Saturday, February 23, 2008

Supporters of public broadcasting

Jonathan renewed our support for KQED! This is important to us. We don't have TV and radio signals are intermittant but I can go to the KQED Web site and that of National Public Radio and listen to recorded shows. I can also use iTunes to hear KQED in "real time."

Public broadcasting is a great source for news and analysis about health, books and the arts. We've supported it for years. Back in Sonoma Grove Trailer Park, we supported Channel 22, the public broadcasting station for Rohnert Park.

One evening, I got the Sonoma County chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism to man the phone banks during a KRCB pledge drive. The in-studio cameras broadcast images of us dressed in our "garb" of Medieval to early-Renaissance clothing.

Friday, February 22, 2008

'Icrebreaker' speech for Toastmasters

I gave my "icebreaker" speech last night for Toastmasters! It went very well! The group gave me good feedback about the strengths I already have and some areas for improvement. I'm looking forward to giving my next speech.

Last nght's speech was the first one in the workbook. The objective was to tell a story about yourself so I talked about my experience taking English tea at the local inn and how I was able to eat part of the sandwiches even though swallowing that type of food had been so very difficult in the past.

Originally posted to

Monday, February 18, 2008

Poets appear in multiple classrooms via satellite

Former Lake County Poets Laureate James BlueWolf and Carolyn Wing Greenlee were brought via video technology to classes at multiple Konocti sites.

In the Lower Lake Elementary School library on Friday, BlueWolf and Greenlee fielded questions moderated by JoAnn Saccato with the Native American Community Education Center. BlueWolf and Greenlee collaborated on "Speaking for Fire" (Earthen Vessel Productions), an illustrated children's book. The book tells a story in the oral tradition and is meant to be read aloud.

Animal peoples of the earth, frightened by the destructive power of Fire, take their case to the Grandfathers that sit in the clouds at the Four Directions of the World.

The Grandfathers ask if anyone will speak for Fire so that Fire will not be sent away. At first none of the animal nations are willing to speak for Fire but a small pinecone finally explains that when she was burned by Fire, it allowed her seeds to fall upon the earth.

BlueWolf explained that he chose Fire and Pinecone because of their close relationship and because each has multiple qualities. "Fire can be destructive and it can also create," he said, adding that a pinecone seems small but when it releases its seeds it produces big pines.

The story is accompanied by Greenlee's illustrations, tissue and construction paper collages, which have a textural quality that is a good match for the text. "Whenever you illustrate a children's book, you have to make sure that the words and pictures support each other," she said, adding that she chose tissue paper because it has a stark quality that is similar to the way trees look after they have burned.

Video-conferencing technology transmitted the presentation to other elementary school libraries East Lake, Pomo and Burns Valley where students were able to pose questions. Konocti's Director of Technology, Michael Schenck, oversaw video transmissions while Saccato moderated the order in which students asked their questions about the writing and illustration process. A couple of classes at Pomo and Lower Lake created some paper collages; BlueWolf and Greenlee signed several of the collages after the presentation at Lower Lake.

BlueWolf and Greenlee gave a second presentation at Oak Hill Middle School, which was also transmitted to Lower Lake High School students.

Originally published in the Clear Lake Observer American

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunglasses help with eyestrain

I've started attending services among a Unitarian Universalist community that meets at a local senior center. At the first two services I attended, I noticed that a couple of things seemed to be going on simultaneously: a) my eyes hurt or felt tired and b) the room is very bright. Not only was direct sunlight coming through the front windows but the interior lighting was on full-force overhead.

I know that light that would ordinarily not bother me can potentially cause me trouble when I am physically fatigued or when I am under emotional strain but this service was in the mid-morning and I'd had plenty of sleep and was feeling pretty good about life.

I've had problems for years with my eyes constantly feeling fatigued. I frequently rub my eyes and I've seen videos of me where I'm doing these weird long blinks. So when I learned about AS and about the sensory issues that can go with it, I started trying to pay attention to certain things -- potential causes and effects.

Last week during services, I put my sunglasses back on and this morning I left them on entirely. My eyes felt a lot better with the sunglasses on. So I plan to reserve as an option my wearing sunglasses indoors when light is too much for me.

People who accept me will accept this about me as well, and I continually remind myself that there ARE people in my life who accept me as I am -- that I am no longer back in grade school.

Some other sensory issues that I deal with include a fear response to a very specific sound. It is really very strange how strong my reaction can be and how pervasive these reactions.

My husband has suggested that I try to figure out the "why" and here are my observations so far. There may be a correlation between the presence of my fear response and unexpectedness of the sound. This will bear further observation.

My fear response also seems to be worse when the sound is louder and more intense. Somehow I just can't get "used" to this sound.

Like many with AS, I tend toward vigilant focus on nearly all out-of-the-ordinary sounds but the fear response I have to the one specific sound is a very different experience. I recently read an insightful book by Temple Grandin in which she said that the fear response (fight or flight) and the vigilant response with which an animal evaluates its surroundings come from two different areas of the brain. It was very interesting reading.

Taste/food texture is also an issue with me, one that my husband and I have been working on together for years and I think that I am so much better than when I was a child. There were certain foods that caused me to gag the moment I put them in my mouth and now, at least, I can manage a few bites before I have to set the food aside because the taste is unpleasant to me.

My husband recommends meditation, which I try to do a little each day -- even if it's just focused breathing wherever I happen to be. We have a room in our house that is devoted to spiritual practice but I don't necessarily use it every time. Maybe I should because then it would be part of an established daily routine. Besides, I love our meditation room but I also love the rest of the house.

Originally posted to

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Toastmasters member packet arrived

Cat on Toastmasters packet
Toastmasters member packet: tested and approved by Miss Elizabeth

My new member's packet came in the mail from Toastmasters International! Wouldn't you know it, very first thing the cat jumped up and stretched out on the folder.

Anyway, now that I have the first two manuals, I can work through the lessons. The first lesson in the "Competent Communicator" series is "Icebreaker," which is a five- to seven-minute speech that introduces me.

The other workbook is "Competent Leader," which deals with filling certain roles in the group. Should be interesting to work from.

At tonight's meeting I was the "ah counter," keeping track of repeated words and filler sounds. Next week I'll be the "grammarian" and will come up with a word that my fellow Toastmasters will have to use in a sentence.

Originally posted to

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cyber-bullying is not ‘free speech’

Should people who use e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging and the social networks to bully or harass others be allowed to do so as part of their constitutionally protected right to free speech?” This question was posed to more than 240,000 students in 450 middle and high schools as part of MyVote California, a student mock election, this past week.

MyVote California is a civic engagement project that coincides with state elections and gives students hands-on exposure to democracy.

“Some California high school students will cast their first ballots next week and many more students will become voters by the November general election,” said Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

Carlé Continuation High School has participated in MyVote in the past; this time Middletown High School was among participating California schools.

Bowen reported last week that preliminary returns in the mock election showed that top presidential vote-getters in Democratic and Republican parties were Barack Obama and John McCain. The mock election also included three ballot initiatives, which included the question about cyber-bullying.

“I wanted to see how students would feel about issues that would directly affect their lives and their wallets,” explained Bowen, “which is why MyVote included three simulated ballot initiatives dealing with issues that legislators are actually grappling with today.”

Returns for the ballot measure showed 58.6 percent of students voting to indicate “No,” that cyber-bullying should not be treated as constitutionally-protected free speech.

As a supporter of the first amendment, I endorse public expression of constitutionally-guaranteed speech. However, I am also a staunch supporter of another constitutional protection, our implied right to privacy. I believe that cyber-bullying is less an exercise in speech than it is an invasion of privacy.

When you use e-mail, instant messaging and text messaging, you are not engaged in public expression; you are sending private correspondence. And as much as a sender may think he has the right to send me hate-filled messages, I am equally convinced of my right not to be bombarded with unwanted speech.

I can turn off the TV or radio if I don’t care for the values they promote. I can stay home from films that seem repellent.

I can pick and choose from books, magazines, newspapers and Web sites to read from. But short of screening telephone calls, enrolling in mass-market protection lists and imposing filters on unwanted senders, I have little control over which people send me personal communication or correspondence.

I’m not saying that unwanted correspondence is automatically a crime. If it was, I could single-handedly tie up our courts with every person who has ever been rude to me. I’d reserve special charges against people who try to bully me because they expect immediate publicity in the newspaper.

What I am saying, however, is that local students have a right not to be subjected to bullying. Konocti educators and administrators are working to protect this right.

It’s amazing to think how times have changed since more than 20 years ago, when I graduated from Calistoga Junior/Senior High School. Cyber bullying wasn’t an issue, only the face-to-face kind — but let me tell you, it hurt.

I believe that Internet-based, “cyber” bullying can have just as devastating an impact as the “traditional,” face-to-face kind.

I’m glad that a majority of California students are able to make a distinction between taking liberties with personal expression and being secure in one’s right to privacy.

Published Feb. 6, 2008 in the Clear Lake Observer American