My gift to you! Take a visual dip in Vermont snow melt on a very hot but breezy day. Please turn your audio dial down (or off) to avoid the static in the audio feed caused by a strong west wind. Enjoy! 

 
 
It's true, summer is really, really here, with a vengeance. It's been wickedly hot in New England the last week or so, but we have hope the universe will settle down and go back to normal. It's a good time to go for a dip, take a long ride, visit a country fair or smell the roses. 

Here are some photos taken in and around southern Vermont/western Massachusetts recently. 

If you haven't had a chance to take a vacation, sit back, relax and take one now. Enjoy!

For a virtual dip in the lake, go to One-minute vacation

 
 
Are you an iPhone person or a Blackberry type? Let this clever little video from the NYT technology desk help you pick your next cell phone. 

 
 

I'm taking the liberty to reprint this (in toto and without permission) as a public service to those of you who do not get the New York Times. It can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/opinion/27wed2.html?ref=opinion

Editorial Page

New York Times
July 26, 2011

A Denial of Reality

How can so many Republican lawmakers justify pushing their country toward catastrophic default just to score ideological points? The answer can be found in their statements and writings: They are constructing an alternative reality far different from that of most Americans.

A large number of Republican lawmakers, for example, simply don’t accept that the United States is going to be in default as of Tuesday. (Wall Street banks say the nation will run out of money within a few days of that date.)

The Treasury Department, which keeps the government bankbook, set the Aug. 2 deadline, but they say it cannot be trusted because it is an arm of the Obama administration. Representative Joe Walsh, a freshman from Illinois, recorded an instantly notorious video in which he accused President Obama of “lying” about the dangers of default. “There’s plenty of money to pay off our debt and cover all of our Social Security obligations,” he said, without saying where all these billions might be hidden.

Representative Michele Bachmann, the Tea Partier running for president, went even further, saying there would be no default at all because the government would always find a way to pay the interest on its debt. Her level of disbelief in any statement made by the White House is so complete that she disregarded the possibility that the global financial system could impose its own devastating downgrade on the government’s obligations.

Mrs. Bachmann’s denial of economic reality puts her at the far-right end of the House, alongside eight other Republicans who voted against the “Cut, Cap and Balance Act” last week because it was too liberal. More typical are those who are sticking by that bill and its balanced-budget amendment, though the Senate effectively rejected it.

Jim Jordan of Ohio, who leads an influential group of House conservatives, said he is willing to go down with the cut, cap and balance ship even if default is the only option, since he, too, is not persuaded that the Treasury is telling the truth. He and several members of his Republican Study Committee said Tuesday they could not support Speaker John Boehner’s watered-down version of “cut, cap,” because it does not require passage of a balanced-budget amendment before the debt ceiling can go up.

(In Mr. Boehner’s alternative reality, by the way, it just popped into Mr. Obama’s head to ask for “the largest debt increase in American history, on the heels of the largest spending binge in American history.” The president was required to ask for an increase by law, and the spending was mostly incurred by his Republican predecessor.)

Mr. Jordan’s words offered one of the best explanations of the House’s determination to beat Mr. Obama at any cost. A former state champion wrestler, he told The National Review that in politics you pin your opponent whenever possible. “We want to get the win now,” he said.

House members have been encouraged in their destructive daydream by many outside organizations and Web sites. An arm of the Heritage Foundation sent out a letter Tuesday saying the government should live under the current debt ceiling rather than pass the Boehner plan, ignoring the need to raise the ceiling to pay for bills already incurred. Several right-wing bloggers, notably Erick Erickson of RedState, have threatened brimstone on any errant Republican lawmaker who even considers compromise with the president.

If the economy does begin to crumble next week, the trail back toward the reason will not be hard to follow.


 
 
Here's an excellent follow up to 24 Tweets, from The New Yorker:
http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2011/07/25/110725taco_talk_packer

Let your voice be heard. Contact Congress today.

 
 
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Over the past few months -- while I was in the hospital, nursing home and at home recovering -- the dream I had most often involved floating in water. The doctor wouldn't let me take a shower for three weeks after each surgery, so the amount of aqua  deprivation I experienced was pretty severe, especially for a swimmer. 

It doesn’t matter what you do in water. It’s all meditation. You can just play around  or make a beeline to a destination. In the buoyancy and liquidity of water, only the phrase “different strokes for different folks” has traction. Do whatever you want and you’ll get where you’re going, painlessly.  

In case you haven’t had a chance to indulge in open water for a while, here’s some video shot at Lake Whitingham in Wilmington, Vermont last week.   



 
 
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I know several once-comfortable, highly educated, highly salaried, middle-aged folks who are caught in today’s perfect storm of deep recession, real estate bust and offshore outsourcing. If you follow their demise over time on Twitter, here’s what you might read:

1.     Fit and 55, married 25 yrs, 2 grown kids, mortgage almost paid. Life is good! 

2.     Will work another 10 years, then semi-retire to sunny condo life.  Ahhh!  

3.     Lost 1/3 of IRA on Wall St but can recoup over time. Must be careful w/$.

4.     Boss promises big raise this yr. Got 30-yr pin @employee recog dinner tonite.

5.     Important project at work so cancelled vacation, but big $$$ ahead.   

6.     This just in: Company lost contract/was sold/went bankrupt. Job went pffft! 

7.     How can I compete for work against 30-somethings w/0 mouths 2 feed? 

8.     Signed up for unemployment today. Job prospects still dim. Spouse blue.  

9.     COBRA gone so bought lousy health ins @$1,000/mo/pp! Don’t get sick!

10.   No more vacations, motorcycles, condos, tennis, dining out but still hopeful.

11    Our neighborhood turned chic so taxes sky high. Still, home value dropped.  

12    Taxed out of my home + underwater!  Can’t believe this is happening.

13.   Took early SS at reduced rate. Stuck w/lower checks 4 life, but need it now.  

14.   1 yr on SS, so can go on Medicare. $ will be taken from SS check, thank god.

15.   GOP rattling sabres over “entitlements.” Spouse worried.

16.   Biggest fear: 75 yo + eating dog food. Please, let SS keep up w/COLA! 

17.   Is all of this just a bad dream? Can I wake up now? 

18.   Look on bright side: more time w/kids, etc.  Spouse miserable.  

19.   Took kids/grandkids 4 pizza + walk. Learning 2 love Monopoly.    

20.   Not what I had in mind 4 “golden years” but will adjust. Still healthy.  

21.   Thank goodness, college kid will finish + married kid got great job nearby.

22.   Kid graduated but NO jobs. He’s stuck w/huge college loan. I’m stuck w/him.

23.   New grad lands Tokyo job, other one transferred to Brazil. Spouse walked. 

24.   I’m looking for a little space on a passing ice floe. 



 
 
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La Marseillaise 

La Marseillaise
 was composed by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792, and named the French national anthem in 1795. It's bloodier than the Star Spangled Banner, but not by much. 

Allons enfants de la patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé !
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes,
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes !

Aux armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons ! Marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

Que veut cette horde d'esclaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? 
Français ! pour nous, ah ! quel outrage !
Quels transports il doit exciter !
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer
De rendre à l'antique esclavage !

Quoi ! ces cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! 
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploiraient !
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées !

Tremblez, tyrans ! et vous, perfides,
L'opprobre de tous les partis,
Tremblez ! vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leur prix !
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre,
S'ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,
La France en produit de nouveaux,
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre !

Français, en guerriers magnanimes,
Portez ou retenez vos coups !
Épargnez ces tristes victimes,
A regret s'armant contre nous. (bis)
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
Déchirent le sein de leur mère !

Amour sacré de la patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs !
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs ! 
Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents !
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !

Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus ;
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus. 
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre !


Is she the epitome of the chanteuse Française, ou non? 

Here are a few blogs I follow and would recommend to other Francophiles:
French Letters  -- a gourmande's delight. Beautiful writing/photos/story 
Montpellier Daily Photo -- just what it sounds like
Paris Breakfasts --  an artist's view of France and French culture
Lost in Cheeseland -- musings on food, love, live & struggles in Paris
French Word A Day – much, much more than it sounds like 



 
 
The next time you start to grumble about the inconvenience of signing HIPAA consent forms at your doctor’s office or hospital admissions desk, think of the story of Henrietta Lacks.  

In 1951, this poor, black Virginia woman with cancer lost her privacy as well as control over her own body, when cells taken from her tumor were used for research without her knowledge. (She ultimately lost her life, too, but from the cancer and not  any wrongdoing on the part of her doctors or hospital.) As a result, we enjoy a host of beneficial drugs, therapies and interventions.  Think polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization and many drugs used in cancer treatment.

(To learn more, read Rebecca Skloot’s best seller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, or wait for the film based on the book being produced by Oprah Winfrey.)   

Everything on the plus side of this equation might not have happened if today’s regulations had been in place at the time to protect her privacy and ownership of her cells. But, that was not the case, and lack of regulation is no excuse for the injustices done to this woman and her family. We all owe the Lacks family a huge debt.  

Fortunately, today we have a host of rights related to health care. Maybe more than we even want. The rules protecting those rights are not perfect, but are evolving, little by little, in such a way that we can expect protection and power over our own bodies, even in a complex and overburdened medical environment.  

For a look at what we’ve learned from this fascinating tale, see The Lessons of Henrietta Lacks in Progress ezine. For FAQs on HIPAA, go here.


 
 

America, The Beautiful
Bates/Ward

O beautiful for spacious skies, 
For amber waves of grain, 
For purple mountain majesties 
Above the fruited plain! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
And crown thy good with brotherhood 
From sea to shining sea! 

O beautiful for pilgrim feet 
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat 
Across the wilderness! 
America! America! 
God mend thine every flaw, 
Confirm thy soul in self-control, 
Thy liberty in law! 

O beautiful for heroes proved 
In liberating strife. 
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life! 
America! America! 
May God thy gold refine 
Till all success be nobleness 
And every gain divine! 

O beautiful for patriot dream 
That sees beyond the years 
Thine alabaster cities gleam 
Undimmed by human tears! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
And crown thy good with brotherhood 
From sea to shining sea! 

O beautiful for halcyon skies, 
For amber waves of grain, 
For purple mountain majesties 
Above the enameled plain! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
Till souls wax fair as earth and air 
And music-hearted sea! 

Greenfield, Massachusetts, July 2, 2011