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They also serve…

Note: I started this post on Veteran’s Day, but struggled with it.

I always think about Grandma when I see veteran’s memorials…

In her later life Grandma always sold poppies, until she couldn’t drive any longer (due to the diabetic ulcers mentioned in Carpe Diem).

She was a die-hard VFW Ladies Auxiliary member. She ran her local group with an iron hand from the secretary-treasurer position that she held for probably about 20 years. I still have several photo albums and a rules book somewhere in the garage. It’s hard to know what to do with them.

Within the VFW her particular cause was disabled veterans. She put on many a spaghetti dinner to raise money to help them.

Continue reading They also serve…

CoBlocks-sampler and review

A couple of days ago I noticed that there were more blocks in my Gutenberg editor (they have been there a while). I decided to give them a test run. CoBlocks was originally an independent company, but now seems to be owned by GoDaddy.

Sampler

As I could find no documentation for using these blocks, I put together this CoBlocks Test Page. It demonstrates the blocks available in WordPress.com for sites that are below the “business” grade. I did it for myself, but decided to share it because others might find it useful.

Review

My not-so-humble opinions:

  • Most of the blocks are underwhelming.
  • There are some lovely button styles. I really dig the gradients.
  • The galleries aren’t as nice as the regular WordPress and Jetpack ones…except that the lightbox is more elegant. I don’t like that one cannot give the entire gallery a caption.
  • The “Hero” block could be useful. I used that on my Gallery of Images for Sale and I think it looks nice there.
  • If you are doing e-commerce you might find the “Pricing Table” block useful.

My only other comment is that, since CoBlocks is a free plug-in on WordPress.org sites, it doesn’t make a ton of sense that WordPress.com doesn’t let one use the full set of features.

Aside: I’m not crazy about GoDaddy, because I find their advertising sexist and unprofessional. As a woman who was a stress engineer I had to deal with too much of that kind of crap, and am opposed to supporting it. I have no reason to doubt that they have fine products.

The same, but different

It is good to take a few days away, where you can’t be reached with casual day-to-day communications. A few days when your job is to breathe in the mountain air and smell of wildflowers, and see the beauty in distant mountains and up close in the intricate pattern of dew drops on wildflowers.

The Tatoosh Range peeking up over a wildflower meadow.
Close-up of dew drops on Queen Anne’s Lace

We just returned from Paradise.

Paradise Inn on Mount Rainier with the Tatoosh Range behind it.

Every year we go to Paradise on Mount Rainier for several days. Every year it is the same, but every year it feels different as well.

Some of that is the way the season plays out, was there a large snow pack? was spring early or late? Is the weather hot or cool, clear or cloudy? Is there smoke from wildfires?

But some of it is what we bring to the mountain inside us.

This past year has seen several changes in our lives, including the death of two people dear to us and a great deal of upheaval from other sources. I am not gifted at dissimulation, and when asked how I was, I said “okay”. It was an honest answer, but it seemed to surprise the asker. I realized that the expected answer was probably “great!” After all I was in a magical place with good friends.

As I walked things out I realized that if I was truly”great!” after the events of the past year I might be considered a bit of a sociopath. In days of yore we had rituals for the loss of loved ones, including periods of time set aside for grieving, you wore black to let folks know that you were in mourning, so they realized that you weren’t “great!”

The meadows worked their magic on me. I can’t say that I went up “okay” and came back “great!”, but I did come back okay with being “okay” for now.

The answer is blowing in the wind…

Walking the dogs today I saw the two flags in the header. The crisp clean one at half mast, and the tattered one hanging by the door of a house with notices on the doors and windows indicating that it will soon be torn down. Blown by the breeze in a synchronized dance.

The flag is not a thing you should worship. It is a symbol. Hopefully a symbol worthy of respect for what it stands for. The symbolism that I see is e pluribus unum (from many one) in the field of 50 stars, and the 13 stripes standing for history. We do not have a perfect history, and much more work is needed, but a history of progress based on two principles: the idea that all humans are created equal and the rule of law applies to us all. There have been many fits and starts in that forward motion, and, to my thinking, we seem to be moving backwards right now. But I believe that we can reverse that. Just as McCarthyism was eventually shown to be malarkey.

For the past week, since learning about the mass shootings, I’ve been sick in my heart. I’ve read various theories and thoughts about our nation’s epidemic of mass shootings. Normally I don’t have anything to add to the conversation, but this time I think I do.

The usual suspects

No question, we need stricter gun laws. The need for guns is not what it once was: we no longer need to hunt for food and very few need to protect their families against threats from bears, wolves, etc. There are no legal activities that you can do with assault rifles. Anyone who wants one is at least somewhat sociopathic and should be watched.

Yes, we need to take better care of the mentally ill. But perpetrators of many of the shootings would not have raised a red flag.

I’m not crazy about the violence of video games. I believe they sanitize violence and make it seem like a fantasy. You can say that about an awful lot of television and movies as well, although they are less of a training type of activity.

My first bit of insight, from a drive in the country

Speaking of training activities:

My family hunted. Yes we had guns, and we learned to use them. We were told to NEVER point a gun at a person. When I was a kid my dad wouldn’t let us even point an imaginary finger gun at another person (I think a childhood friend of his was killed in some type of accident related to gun play, but he never talked about it). By the way, we also ate what was killed. It wasn’t just a sport.

Imagine my shock when we were driving out in the country a couple of years ago and a family (with two grade school age kids) were out shooting at people shaped targets. This is what passes for wholesome family fun???

When did that get to be okay? That was a trick question: it isn’t okay now, just as it wasn’t okay back then.

The real question is : How come people don’t know this?

Paying mind to the values portrayed in video games, and TV and movies may be part of the answer. Not sufficient on its own, but still part of the answer.

My second bit of insight, from Facebook

I rarely go on Facebook anymore, for a variety of reasons. I don’t feel passionately about it, one way or another. But it has its uses, and one is that it is easy to communicate and share with certain people. My dad and I took a nice day trip to the water front in Seattle and I wanted him to have access to some of the photos I took, so I posted them on Facebook. That has the benefit that his friends and family also could see them.

It had been a long while, so I ran my eye over some of the feed to see what folks were up to. For the first time ever I unfriended someone. I can’t go back on and find the exact post they had shared to show it to you, but it went something like this: You’d better support (the current incumbent of the White House) because with a single tweet he can mobilize a bunch of people with guns (numbers were listed but I don’t recall exactly what they were).

When I heard about the shooting in Gilroy, I thought about that post. When I heard about the shooting in El Paso, I thought about that post. When I heard about the shooting in Dayton, I thought about that post.

I wonder how many of the perpetrators of the recent attacks saw that post?

You can blame trolls for many things, and that post was likely written by one. But it didn’t need to be shared…by anyone… ever.

In summary

We all get scared, frustrated and angry. But, while self-control and restraint may still be viewed as virtues by some, if you crave attention (which seems to be how people are measured in our society today) then in-your-face acting out is the way to go.

Patriotism

Patriotism is a word that means different things to different people.

We have come to a point where a bunch of folks seem to think that the right to speak freely means that they should use that right to promote hatred of various groups (Jews, Hispanics…). The right to bear arms seems to mean to them that they can go and shoot their neighbors buying groceries, on a night out, or worshiping in a synagogue.

Matriotism

Maybe we need something new and different: Matriotism? the idea that we need to take care of each other and stand up for what is right. It can be as simple as being very careful what you encourage on social media. Think about it before you “like” and “share”. Trolls invented the “anti-fa” movement to try and drum up conflict. Don’t let them have the win.

Yes, we need more restrictive gun laws. We need to find a way to take care of the mentally ill. We should try to find ways to entertain that do not romanticize violence or make it seem like a game. But we also need something else.

To view all people as people, and you don’t point guns at people, ever.

5000 Miles Away

Just after midnight here, at home it was about 9 am yesterday, my grandmother left this world.

I should, perhaps, feel sad. But, so far, I feel thankful. Very few people get to my age with an intact grandmother. She sent me a happy birthday email the day before she died. At almost the same time, I sent her an email with these flowers:

I should, perhaps, feel guilt, because I wasn’t there for her at the end. But, so far, I’ve been remembering happily our last few visits. Before we left, I took her youngest great-grandchild to see her. Our last visit was our regular Wednesday night: sharing a glass of wine and laughing together as we watch British sit-coms. Our good-bye ritual is for me to put each of her two dogs in her lap for some loving attention. So, she got to say goodbye to the pups, even though we didn’t know it would be their last goodbye.

Going somewhere? We will miss you.

At some point I may have different feelings, you don’t lose someone you have known for 57 years all at once, you don’t really lose them at all in some ways, and being so far away I haven’t perceived the changes in my life landscape yet. But, so far, I am not feeling regrets because I wasn’t there last night. Just happiness that I spent as much time with her as I have over the course of our lives, and it was very good time.

I am going to miss her, but, boy, am I lucky to have had her in my life.