Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving






























This photo is what Thanksgiving means to me this year--a harvest, not only of pumpkins from our garden, but a harvest of rhubarb, corn, beets, string beans, runner beans, snap peas, strawberries, black currants, red currants and raspberries--all from our garden. We have spent a lot of time making preserves and jams (strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, red currant and plum), and freezing down cut fruit for use in our morning smoothies. I have made rhubarb relish that is used as an accompaniment to meat dishes. And recently I made pickled pumpkin, which can also be used together with meat dishes; we tasted it for the first time last night and it was very good. I have learned to dry seeds for planting next spring. I am planning on buying a greenhouse so that we can grow tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables that will need a bit more warmth and protection from the elements. God blessed us this year with a garden, and on this Thanksgiving, I give thanks for all the blessings that we have enjoyed this year. I have also shared our harvest with friends and family--there were definitely enough pumpkins to go around. I loved planting the seeds, watching them grow, caring for the plants, and harvesting the fruits and vegetables. But the fun part was when people commented on the pumpkins--passing strangers and friends alike. And it made me feel productive to give some of them away to others--an accomplishment. After all, this was my first year as a gardener. Even I was surprised that everything I planted grew. The only vegetables I lost were spinach, broccoli and cauliflower, and that was because the slugs ate them. I learned a lot about what it takes to be a gardener and it only makes me look all the more forward to next year. It was Audrey Hepburn who said that “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” She's right. I do believe in tomorrow and I look forward to it.

Monday, November 21, 2016

World peace starts with peace of soul

The priest at yesterday's mass delivered a sermon about how the news media rarely present any positive news; the emphasis is mostly on the negative. War, murder, robbery, kidnapping, and other crimes and atrocities dominate the news. If something positive happens, it gets buried in the newspaper where no one will see it, and on the internet or TV it’s the same. And if negativity doesn’t dominate the news, celebrity worship does. The same priest stated quite clearly that world peace starts with peace in one’s soul. And he admitted frankly that it’s very hard to find that peace in your soul, because it’s drowned out by all of the factors competing for our attention 24/7, each one hoping to be the best at distracting us from what really matters in this world.

I will admit that the election this year did a number on my peace of soul. And then I started to reflect upon why that happened. And I realized that social media got me fired up, more specifically, several people on my Facebook friends list posted so many hateful anti-Obama and anti-Hillary posts that I was forced to unfriend them. I realized that in the eight years that I have been on Facebook, I have never posted anything hateful. When Bush was president, when Reagan was president, I did not go around disrespecting them. Many people take it for granted that they can bash President Obama any way they like. They do not respect him or the office he holds. They attack his race, they attack his wife's looks, they attack his birthplace, and so on. I would like to call them pathetic, but they are rather dangerous, because they have helped to erode the trust in the office of the presidency that has led to the unrest we experience now. Well-reasoned political criticism, disagreement and debate are welcome in a democracy, and if you disagree with your opponent, you agree to disagree without attacking your opponent's looks, demeanor or character. That's called civility and having respect for another person. The articles that some of these people have posted are literally sickening, and after having unfriended these people, I actually feel better. I don't feel tainted anymore; I've washed the muck off of me. I will be unfriending a few more people as time goes on, because there are still one or two whom I know will wait until Trump’s inauguration to spew more hate. It appalls me how much hatred there is of Obama. It’s actually quite depressing. I doubt that these people know what peace of soul is, and I doubt too that they understand the connection between it and world peace.

I am finally starting to get back some peace of mind and soul. I realized today that the types of people we surround ourselves with can go a long way toward supporting or destroying our inner peace. Taking the high road with some people incites their hatred, in that their firm wish is to drag you down into the muck where they live. Not happening. And if social media becomes purely a place to fling muck around, I will unfriend it as well, in order to keep my peace of soul. I am much more careful these days about what newspapers and TV news shows I read and watch, respectively. The same stringency has to apply to social media and to certain people on social media. No doubts in my mind whatsoever, and no regrets about unfriending them.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Can you trust these political news internet sites? You be the judge

Several people that I have now unfriended on Facebook (I have a feeling there will be a few more if the anti-liberal, anti-Obama and anti-Hillary hatred continues) were avid posters of articles from these sites. I have clicked on each one, and with one or two exceptions, was able to access each website. But I did get warnings from one or two sites that they may have malicious content, so forewarned is forearmed. One thing that most of these sites have in common is that many of their articles contain glaring grammatical errors and misspellings. They don’t give you the feeling that they can be trusted. My take on these news sites? They’re propaganda news sites promoting conservative politics and Trump, and are not serious about fact-checking or presenting the truth.




Saturday, November 19, 2016

When was America great? A short history of America during the past century

I’ve been reflecting upon the expression ‘Make America Great Again’. Trump made this expression the cornerstone of his campaign. Apart from the rose-colored glasses nostalgic aspect of it, I cannot find one period in American history that didn’t have social problems, unrest, wars, or unemployment. The America that we know was born of a successful, but bitter and violent break with Great Britain--the Revolutionary War (1775–1783). We experienced a bitter and violent Civil War (1861-1865) that pitted the Northern States against the Southern Confederate (slave) States--families against families, friends against friends and neighbors against neighbors. The war nearly tore the nation apart. It is estimated that close to 700,000 soldiers died, along with an undetermined number of civilians, making it the deadliest war in American history, but slavery,which was one of the main issues over which it was fought, was eventually abolished.

So bringing us to modern times, to what period in time do Trump and his supporters want to return America? There is not one decade in the past century of American history that has been without strife, unrest, war, terrorism, unemployment, or social problems. Following the devastating Great Depression (1929-39), the country needed to rebuild its infrastructure and to get people working again. FDR’s programs helped to do that. But I found out this past summer that FDR had his opponents, and that one of them tried to assassinate him in 1933. His name was Giuseppe Zangara and he was executed in 1933 for that crime. America became involved in WWII following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, and that war did not end until 1945. The country had to deal with returning veterans and how to reintegrate them into American society; women’s roles also changed, as they were now encouraged to re-embrace home and family after having staffed the munitions factories while the men were at war. The 1950s saw the Korean War (1950-1953); the US involvement in that war was wonderfully depicted in the 1970 film M*A*S*H and the TV series M*A*S*H that ran from 1972-1983. The 1950s will be remembered for the intensification of the Cold War (1945–1991) between the USA and the Soviet Union and the rise of McCarthyism and blacklisting of people deemed to be Communists. Civil rights for African-Americans was also a dominant and polarizing topic in the period from 1954–1968, with the attendant protests led by Martin Luther King Jr. and others. The fight for equal rights for all Americans, regardless of color and ethnicity, was not a pleasant one in our history, and has never been, stretching all the way back to the protests about slavery in the years leading up to, during, and after the Civil War.

1963 saw the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; it remains unclear why Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy or whether he acted alone or was part of a wider conspiracy. His assassination and the reasons for it have been the subject of official inquiries and innumerable books and articles for the past half century. In 1964 America became involved in the Vietnam War. That war began in 1954 and ended in 1975, but its escalation and American involvement was what dominated the 1960s and early 1970s. I remember being in grammar school and discussing America’s role in this war; our teachers made us read the newspaper articles about the war and discuss them in class. It was an extremely controversial war that led to protests and societal division; many young people protested this war, not surprisingly because it was the young men of this generation that were being sent to fight in this war that many Americans meant we had no business fighting. TV news coverage showed the casualties of war and reported the body count in a way that most Americans had never seen or heard before. The anti-war outrage on college campuses also led to violent outcomes; one need only remember Kent State University in Ohio and the 1970 shooting of four unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard during campus protests. The music (think the Woodstock music festival of 1969), writing and art of that era, as well as the hippie subculture (often connected with the anti-war movement), documented the outrage and unrest. It was not unusual growing up to see the peace-and-love hippie icons juxtaposed with the ‘Archie Bunker’ types (think about the TV show ‘All in the Family’ that ran from 1971 to 1979). This is the era when we were teenagers, and it was impossible not to be affected by what we saw and heard. The Watergate break-in/cover-up was also the political scandal of the 1970s; the Watergate investigation and hearings led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon and to forty-eight government officials being found guilty of burglary, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and perjury, among other crimes.

By the time the 1980s arrived, the USA was involved in the Iran hostage crisis (1979-1981), which led to the loss of the presidential election by Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan. Reagan survived an assassination attempt in 1981 by John Hinckley Jr. During the Reagan years, inflation levels increased, in part due to his expansionary fiscal policies aimed at stimulating the American economy, including oil deregulation policies. In October 1987, Black Monday occurred. It was the largest one-day market crash in history. The repercussions were felt well into the 1990s as it ushered in a new era of stock-market volatility. The Reagan years were not without their own political scandals--namely the Iran-Contra affair. The Reagan administration sold weapons to Iran; the money from these sales was used to provide CIA aid to pro-American guerrilla Contras in Nicaragua (see Wikipedia for more information). The end of the Cold War occurred during 1989-1991; Reagan was praised for calling on Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, which did occur in 1989 and for working together with Gorbachev to end the Cold War.

The 1990s was a decade of prosperity for America. Kurt Andersen of The New York Times described it best in an excellent article from 2015: (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/opinion/sunday/the-best-decade-ever-the-1990s-obviously.html?_r=0):

America at large was prospering in the ’90s. The United States economy grew by an average of 4 percent per year between 1992 and 1999. (Since 2001, it’s never grown by as much as 4 percent, and since 2005 not even by 3 percent for a whole year.) An average of 1.7 million jobs a year were added to the American work force, versus around 850,000 a year during this century so far. The unemployment rate dropped from nearly 8 percent in 1992 to 4 percent — that is, effectively zero — at the end of the decade……..
From 1990 to 1999, the median American household income grew by 10 percent; since 2000 it’s shrunk by nearly 9 percent. The poverty rate peaked at over 15 percent in 1993, then fell to nearly 11 percent in 2000, more or less its postwar low. During the ’90s, stocks quadrupled in value — the Dow Jones industrial average increased by 309 percent. You could still buy a beautiful Brooklyn townhouse for $500,000 or less. And so on.
By the end of the decade, in fact, there was so much good news — a federal budget surplus, dramatic reductions in violent crime (the murder rate in the United States declined by 41 percent) and in deaths from H.I.V./AIDS — that each astounding new achievement didn’t quite register as miraculous. After all, the decade had begun with a fantastically joyful and previously unimaginable development: The Soviet Empire collapsed, global nuclear Armageddon ceased to be a thing that worried anyone very much, and the nations of Eastern Europe were mostly unchained.

The 1990s also saw the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center by Al-Qaeda in 1993, so that decade wasn’t all rosy and joyful. I remember that day very well, because my brother worked at the World Trade Center. I was working in San Francisco at the time, and spent the day trying frantically to reach him, without success. It wasn’t until late in the evening that he called me to tell me that he had taken the day off and had not been at work. He hadn’t become aware of what had happened until the afternoon because he had not heard the news. So that first terrorist attack on the Towers affected me and my sister too; you would not want to experience the feelings I had when I thought my brother and others might have been killed in the bombing. During the 1990s Bill Clinton enjoyed a successful first presidential period, but the second period was marred by the Lewinsky scandal. The OJ Simpson trial of 1995 and the 1998 grand jury investigation of Bill Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky did not do much for elevating respect for the USA globally—they were media circuses that should never have happened. In many ways they helped to tarnish the good name of our country, at least for a while.

In 2001 George W. Bush succeeded Bill Clinton as president; his presidential era (until 2009) will be remembered for the Al-Qaeda terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers on September 11th 2001. Before that attack, no one had heard of Osama bin Laden, but after the attacks, the hunt for him began in earnest. Again, I was frantic that day as well, because my brother was still working in that area, having left his job at one of the Towers for a job nearby. But again, as fate would have it, he had taken the day off. Bush’s tenure was marred by the Iraqi WMD controversy, the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp‎ controversy. He did not succeed in hunting down Osama bin Laden; that was accomplished by the Obama administration. The 2000s were characterized by recessions and global financial scandals, as well as huge changes for the IT industry. The latter changes have impacted on the way we live now; nearly everyone is connected to the internet and now owns a cell phone, usually a smart phone. Cell phones have become an appendage, a part of us. We ‘don’t leave home without them’. The way we use cell phones and the internet has in turn impacted on how the media presents the news to us. Social media has overtaken the traditional news media as a news source, for better or for worse. The traditional news media are scrambling to keep up. The 2016 election will go down in history as one that was dogged by false internet news sites that are thought to have negatively influenced the election results. Most of them were rabidly pro-Trump and by extension rabidly anti-Clinton.

Trump supporters would have you believe that Obama has ruined America. I don’t see that or even understand what they’re talking about, but it’s clear that they’re not referring to Obama’s America when they talk about returning to a time when America was great. Are they talking about the 1990s? That was the Democratic Clinton era in the White House, Americans enjoyed prosperity, women were making good strides in the workplace, and gender equality and equal pay for women were accepted as the norm, among other things. Women had the freedom to choose between family and career, or to choose both. They could marry later and have their children later. The Trump folk would have to admit that a Democrat did something right, and it's doubtful that they would do so. The 1990s also saw great advances in science, with the advent of the genomics era and the impact of that on personalized medicine.

Given that Trump and his coming administration have a predilection for sexism, misogyny and white supremacy, I cannot see how the 1990s would appeal to them at all. So we go back further to the 1980s and the Reagan era. Women at that time had the freedom to choose between family and career, or to choose both, and many struggled with their decisions. But it was an exciting time for women in the workplace, and feminism had firmly taken hold. So the Trump folk cannot hold this decade up as a model era for American greatness either, because it simply doesn’t fit with the American values they hold dear. Let’s examine the 1970s. I cannot for the life of me envision that this decade, or the 1960s for that matter, could be of any interest to the Trump folk. These decades were peopled by hippies, counterculture people, rock artists, beat poets, anti-Vietnam war protesters, and civil rights activists, among others. Far too liberal and left-wing for the Trump folk.

Back even further to the 1950s. This is possibly the only decade that I can envision the Trump folk possibly liking. Minorities knew their place, women knew their place, white men had the power in society and in the workplace, and a lot of wonderful platitudes about God and country were uttered. Communism was anathema and Communists in all walks of life had to be rooted out. The Soviet Union was the enemy (and now Trump is courting Putin's friendship in an odd twist of events--you would have thought he and his administration would be anti-Putin). If you were a Communist, you hated God and Christians. Americans tend to forget that they don’t own God. There is no place in the bible where it says that the USA is God’s favorite country. It didn’t exist when Christ lived. So we should be careful about claiming God for ourselves when we talk about our Christian values and wanting to return to a time when America was great, especially if that time does not support true Christian values. The 1950s were hardly the greatest time in America, as I’ve described above.

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s. We enjoyed summer picnics with family, ice cream sundaes with family and friends to celebrate a successful school year, sitting on front stoops on summer evenings talking to the neighbors, playing with our friends, and taking vacations to the New England states and trips to amusement parks. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter holidays were spent with family after we had been to mass in the morning. We went to Catholic grammar school, were taught by the nuns, and then some of us went our separate ways once it was time to go to high school. Life was fairly idyllic, as it probably is for most children who grow up safe and sound in good families with good parents. Once we got to college, our lives changed irrevocably, became uncertain, risky, and a bit scary. What would become of us, would we make it in society, would we get a job, would we succeed? Would we marry and have a family? Would we maintain our friendships? If I am nostalgic at times, it is for the times before everyone separated and went their own ways. When you could spend hours together with good friends and/or siblings and not think about time passing, when parents were still alive and in good health--all those things. Time doesn't stand still, and nostalgia is just that, a poignant and bittersweet reminder of happy past times. We cannot go back, no matter how much we might miss those times. Because each person has a period in his or her life that he or she might want to return to at times. But the point is that those times are as individual as the person who remembers them. They are not the same for all.

And that brings me back to returning to a time when America was great. We can't, because what truly makes America great is that has experienced, dealt with, and survived the problems that have been thrown at it during each decade since the early part of the 20th century. There isn't one best decade. America has been mired in controversy, wars and protests from the day it was born, and it has evolved, survived and flourished. It has kept its doors open to diversity and heterogeneity. It airs its dirty laundry to the world in a way that no European country ever has or will do. But despite Trump's win, I believe that the majority of America's inhabitants still believe in the real values on which it was founded—liberty and justice for all. That is what America stands for, and what I hope it always stands for.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A new America?

And so, for many people, the unthinkable happened last Tuesday, November 8th. Donald Trump won the presidential election. My husband told me before I had even gotten out of bed the next morning, and my first response was s**t. Not because it was a real surprise to me (it wasn’t), but because I sensed that the repercussions would be negative. And they have been, for many people. It was as though the world turned upside-down, strong hardy trees were uprooted, and nothing was the same anymore. It was finding out through the gloating of Trump supporters on Facebook, some of whom are friends that you thought you knew, that you don't really know them. I have resisted the desire to delete them from my friends list, but that may change if they continue to gloat. Because the gloating has a hard edge to it, and because there is little to no tolerance of beliefs or opinions other than their own; your different opinion is almost viciously dismantled. Some of them are white people of privilege, with nice homes, nice cars and money for vacations and eating out several times a week. They are not lower middle class; they have worked for the success they have attained and they deserve it, but now that they have attained it, they have forgotten how they struggled. They are angry at the minorities they perceive are taking away their jobs and who are getting healthcare for free. I know this may be a problem, but I don't know that Facebook is the place to tackle it or to vent your hatred of these people. I cannot believe some of the articles posted by some of these people. Why not get involved in politics yourselves? They say they are not racist, and I’d like to believe them. But I don’t know if I can, because they do not stand up against the appointment of the white supremacist Steven Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist. They are not furious about the fact that the Ku Klux Klan is planning a parade in December (on my birthday as far as I’ve heard) to celebrate Trump’s win. Because it’s not just Democrat versus Republican anymore; it’s white America against multicultural America (many of whom may be racist themselves, but that’s another story because they are not verbalizing their vitriol so I have no way of knowing and commenting on it).

My disappointment extends to the Christian community as well. I am Catholic, and during the summer when I was in NY, I listened to different clergy members in person and on TV basically endorse Trump from their pulpits. Why? Because he is anti-abortion. Many of us are; but I do not vote on that one issue alone. Many of the Trump supporters did just that—voted for him because he is anti-abortion. Maybe that makes them better Christians and Catholics than I am. I am not in a position to judge them since I don’t know what is really in their hearts. It’s a true dilemma for me. Should I have voted for Trump just because he is anti-abortion? Is that the definition of a good Catholic? Then I am not one. Yet Christ said, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone". I hope that Christ will judge me on every other thing I do for my fellow human beings—my fight for justice in the workplace, my standing up against the bullying I see around me—again mostly in the workplace, my embracement of people of all colors and religions (something I’ve done all my life because I had parents who did the same and taught us that—I have friends from Africa, India, Iran, Europe and the States, who are Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Protestant and Catholic), my big heart that always makes room to include one more person into a social circle, my willingness to listen and understand the other side. Do I lose my temper at times and get angry? Do I lose my patience? Do I hate stupidity when I see it? The answer is yes to all those questions. And the answer will continue to be yes because I am a human being. There is nothing to forgive concerning the other side. The Trump supporters have done nothing wrong personally to me. And yet, I have moved away from them in my heart. I will be better off emotionally right now for having done so, even though I feel bad about saying that, because it doesn't sound Christian. We'll see what the future brings.

This past week has been quite upsetting to me emotionally. Before the election, I had a lot of anxiety, and after it, a lot of sadness. I feel sorry for American families who are split down the middle; sibling against sibling, parent against child—when it comes to who they voted for and why. Thanksgiving is coming up next week, and there is a lot to be thankful for. But it may be very difficult to focus on that because of the hurt feelings on both sides. I am not going to be one of those who calls for healing or tells people to get over it. I think this is one of the first times in my adult life that I have seen America wake up from its stupor to find itself possibly going over the cliff. I will tell people to stand up and fight for what they really believe in, even if it means that they cut ties with some people they know. Because isn’t that what Christ preached? He said "If you come to me but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower. You must love me more than your father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters—even more than your own life". I’ve never really understood that preaching until this past week. Standing up for what we believe in may separate people, and it may cause grief and tears. But it may be the first real act of courage that we perform in our lives, whether we like it or not. No one said we would like it. We were not promised a rose garden on this earth.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Defining sexual harassment

Apropos my last post, about sexism and misogyny being alive and well--the Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet, in a rather timely fashion, ran an article today about sexual harassment in academia. It was mostly depressing reading. Not only is sexual harassment underreported, there appear to be few to no rules and criteria concerning how to define it. Most of the behaviors described end up in a ‘gray area’, and most of the cases that are reported end up as a ‘his word against the victim’s word’ scenario. Few cases go further than university leadership, where they are reviewed and then dismissed. Generally, those who have been sexually harassed by their professors and mentors don’t report the harassment for fear that doing so will damage their careers. And why? Because it does. Because the focus falls on you, you become ‘the victim’. You become the center of unwanted attention. You become the difficult female employee who cannot take a joke. Because these male professors have a lot of power and prestige. They can make or break your career. So, like many of the women interviewed said, they put up with the gray area behavior.

What is sexually-harassing behavior in the academic workplace? That was a question that the article did ask. I said to my husband that maybe we have reached the point where we have to spell it out in black and white so that the rules and boundaries are clear, and crossing them gets you into big trouble. Most intelligent people I know have no problems with these boundaries; in fact, most men I have known in academia are not disrespectful toward women. It is the one or two rotten apples that spoil it for the many. Unfortunately, many of the rotten apples have an immense amount of power; they are institute leaders, department leaders, mentors, and so on. They know how to play the game, and how to use their power, and they do use it to subjugate women.

In my long experience in the workplace, here’s my list of how male mentors should not behave toward their female students. They should not be touching them, at all, anywhere on their bodies. They should not be hugging them or putting their arms around them. A handshake is fine. A smile is fine. They should not make sexual innuendoes or crude jokes about sex or about blow jobs or any other sexual activity to their students. They should not be having sex with their students. If a male mentor falls in love with his female student and the student reciprocates, then the appropriate conduct on the mentor’s part is to cease being that student’s mentor if both desire that the relationship continue. There are good reasons for this. If we love someone, we will support and defend them at the expense of others we care much less about. This cannot take place in the workplace; other students are bound to feel that the mentor favors the person he is in love with, and that is often the case. An already unbalanced work arena (academia) becomes even more unfair and unbalanced. I have seen all of the above-mentioned behaviors—institute leaders grabbing at the breasts of female students, a group leader starting off a dinner party by asking his guests, more than half of whom were females, if they knew what a blow job was. I’ve heard stories about male professors getting naked in their offices in an attempt to seduce their female students. Most common are the men who invade your private space, who cannot keep enough distance between you and them when they are sitting talking to you in a personal meeting. Then you have the men who ask inappropriate questions and are extremely interested in the intimate details of your relationship with your husband or boyfriend. In the end, it all comes down to and back to sex.

I simply did not expect to find these types of behavior in academic workplaces when I started out. I considered academia to be a noble profession, a cut above many others. My biggest disappointment about the academic workplace, after more than thirty years in it, is this. That to be treated as an equal, as a professional, remains a distant dream for many women. It has been hard enough for women in my generation to make inroads into the male-dominated academic arena and to be accepted as professionals. Adding sexual harassment into the mix is a bitter pill for those women who have experienced it. I always remember my father and how he treated me; he taught me to take myself and my intelligence seriously. I cannot ever remember him telling me that I could not reach this or that goal because I was a woman. He set me up for success in that respect; he was not a dinosaur, he was forward-thinking when it came to his daughters. I think he would have been as disappointed as I was and am to find out that academia is no better than many other professions when it comes to sexism and sexual harassment.

When I worked at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), I signed some form of contract as I remember, saying that I was bound to report any sexual harassing behavior that I experienced personally or witnessed around me. That was in 1993. I googled sexual harassment policies at UCSF today and this is what I found:
University of California – Policy Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Friday, December 18, 2015: 
I. POLICY SUMMARY The University of California is committed to creating and maintaining a community dedicated to the advancement, application and transmission of knowledge and creative endeavors through academic excellence, where all individuals who participate in University programs and activities can work and learn together in an atmosphere free of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation. Every member of the community should be aware that the University prohibits sexual violence and sexual harassment, retaliation, and other prohibited behavior (“Prohibited Conduct”) that violates law and/or University policy. The University will respond promptly and effectively to reports of Prohibited Conduct and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and when necessary, to discipline behavior that violates this policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (hereafter referred to as Policy). This Policy addresses the University of California’s responsibilities and procedures related to Prohibited Conduct in order to ensure an equitable and inclusive education and employment environment free of sexual violence and sexual harassment. The Policy defines conduct prohibited by the University of California and explains the administrative procedures the University uses to resolve reports of Prohibited Conduct.
Sexual Harassment:
a. Sexual Harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, and other unwelcome verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: i. Quid Pro Quo: a person’s submission to such conduct is implicitly or explicitly made the basis for employment decisions, academic evaluation, grades or advancement, or other decisions affecting participation in a University program; or ii. Hostile Environment: such conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it unreasonably denies, adversely limits, or interferes with a person’s participation in or benefit from the education, employment or other programs and services of the University and creates an environment that a reasonable person would find to be intimidating or offensive. 
b. Consideration is given to the totality of the circumstances in which the conduct occurred. Sexual harassment may include incidents: i. between any members of the University community, including faculty and other academic appointees, staff, student employees, students, coaches, residents, interns, and non-student or nonemployee participants in University programs (e.g., vendors, contractors, visitors, and patients); ii. in hierarchical relationships and between peers; and iii. between individuals of any gender or gender identity. 
c. This Policy shall be implemented in a manner that recognizes the importance of the rights to freedom of speech and expression and shall not be interpreted to prohibit expressive conduct that is protected by the free speech and academic freedom principles discussed in Section III.F. 3. 
Other Prohibited Behavior 
a. Invasions of Sexual Privacy i. Without a person’s consent, watching or enabling others to watch that person’s nudity or sexual acts in a place where that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy; ii. Without a person’s consent, making photographs (including videos) or audio recordings, or posting, transmitting or distributing such recorded material depicting that person’s nudity or sexual acts in a place where that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy; or iii. Using depictions of nudity or sexual activity to extort something of value from a person. 
b. Sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18. 
c. Exposing one’s genitals in a public place for the purpose of sexual gratification. 
d. Failing to comply with the terms of a no-contact order, a suspension of any length, or any order of exclusion issued under this Policy.

Norwegian academic institutions and universities do have similar policies, e.g. the University of Oslo's outlined here (https://www.uio.no/om/hms/arbeidsmiljo/prosedyrer/trakassering/). How well the policies are enforced is another story. Notice that the UC policy above does not spell out specific offensive behaviors; I would imagine that it doesn’t because women experience sexual harassment differently. And some sexually-harassing behavior is blatant, whereas other behavior is more subtle. The latter is the most difficult to identify and discuss and put an end to. Let’s hope the coming generations manage that. In the meantime, I can’t wait for the dinosaurs and the sexual harassers to die off.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sexism and misogyny are alive and well

Don’t ever for one minute get sucked into a state of false belief that sexism, misogyny, and sexual harassment are things of the past, and that women have won all the battles that they need to win. In fact, the battle is just beginning. After getting a glimpse of Trump’s America, I think we’ve been set back by about fifty years. So we need to begin again. We need to raise boys and girls to have respect for each other. We need to remind young adults that NO means NO when it comes to sexual activity, and that no one should ever feel pressured to have sex just to please another person. Male chauvinist pigs like Trump need to go back to the school of hard knocks to get re-educated. It’s not ok to sexually objectify your daughter, your wife, other women, etc. In fact, it’s not just creepy, it’s ethically wrong and illegal if you step over any line in that regard, even if you are married in most civilized societies. Since he seems to have a hard time keeping his pants zipped, it’s no wonder he can’t keep his mouth zipped. I guess there are women stupid enough to fall for his tricks. That’s what always surprises me, the women who come out in support of this dinosaur. Men like him are nearing extinction in my book. They’ve had way too much power and they’ve misused it when it comes to women. I don’t know if women will be any better in the same positions of power, but it sure as hell might be nice to find out. And we will if Hillary gets elected.

You might also think that dinosaurs like these are only an American problem. WRONG again. Norwegian academia has and has had its share of these dinosaurs throughout the past twenty years. Men who comment inappropriately on your looks, men who step over the line physically and verbally at Christmas parties when they’ve had too much to drink, an institute leader (deceased) who saw nothing wrong with patting the rear end of a visiting woman scientist from Brazil. The same institute leader who used to like to corner non-Norwegian women in the elevator to ask them if they knew the difference between ‘fytte’ (used in connection with curse words) and ‘fitte’ (pussy) because if you are not Norwegian, those words often sound alike and you can make a fool of yourself if you pronounce them the wrong way. Another male scientist who regaled his female colleagues with jokes about ‘bushes’, again in the elevator where you couldn’t just escape immediately. The list of sexist, odd and questionable behavior is endless. These are men who enjoyed making women feel uncomfortable so that they could joke about it afterward. These are men like Trump, with a lot of power and no respect for women. Because it's really simple in my book--if you respect women, you don't behave this way. These are men who consistently ignore women in favor of men when it comes time for choosing new leaders or promoting from within, even when those men are clearly less qualified compared to the available women. Men who tell women who get angry about the unfairness and injustice of these types of behaviors that they are ‘unbalanced or psychologically unstable’, or that ‘perhaps they should get some professional help’. Men who joke that these women who get angry just need to get laid. And the women who joke like this about other women are just plain traitors to their own gender. Men have had the power now for eons and eons, and it’s time women took the reins. I don’t know how long that’s going to take, but we’re not going to get there if feminism is defined solely by women who take off their clothes in the name of emancipation (from what or who?), so that they can appear in porno rags and online videos and define these actions as feminist. It might be one definition of modern feminism, but it’s not the major one. They get paid a lot of money for it, however. Perhaps that’s how they think they will gain respect. They will gain money and power, yes, but not necessarily respect. That’s not a given. But perhaps for them, it's enough. I don't know and frankly, I don't care. It's not my definition of feminism and it does not help most average working women to fight the daily battles that they fight in their workplaces.

Oddly enough, if you look at many of the classic films from the 1940s and 1950s, there are roles written for women that are worthy of respect. The female characters are strong, opinionated (think Katharine Hepburn's character in the comedy Adam’s Rib), and they sometimes suffer for their independent ways and strong wills. But they are women to look up to. Many of them work, they are professional, they speak and dress well, and they stand up to and stand their ground with the men in their lives. I can relate to the women's roles in these films, in a way that I cannot relate to many of the modern roles written for women now. How can that be? I am not sure what happened, but respect for women has taken a real nose-dive recently. We need to figure out why and how to fix that. And I think we should start by emphasizing that both men and women have a lot to gain by treating each other with respect, in the workplace and outside of it.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Time wasters

There are people in this life who enjoy wasting their time and others’ time. You can usually find these kinds of people in the workplace, but also in one’s personal life. These are the same people who complain about never having enough time to do what it is they’ve planned to do, but who seem to be deaf to the complaints of others (that take the form of requests--asking these people to stop wasting their time). Time wasters are procrastinators, big talkers (with no action that ensues), and are the types of people that can induce irritation and aggression in others. After they’ve said what they’ve wanted to say (and used up to a half hour to say it), they calmly walk away from the aggression and damage they’ve instigated. As is probably clear to my readers at this point already in this post, I cannot abide these kinds of people. My workplace is full of them. They are usually ‘leaders’ of some sort, although God knows what they really have responsibility for. All they seem to do is wander from one place to another, bothering employees with useless meetings that waste more time, and then complaining about all of the other people who are not stepping up to the plate to help them with their work.

Perhaps I should amend my first sentence. Perhaps these people don’t enjoy wasting their time or others' time. But it’s become a habit, and a dangerous one. In my current workplace, people like this get promoted to top positions. It’s all talk, no action. God forbid they should actually act on what it is they talk about, and if their employees try to do so, they’re quickly shot down. So what do time wasters wish to achieve?

These people like to complain. They have low self-esteem and they cannot abide seeing others working hard and achieving their goals, when they cannot reach that point. They want to be recognized and do it in a way that annoys most people around them in the long run. In the short run, they create some sympathy for themselves that is quickly used up. They are stuck in a loop from which they cannot extricate themselves. I’d feel sorry for them except that they cause so much chaos and uncertainty when they’re done talking. You know you’ve met a time waster when you are livid after a seemingly ordinary project update meeting, where the time waster has regaled the audience for about the fiftieth time with all the wonderful projects he or she is ‘actively’ involved in, but from which no results appear to be emerging (publications and/or grant applications). The rest of us are happy to present, within the space of a few minutes, the few achievable projects in which we are involved. The time waster will use thirty minutes to do the same, and expect complete attention. The time waster is a poor listener and an even poorer organizer. He or she resents others who manage to organize their time effectively. These people are really looking for someone to ‘take the reigns’ for them; to step in and write the article or grant that they cannot seem to write. Time wasters are often people who complain about their small aches and pains that ‘prevent’ them from achieving their goals. We all have small aches and pains. I used to feel sorry for some of these people, but no more, not after knowing several people who struggle along in this life with major chronic illnesses. Time wasters should get over themselves. They should buckle down and get their job done, and leave the rest of us the hell alone. The rest of us end up completely pissed off and demoralized after meetings with these kinds of people. I’ve known men and women who are time wasters, but by and large the majority of them are men, perhaps because my profession is dominated by men. However, female time wasters are worse than their male counterparts; why? Because in addition to wasting our time with useless meetings, they have to add the social aspect into the mix, so that the tone of the meeting shifts from professional to personal, which is another aspect I cannot abide. Here’s what I want from a project update meeting—a meeting of no more than twenty minutes, professional in tone, with a short presentation of what’s been done that week or that month, and what is planned for the next week or next month. Nothing more, nothing less. No discussions of minor aches and pains, of office politics, or of yet again new workplace goals that lead to nothing. Just the work at hand, no more, no less. I behave like this with the people who work for me, and they are motivated and productive. I don’t waste their time, and just as importantly, they don’t waste mine.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rest in peace, Pedals the Bear























If it is true that this beautiful disabled bear is dead (http://www.sciencealert.com/pedals-the-famed-upright-walking-bear-has-died-officials-report; http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/18/498398167/internet-mourns-apparent-death-of-pedals-a-real-stand-up-bear), then it is merely one more confirmation that the world is a cruel barbaric place, one that is slowly descending toward hell. I only hope that the New Jersey hunter who killed this bear has a karmic experience that shows him just what he has done. I don’t want to be there when he experiences it, because it won’t be pleasant. Frankly speaking, the man who did this is a loser, a coward, not someone you’d want to befriend or help in any way. Someone who has grown up in a household that did not value life, humanity, compassion, empathy or decency. Someone who will pass, if he hasn’t already, his cruelty and his warped mind on to his children. If it’s true that he did kill this bear to give his wife a bear rug or a bear coat, then his wife is as devoid of humanity as he is. They deserve each other and can rot in hell, together with all the other brave ‘hunters’ who hunt for sport, for fun and for no reason other than to put the heads of animals and birds on their den walls. Trophy hunters--scum of the earth. Together with the bullfighters, the dogfight arrangers, and any other person, man or woman, who torture and kill animals for sport. Rot in hell. I can just about tolerate hunters who hunt to place food on their tables in some occasional instances, but in spoiled, overfed and obese countries like the USA, where is the need to hunt for food? Give me one good example. 

The world is full of sick people, and sometimes it seems as though they are winning. It’s no wonder that I am coming to prefer the company of animals and birds to the company of people. They’re preferable to people like these jerks. The only thing I have in common with any of these so-called ‘people’ is that we were born human. I am ashamed to say that I am human when I think of these cowardly losers. I don’t want to be placed in the same group as them. Assholes like the hunter who killed Cecil the lion, or the poachers who maim elephants for their tusks, or the fishermen who cut the fins off sharks and throw them back into the water, still alive, where they sink to the bottom to await their fate (eaten by other fish). Or what about the dolphin clubbing that goes on in Japan (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2542611/Captive-dolphins-killed-one-one-Japanese-bloodbath-festival.html); can someone explain the point of this horror? Or whale and seal hunting (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-13/norway's-commercial-seal-hunters-lose-government-subsidy/5965310), which Norway also participates in? There are indications that seal hunting will soon be coming to an end in Norway; it’s high time.

All of these atrocities me sick. Where is the humanity in all of these 'people'? There is none. They are dead inside. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Autumn in the garden

Autumn has arrived in Oslo, and also in the garden. All fruits and vegetables have been harvested, and I have spent several days tilling the soil and preparing it for next spring. I removed most of the dead vegetable stems, stalks and vines, and turned the soil under, adding compost and the anti-slug compound Ferramol as I did this. This way the Ferramol will have a chance to work so that the newly-hatched slugs won't get the chance to mature when starting up again next spring. The garden will now lie fallow until next spring. Indoors, I've been drying pumpkin and runner bean seeds for use next spring. I really like the Cinderella type of pumpkins that I planted this year, so this way I'll have enough seeds for next year's plantings. I cut back the rosemary plant and also the lemon balm plant, and will dry both herbs for use as seasonings and in tea.

The hollyhock flowers continue to bloom; they are so pretty, and I will plant them again next year. And the daisies are still blooming as well. The staghorn sumac tree's leaves are slowly turning a yellow-red; this tree produces red cone-like flowers throughout the growing season. It is a very unusual tree and a very pretty one. And the green wild ivy covering the dead cherry tree is also turning a reddish color.

vegetable beds prepped for winter 


wild ivy covering the dead cherry tree, and the staghorn sumac tree in the background




strawberry plants still green and still growing, but not producing berries

the hollyhocks are still blooming

the perennials are doing well

the daisies are still blooming, but in fewer numbers

wild ivy turning colors

Pholiota squarrosoides mushrooms growing at the base of the dead cherry tree

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Moments and connections

This past weekend was a ‘moments’ weekend, where something I read or heard triggered memories of my parents and my childhood. At mass this morning, something the priest said must have unconsciously triggered a memory of my mother, and all of a sudden it was almost as though I could feel her standing in the aisle beside me. Going to mass together was one of the things we used to like to do when I visited her in Tarrytown during the 1990s. I remember sitting in the church with her, singing the hymns that she liked, and hearing her sniffle when something in the hymn touched a nerve that made her tear up. Now, fifteen years after her death, I cannot sing those hymns without the same thing happening to me because they remind me of her. Perhaps those hymns reminded her of her own mother. I thought of how tightly I am connected to my mother, that the bond between mother and child is so strong, stronger than death. That’s a comforting thought, not a sad one.

Later on, when I was standing in the kitchen cutting up a pumpkin to prepare puree, I remembered how much my mother loved the autumn, how much energy it gave her for new projects. I was feeling that way the entire weekend. Whenever I have worked in the garden, I have felt her presence as well, and that is no surprise since she loved planting her own garden in the spring. A small flower garden, but one she was very proud of and that looked so lovely each year. She planted morning glories at the base of the lampposts so that they would have a post to climb as they grew. She planted a trellis on the side of the apartment building we lived in, and grew red roses there. And she ordered her tulip bulbs from Holland each year from a catalog company I don’t remember the name of. Whenever I hear the birds in my own garden, I am reminded of my mother’s love of birds. She would watch them from our kitchen window as they gathered in the dogwood tree outside the window, and during the winter she made sure they had enough food.

I think of my father too, when I am sitting at the dinner table with my husband and we are discussing different world situations. It reminds me of all the times I sat with my father after dinner and discussed the state of the world with him. That was when I was growing up in the 1970s. In the 1980s, when I was working in Manhattan, I would sometimes meet him for lunch since he worked there as well, and we would wander over to St. Francis of Assisi church on West 31st Street. I seem to remember that the church had a bookstore/gift shop then, and we would purchase a book or two and look forward to discussing them after we had read them. I checked the church’s website but could not find any mention of the bookstore, so perhaps it no longer exists or perhaps my memory is faulty. My father and I bonded over books and faith, and they led to spiritual and intellectual discussions that buoyed me through my teenage years.  He was my link to the outside world and to the work world. He died over thirty years ago, a lifetime in so many respects. Yet that connection too remains strong.

Books are the portals that allow me to connect to my parents. I remember them individually and together. I was closest to my father when I was a teenager, and when he died, I grew very close to my mother. As a child, I remember them as a couple, sitting together in the evening reading their individual books. Before my father’s health diminished him, he would sometimes tease my mother or chase her around the dining room table. That vision sticks in my mind—that they had their happy moments in the middle of their trying times, mostly due to my father’s poor health. His health is what I remember most as I neared my twenties; I can see my mother walking with him after he had his first stroke, helping him cross the street to the church so he could attend mass with her. She never wavered in her care of him. She took care of her blind mother before she met my father, and then my father and us children after her marriage. It is her faith, loyalty and devotion that stand out in my mind to this day. She had the strength and courage to live her life the way she felt it should be lived. She found grace in the small things; she did not seek the limelight nor would she have been comfortable there. The older I get, when I think about who are the heroes in my life, they are my parents. Their lives were far from perfect, but their faith in God and in each other did not disappear. No matter what private doubts they may have had from time to time, they stayed true to each other and to us. That is all that matters in this life. Nothing else—not worldly glory or fame or money. What matters to me is that the connection to my parents remains strong even though they are no longer physically alive. But they are very much alive in my heart and soul.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Not my president

I’ve been watching the Trump campaign implode more and more with each day that passes. If he gives up his position as Republican presidential nominee, I won’t be surprised or sorry to see him go. His vice-presidential nominee, Mike Pence, could do a better job as president, I’m sure of it. He seems to be a far more decent man. The whole sordid affair of watching Trump make an ass of himself (something he seems to care nothing about) is also beginning to get creepy. His behavior is creepy. It’s the behavior of a sociopath, one who doesn’t think the rules apply to him, but damned if they don’t apply to everyone else. In his view, he’s special, up there in the clouds, wealthier than God, worthy of being worshipped. He’s the best, no matter what is being discussed. He doesn’t do anything wrong, and if he does, his apologies are at best lip service. But it’s his views about women that are truly creepy for me. When I listen to him talk, I have to pinch myself to remind myself that we’re not living in the Mad Men era. I could never stomach watching that series, even though I know it’s won many awards. I found the male characters on that show repugnant—smug, arrogant, and proud of their sexual conquests and treatment of women. Maybe it bothers me because of what I have seen in academia (a profession that also seems to be mired in the 1950s and 60s—when men were kings and women were the underlings).

I have to wonder how we got to this place and what we are telling our children when we condone or make excuses for Trump's behavior and statements. I have some questions for the average men and women who support Trump. I need to ask these questions because I have no answers that make any sense to me in 2016. Because I simply don’t understand how a person can call himself or herself a modern man or a modern woman and support Trump and what he stands for. Yes, he is anti-abortion. So what. I know Christians and priests who support him solely for that reason. Not good enough. In every other way, he does not live the life of a Christian--he makes fun of handicapped people, he is rude, he is without empathy or respect for others, he incites hatred and racism rather than peace and tolerance, he seems to despise the poor or at least blame them for their situation, and he treats women like crap. This is a man we want for President of the USA? Why? Just to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming President? Not good enough. This is a man who will be meeting heads of state from around the world, some of whom are women. If he thinks they’re pretty, will it be ok if he goes after them and tries to seduce them? Will it be ok if he ‘grabs their p*****s’? What about their breasts? Will we stand by and condone his behavior at that time and try to explain it away once again? This is a grown man who should know how to behave. Is it ok to refer to women as ‘c***s, b*****s, and ‘p*****s’? No, it’s not. A real man knows how to treat a woman respectfully, and it’s not the way Trump treats them. Why bother raising our sons and daughters to have respect for each other if an important role model like the President of the USA treats women like crap and gets away with it? Does anyone ever wonder if the current ‘rape culture’ and this type of behavior in men go together? We certainly don’t need more of this kind of behavior; we need less.

If my father was alive, he’d have a lot to say about Donald Trump, none of it good. My father was a good man from a generation that fought in WWII; he had morals and respect for his country. He did not denigrate women and minorities. He would have been appalled by Trump’s statements, and even more appalled that many Americans were considering electing him to the highest political office in the USA. He would have wondered aloud (and discussed with me) how it was possible that in 2016, racism was still so easily incited and women were still disrespected and sexually harassed. He would wonder how men with wives and daughters could defend Donald Trump’s behavior and statements. He’d say that Trump gives men a bad name, because many men do not disrespect women nor do they wish to keep them down or treat them as second-class citizens. And he’d be right, because I knew other men (now deceased) in my father’s generation that were decent men—good husbands and good fathers. They never referred to their wives in a disrespectful way; they never joked about their wives when they got together with other men or told those other men that their own daughters were a good ‘piece of ass’. If my father had been anything like Donald Trump, I would not have had anything to do with him. If I was any one of Trump’s children, I’d be cringing right now. Painfully embarrassed by and for my father. Wondering how to show my face, and wondering how I was going to survive having to deal with him. I haven’t heard a word from any of his children after his last comments. Why? Trump’s current wife came out and said she found his comments offensive but she still found some room to defend him (she has to unless she is looking to become ex-wife #3). Mike Pence has said he cannot defend such comments. Who can? They are cringe-worthy, embarrassing, rude, crude, and demeaning, not only to women, but to men who do not want to identify with a man like Trump. He is an embarrassment to our country. I know a lot of good men, and they are not like Trump. They don’t talk like him, they don’t treat their wives and children disrespectfully, and they don’t treat other people disrespectfully. So how did Trump get to the place he’s at? Are there really that many men and women who think he’d make a good President? The question we need to be asking is how did we get to this place? And how do we step back from it and move in another direction—one that is respectful of women, of minorities, of the handicapped, of the poor? One that shows that we as a nation are decent people who don’t support people like Trump for public office. It’s as simple as this--get rid of him and replace him with someone we can stomach, someone who doesn't make you want to vomit each time he opens his mouth.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Autumn evenings and September moons

After an unseasonably mild September, with temperatures close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit most days, we are starting off October with chillier temperatures. It's odd how that happens--one day it's warm, and then the next day it's not. Yesterday afternoon we ate an early dinner outdoors at a restaurant called SkuteBrygge on the Drammen River (Drammenselva) in the city of Drammen and enjoyed sitting in the warm sunshine, but last night the temperatures dropped and today we woke up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Even though September was a warm month, autumn came just the same, bringing with it dark evenings with crisp clear skies. Perfect for photographing the moon in some of its phases. I've been using my telescope again and experimenting with taking different kinds of photos. These are three of my best 'moon shots'. Enjoy!