreting a text. I've done some actual original translation from Latin - and no, not just that standard text for students, De Bello Gallico, but the coronation charter of Henry II of England, one of the documents the writers of the Magna Carta looked to. That particular text is dry and succinct, yet out of the spare prose, I found more than enough material to realize how important a careful translation was.

How much more so the Bible, in which poetry, ancient law, and tribal history are all jumbled together? And yet we have people insisting that the 10 Commandments be posted on every possible surface - which translation? Whose interpretation? Actually, whose count? Jews, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and some Protestants all have different counts on which bits go where. And that's without asking which enumeration from the text...

She's also got some thoughts on this. Go check it out.

* Most people, especially those who, like our Latin professor at the time, enjoy Catullus, translate the opening bit as "Oh, sparrow". Let's just say our translation began "Yo, birdie" and leave it at that, shall we?


My mom wrote to me about my post on the social work code of ethics, saying that it's a shame more people don't have an awareness of what social workers do, that anyone can need a social worker at some point, and I began thinking about that: perhaps the reason some people are so negative is simply fear. So many fears are related to our own sense of helplessness. We are afraid of being sick, of being old, of being helpless - we want to believe that we can do it ourselves, thank you. Since early childhood, we're taught to be strong and independent, and people who serve perhaps remind us that we aren't as strong and alone as we like to think.


Oh, and go check out Finding Salihah. Salihah has been busy herself lately, so she hasn't updated for a little bit, but her blog is well worth reading, with lots of humor and intelligence. Her account of changing her brakes had me laughing out loud. I'm just lucky I hadn't been sipping something, or I would have had a clean-up job on my hands.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Okay, it's official: I have no idea what color the sky is in George Will's world. First, he is shocked, shocked, shocked that anyone would have the ego it takes to write for thousands of strangers... without being paid by major news organizations, that is.

Now, he's insulted my mom and I'm unamused. Usually, when people ask, I say my mom's a shrink. Folks know what that means and it gives a reasonably accurate picture of about half of what she does. Then I mention that she does a lot of the business thinking behind the Rural Health Clinic that she and my dad run. Sometimes, I even slip in that she does a great deal of education about Rural Health Clinics...

If more people knew what social workers do, I could just say that she's a Psychiatric Social Worker and be done. I know a lot about what Social Workers do, and even I couldn't give you the full list. Mostly, when I used to say that my mom is a social worker, I'd get people assuming that she worked for some state agency or another, dealing with people nobody else wants to. And while lots of social workers do exactly that, it's not the end-all, be-all of the profession. Just ask my mom.

Anyway, George Will just noticed that it's mostly people who don't mind working with marginalized members of society who go on to become social workers. No joke? You think? Er... I wonder if Mr. Will knows anything at all about the history of Social Work. Like that it has been Progressive from the start, even Liberal, before that was a bad word. Like that the whole idea of the profession is helping people that our current illiberal society has banished to the margins. Like that it's not a coincidence that my mom is in rural Appalachia, working for people who otherwise would not have access to mental health care. It is not a coincidence that she regards part of her job as making sure that others understand the inequities in our current system of health care. It is totally not a coincidence that my mom puts her energy where her mouth is.

And to clarify: she does this in Appalachia. Many of the people she works with/for are socially conservative. She is not requiring anyone to sign on to any letters of protest. Instead, she's out there, living her deeply held religious beliefs day by day.

The problem, Mr. Will, is not that liberals or progressives go around brainwashing any conservatives they can find who want to be social workers, any more than it's that conservatives go around brainwashing liberals who might want to be stock brokers. (Although you don't want to know the kind of grief a friend of mine took going through business school as a liberal.) It's that you don't seem to think a concern for justice or for marginalized members of society is compatable with conservatism.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

One Deep Breath: closeness

breathe the air
cool autumn evening
My ancestors stand here with me.

Once again, after a long day of hiking around solar homes, then through the museum of natural history, my husband and I headed out to be volunteer "question answerers" for the local astronomy club's outreach star party. We pointed out the Swan, Casseopea, the Big Dipper lying low in the sky, and showed folks how to find the North Star using the Big Dipper.

One of the things I love about doing this is knowing that people have been looking at the stars and thinking about them, telling stories about them for a very long time. We look up at those slowly dancing lights and are swept away by them. And there, in the moment that we are swept away, we are in the company of every other soul swept into that cosmic dance, I think.

Dipper rides low
Stargazers watch an old dance
You hold my hand

Labels: ,


My car has been hit again, a month after the last time. Again I was rear-ended, although this time much less severely, by a car that misjudged the stopping distance on a rainy street. *sigh*

Luckily, this time the car is driveable, and the only damage appears to be to the bumper. Meh.

I'm really looking forward to taking the train in a month and a half.

More solar home thoughts

Yesterday, my husband and I headed back to the Solar Decathlon with his brother. And once again, I found myself wondering: there is no interest in alternative energy by whom? The place was even more crowded this week than last, with some lines extending for longer than you'd expect at a carnival midway. In fact, the line for the winning house extended for approximately a city block, maybe more. Even the lower ranked homes, however, had lines that wrapped around for a good space. The information booths were crowded with people asking questions and waiting for the informational presentations.

And these were for houses that topped out at 800 square feet, for houses that were designed to work even without a connection to the electrical grid. Many of the ideas embodied were ideas that have been around for decades, with mostly disdain from the folks who *insist* that we would rather be beholden to Big Oil and Big Coal for as long as they will last. (And who will often insist that our technology for finding and exploiting more difficult reserves will keep improving without significant cost.)

I was disappointed that the house I was personally cheering for did not achieve a better ranking, but think that that may have been because I was drawn to a simpler design than most. The design was straightforward and easily taken care of. It was also essentially a mobile home - fully portable, though what I was drawn to was the kitchen - open, breezy, full of light and air. But it didn't have some of the zippier features that other houses had (some of which looked pretty, but difficult to take care of)

But though such a house might not have the most interesting new "toys", I think this is the direction to go in bringing alternative energy sources to most homes. Most people do not want to be faced with a complex array of switches when they go to look at the fuse box - they want a nice numbered diagram telling them which one is connected to the plate their toaster is plugged into. Nor (as one design had it) do they want to go outside to check on the electrical system, particularly since problems have a nasty habit of happening during storms, freezes, and other unpleasantness.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Listen to the jingle, the rumble, and the roar...

My husband and I are planning a visit to his grandmother, who lives half the country away. Given limited vacation time, I thought that we'd have to go by plane, but when I checked Amtrak's website, I found that there is a daily express train that runs overnight. Woot! And it's cheaper than the other train options, and even taking a sleeping compartment is cheaper for the two of us than going by air.

Good. Every time I hear someone complain about the cost of going by train, or complain that the government is supporting rail travel, I want to ask what would become of auto travel or of flying if the cost of fuel and highways weren't so heavily subsidized. And even then: It's cheaper for us to travel first class by train than it is cattle class by plane. And we can stretch out, walk around, enjoy a dinner that isn't an expensive yet stale sandwich and drink. We can go to the lounge car if we want to meet people. We don't have to show our shampoo and toothpaste to someone. (In fact, shampoo is provided by the train for those in sleeper arrangements.)

So, we'll be on a mini vacation: head over to the train station in the afternoon - maybe grab some juice or pastries in the first class lounge, board the train and settle into our tiny compartment. (We'll be in what was once known as a standard sleeper, now called a "roomette".) We'll have dinner and breakfast reservations, access to shower and bathroom facilities, a picture window and table, and, of course, bunks. We can watch America go by out that window, play cards, sing train songs ... After figuring out that we *could* take the train, I went around the apartment singing "Wabash Cannonball," "City of New Orleans," and other train songs.

No security lines, no having to unpack and repack because some guard caught sight of embroidery scissors I forgot to remove from my craft bag. (Or having one guard decide that 2-inch embroidery scissors are fine, just to have them confiscated on the return trip. Meh.) No being told I can't wait for my husband to catch up. No having to take off my shoes and outer clothing. No having to worry about arriving 2 hours early - 1/2 an hour if you want to check luggage through so it has time to get on board... And, let's face it, train stations look nicer than airports, and at least the one in D.C. has better food choices. Plus, it's much more easily accessible by public transit than the airports...

So I'm definitely looking forward to the chug of the engine, the rattle of the rails, and that lonesome whistle in the night.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Compassion and public policy

A bunch of stuff has come together recently for me, regarding how we do healthcare in this country.

Some friends on an email list I belong to (composed mostly of people who do historic reenactments in my area) are celebrating the successful removal of a tumor from one of our members. At the same time, the online bluegrass station I listen to is advertizing a fundraising concert - a well-known bluegrass artist needs surgery, and has no insurance, so other musicians are holding a fund-raising concert for him.

And last night, a friend of mine sat at her parents' dining room table, with health benefit plans spread out before her, trying to determine what plan she could afford to have, given other financial obligations (like rent, car, food...) on her entry level pay. And I thought about the fact that if she gets ill enough to really need the upper limits of even the modest plan she chose in the end, she'll lose that coverage, because she won't be able to work. I find myself worrying about whether she can afford the copays that the plan she went with asks for.

Where is the compassion? My friend is a young writer, working a service job to pay the bills and writing on her off time. I've gotten a chance to read some of her stories, and they are imaginative, with creative ideas constantly bubbling away. The world would be a poorer place without her, yet basic needs like access to health care will remain a struggle for a while.

Another friend struggles to find employment at all, even as she wrestles with a call to service. And without employment, she must worry about her health because health is linked to employment in our country, even as the wealth disparity grows, and more and more people fall out of our health care system.

On the radio, I hear big corporations complaining that American business has to carry the cost of healthcare, a situation that exists in none of the other industrialized nations. And I wonder if it's even compassion that's needed, so much as common sense. I wonder if people think about the fact that diseases which start out among the poor have historically reached out even to homes of wealth and privilege.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sadness in the craft store

I like to create. I like to write stories and poems. I like to do art - drawing, painting, even sculpture. I even like to cook. And I really, really like to make things with string - sewing, weaving, knitting, crochet, braiding...

So I wind up going into craft stores. I prefer it when I can go into little craft stores, but a big one is a block from my office, and I really, really wanted a larger crochet hook for the baby washcloth. So I stopped in. And headed straight back to the fiber arts section, without even *looking* at the Japanese papers. But once I had gotten my hook from the corner it was hidden in (what *is* it that the knitting stuff is featured prominantly, but you've got to be Sherlock Holmes to crochet?) I found myself looking around at the yarn. And that was when I spotted it.

Camo yarn with *pink*. I mean, it's not like I don't know how camouflage yarn could be used: I spent a while looking for wool yarn that was sand colored a little less than a year ago. But the only possible use I can think of for pink camo is to say to kids Isn't this Cool? Don't you want to have Cool stuff, and be patriotic? And what's more patriotic than signing up for whatever dumb war we get into this week?


Boy, am I glad I'm not going to have to go back for a little while.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Solar homes tour

Woot! Just got back from the solar homes on the National Mall, and I'm blown away. The lines were long, so we weren't able to tour all of them... And they shut the one for Kansas down for judging right after we finished going through. It was incredible. I really hope the judges take note of the beauty of that particular house. I started out wanting to see it because of its compact, mobile design, but found myself wishing I could stay, take a sit-down on the sofa, and maybe try to whip up some dinner in the lovely kitchen. They'd even included a small herb garden out on the porch, with a built in bench near the entry to the kitchen. Stick a small porch swing on there, and it would be ideal. The views were fantastic, including a small window at just above ground level in the living room, to watch wildlife on the prairie.

I found a comment of someone waiting in line near me to be fascinating, however. She didn't think anyone would live in "such small houses". First of all, my own apartment is right at the size limit for those houses, and is much less well designed. Secondly, most of the homes were designed for expansion, with the University of Colorado intending to expand theirs to over 2,000 feet after the competition, and the University of Illinois providing a model to show how their modules could be expanded up to a 4-bedroom house. And finally, I wanted to ask her how she thought my grandparents had raised 10 children in a house only half again as big as those on display...

Gee, do you think our monster houses might have something to do with the level of inactivity in this country? (Though I also cheerfully admit to looking at the Kansas house and thinking that I could curl up fairly cozily in that living room and watch thundershowers roll across the plains...)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Back on track with the banjo

Well, for those following along: we've got our car back, almost as good as new. (I could have done without the "new car" scent bomb, however.)

And yesterday, I threw the banjo in the backseat and headed to lessons. Last week and the week before had been difficult - I was still nearly shaking from the accident the week before, and my skills were therefore not at their sharpest... Last week was better, but still not even remotely close to where I had been. Then last night, not only did I make a major breakthough in sight reading - as in, I could actually read the notes as I went, but I also smoothed out a passage that had been rough *before* the accident. So I was playing better - not just catching up to where I'd been before, and that felt so incredibly good. Also, I played the scales just a smidge faster, I think, and kept that little jump between the E and the F sharp smooth.

And I requested "Red River Valley" to learn soon - telling the story of singing it with my dad while he was stationed in Iraq. Not only requested it, but actually sang it - with another human being not actually related to me in the same room. And just as I finished singing, the rain came. I drove home carefully on the rain slick streets, singing as I went.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Simple Pleasures: One Deep Breath

Hot apple cider
Sweet, spicy memories
Auntie's ginger crisps

Wool pulls through my hands,
Familiar texture, rhythm
Joyful creation

Hot day shade, rest
Watching guppies in the crick

Stomp, stomp, crunching leaves.
We are dinosaurs today
Or maybe giants...

Watching bats fly stunts
As evening gathers round
Stars twinkle hello.

Hot soup, with noodles
And toast, all broken up
Just the right way.

Warm springs bath
Muscles stretch, become water
Don't want to get out

Skirts kilted up
Barefoot in the bubbling crick
Sand between my toes

Labels: , ,

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A trip to the warm springs

Well, we day-tripped to the local warm springs, but it turned out to be very hot out today, and that along with an apple butter festival ensured that the town was so crowded, it was difficult to get around. *sigh*

On the other hand:

Apples float downstream,
Lunchtime for turtle and fishes
Warm mountain autumn

Green-gold harvest corn
Sea laps against wooded hills
No wind today.

Warm springs bubble
Children chase the guppies
Summer blows a kiss.

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 05, 2007

A really good idea

While I am still boilingly angry over the recent veto of health insurance for children, I'm comforting myself with the forward movement of the One Laptop Per Child program. Soon, very soon, the actual laptops will be coming out. And I'm thinking very seriously about the give one/get one offer. A recent NYTimes review of the actual laptops left me thinking about the real advantages of the design they've come up with.

Sure, the laptops came out at twice their projected price - $200, instead of $100; and yes, the screen is small - 7.5 inches, and the keyboard is designed for children's, not adult hands, but the underlying computer is incredibly smart. It was designed without a hard drive, the part of a laptop most likely to fail. Instead, it relies on memory sticks, of the kind I most recently saw attached to a convention tag. The battery is longer lasting than most laptop batteries, can be charged by human or solar power (or probably plugging in to a socket, if you must). They are rugged, basically weather proof, and have an interface a child can understand.

As if that weren't enough, they're loaded with open source software, so that users are encouraged to "mess with" the underlying code, to create new stuff, fix bugs, learn *how* the software's logic actually works. And such software - of course, there are the standards - word processing, internet and email capabilities, games (so far, there are 2, a connect 4 sort of game and a tetris variant, but I wouldn't care to bet on the number staying that low.), a music composition program, multimedia presentation software, the works.

And plenty of programming software - there are at least 5 programming environments available, from Logo, which I played with and loved as a child, to Python, which was used to make the user interface for these laptops. This last feature, in particular, impresses me. Computers have become a sort of black box magic to most people, with a few magicians who understand the underlying principles doing all the messing about. As a member of GenX, the generation who programmed our parents' VCRs, I am baffled that kids today don't even seem to learn "instructional languages". I remember not only playing with Logo, but programming a very simple game in Basic, a 15 square in Pascal, and other basically useless programs. The point was not that the world desperately needed a 15-square puzzle in Pascal, but to teach me the structure of programming, the logic.

This thing looks like it's shaping up to be the old VW Bug of computers - tough, general purpose, and you can mess with it yourself. Only it's also very green - resource conservative, powerable by solar or human power, off the grid. While I am not generally of the gotta-have-it persuasion when it comes to gadgets, well... let's just say, I'm waiting eagerly for the possibility of buying 2 - one for me, and one for a kid who needs it.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Who counts?

Over at Country Contemplative, I lost my temper. And I'm not sorry. Not even a little bit.

It began with a post about the Catholic bishop who wants to deny communion to Rudy Giuliani until he repents him of his abortion stance. In reading the linked article, I came across the quote:

Asked if the same would apply to politicians who support the death penalty or pre-emptive war, he said, “It’s a little more complicated in that case.”

And weeell, I lost my temper. How dare this man who knows exactly where his next meal is coming from, what will happen if he gets sick, this man who is able to get his words into the paper pretty much at will, how dare he judge the sins of the powerful and wealthy more lightly than he does the decision of a woman in a scary position?

If I, an editor who lives in a little apartment on the edge of the city, set out to kill even 20 people, the world would be horrified. I would be sent to prison (my state is currently not carrying out death sentences), and it is very likely that my husband would have to change his name and move to avoid being harrassed. If I hired someone else to kill 20 people, I'd still be a monster.

How many have died from "preemptive war"? (Hey, wasn't that our problem with Japan in WWII? Just askin'...) How many, innocent or guilty (since the poison, the rope, the bullet, the chair, the pyre, the guillotine don't know the difference) have we coldly, with forethought, put to death?

For that matter, folks, how many die every day because they don't have access to basic health care? How many children are born with birth defects after their mothers didn't have access to pre-natal care? Where is the outrage against taking from the poor to give to the rich?

But bishops, like presidents, don't have to worry about making the rent every month. They don't have to decide which of their medicines they can afford this time (gotta get the diabetes under control, so the heart medicine will have to wait 'til next month...) or how they're going to cover the utilities. They don't have to worry about bringing a child into those conditions.

They don't have to worry about their physical security. They don't have to worry that tomorrow morning, they will get to choose what they want to eat, then they will be strapped down to a table and killed. They don't have to worry that they will be raped and murdered in a country that's turned into Hell. They don't have to wonder if tomorrow they'll be ordered into a kill or be killed situation.

That's the difference between bishops and the people their pronouncements affect.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

One of the benefits of living near DC

is definitely the National Mall. Not because it looks like the postcards (it mostly doesn't, except for a brief window right around the cherry blossoms), but because there's often something interesting going on there. Last weekend, it was the National Book Festival, where I got to hear one of my favorite authors speak and came away with a signed book, several bookmarks, a nice bookbag, and a sunburned neck and nose. (Memo to self: you bought hats for a reason. Wear them.)

And now they're setting up the Solar Homes for 2007. It's the third Solar Decathlon (2002, 2005, and now 2007) I came upon the second one totally by accident, and thought it was the coolest thing. I fell hard for the NYIT entry, and the Maryland entry, and... Hey, can I apply for one of these puppies? I'm sure I can find a lot somewhere to put it... (Okay, I don't like all the designs, but close.)

And the real question is why not. This year, I have my eye on the University of Illinois, who specifically designed theirs as a modular home, with an eye to actual production. Woot! The Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon approachs look interesting, but less practical, frankly. But the Kansas entry is another I can't wait to actually see...

Okay, I want to see them all. You got me. I want to see ideas like this become accessible to ordinary people. I live in an 800 sq ft. apartment that is badly laid out for actual living in (though pefect for fitting a 1960's building envelope, I must say) and gets practically no sunlight in winter and too much in summer. Blech. I *want* to live in a small home with some actual integration with the outdoors, the ability to capture cross breeze, and the capacity for warmth in winter. A porch would be nice, low utilities, a garden, nearby neighbors. A standard city lot would hold 2 of many of these designs, along with the garden, etc. I could live with that.

So, what are we doing with these nifty designs, people? When can I have a tiny solar home?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

NYT on Iraqi refugees

Sigh. It's sad when Sweden admits more refugees from a war that we started than we do. Remember my dad's interpreter? Even with a senator supposedly on the case, no news yet. Our government claims to honor my dad's service. What kind of payback is this for his service and for his interpreter's service?

Banjo frustration


My banjo playing has seriously suffered from the new schedule. Practice? When? After my nearly 2-hour commute? Maybe an hour or two over the weekend while I recover from the week's serious physical efforts?

It didn't help that I was still shaken when I went in last week, nor that I was really hungry...

So I barely managed to play "Skip to My Lou". And found flaws in the way I was playing "Polly Wolly Doodle". Meh.

And I've had a grand total of 5 days since then. Tonight is this week's banjo night. *Sigh* I really hope it's a little better this week. If it's a little better, then I can hope that next week will be better yet. And so forth.

Unfortunately, I don't think the insurance can do anything about lost banjo proficiency.


I'm definitely getting my workout each day. I walk to the Metro station near my apartment each morning, take the train downtown, transfer trains (and because I'm picking it up downtown, often end up standing for a few stops), ride the new train out to the suburbs, then walk several blocks to my office. In the morning, I'm also carrying my lunch for the day, as well as whatever reading material I have for the day.

Last night, my husband read me an article that someone recently wrote about the difficulties of walking in some of the suburban neighborhoods in Northern Virginia. Luckily, I don't have it that bad. My own neighborhood is urban and walkable, with sidewalks everywhere, including next to the major through-road (which has a pedestrian bridge over it, as well as several marked crosswalks and lights). Unfortunately, the sidewalks deteriorate to dirt tracks on the road edge as you move toward my favorite Indian restaurant (Mmmm. Little dhosa on Sunday morning...), and it's safer to take the bus than to walk.

My office, on the other hand... while people do walk and bike, especially on the side roads, and while there is a tunnel under the worst road, the speeds are higher, and there seems to be less awareness of the needs of non-drivers. Underscoring this, as I climb the hill from my office to the station, I pass at least 3 car dealerships spread along 1 block. Each has a distinctive architecture, from the curved front of the Saab dealership, to the glossy black Jaguar building, to the stately white Cadillac facade. Between the Cadillac and Jaguar buildings, there's a smaller shop devoted to car accessories and a smaller, humbler building marked "Used" which I suspect belongs to the Cadillac dealership, but which might be its own mini-temple.

That's what they put me in mind of: temples. I was inside the Saab dealership last week, dealing with the car rental folks before deciding I'd rather walk than deal with the only cars the rental agency seemed to have. (I know I couldn't expect a hybrid, but was it really too much to expect a well kept up smaller car? I didn't want an SUV or a large car, and the only small car on offer was a total mess.) The cars for sale were displayed in light filled bays, with plaques hung on the walls, detailing the various engineering marvels to be found in each car or showing historic models posed next to jets to remind the viewer of the fighter plane geneology of each model. On a wall near one such bay, there was a case filled with stylized car models, each a different shade of glossy or metallic. The atmosphere was hushed and reverent, with cream stone-look tile for the cars and dark grey carpeting for the people. No muzak, just the quiet whoosh of cars from the road outside.

I found myself wondering what some future archaeologist, coming upon the ruins of such a structure, would make of it. I felt uncomfortable, out of place. I wasn't there to worship or to buy, was, in fact, waiting for a car that would feature none of the engineering marvels promised on the walls. (I was not to know then that it would not even feature some of the engineering marvels of the older sedan I had driven before the hybrid...)

And I find myself thinking about the weight of the automobile in our culture. Part of it is convenience - I normally use the car to go back and forth to work - which takes half the time that public transit does. (Though admittedly, public transit does have benefits: yesterday, while waiting for the afternoon train, I watched a groundhog who had a burrow next to the train tunnel climb out and eat some vegetation, then retreat back before the next train arrived.) But then I look at how our communities are structured and realize that the neighborhood I work in is structured to encourage driving, and also is so expensive as to discourage most workers from living nearby.

I think we need to start thinking about how to leave the temple of the car...