Us vs. them

Words from an Internet stranger that resonated with me this morning:

i admit, up front, that obama doesn’t always do what i think is right and that he’s done a number of things which have disappointed me to a greater or lesser extent. but when he says “we,” i feel like that includes me and those i care about. but when mitt romney says “we,” he’s not talking about me and my loved ones. as far is mitt is concerned, me and my loved ones aren’t part of the “us,” we’re part of “them.” and that’s why obama continues to have my support.



It has been hot here in Los Angeles this summer, and our western-facing kitchen bears the brunt of it in the evenings. The last thing either of us wants to be doing at 6 o’clock is standing in front of a hot stove! But cold food is only appealing for so long … sometimes we just want something steamy and savory!

The solution is to wait for the sun to go down and then eat a fashionably late dinner after dark.

I’m really proud of tonight’s “after dark” dish. I wanted to use up some chicken that had been thawing in the fridge for a while, as well as a bunch of yellow squash that we’d picked up last week. For a summer dish, I knew it couldn’t be heavy, therefore no cream sauce … and I wanted to be able to double up inside the oven and cook our side dish for the same time and at the same temperature. The less heat escaping into the house, the better!

So here’s what I came up with … savory/spicy chicken legs with squash and green beans, baked potatoes on the side. The cinnamon and dash of flour gave the dish an incredible bready aroma, and the other spices gave it a perfect light summery bite.

I didn’t give quantities below because I want you, the cook, to be able to spice this up in proportions that your own family enjoys.

Chicken legs
Yellow squash
Garlic cloves
Canned green beans, drained
Olive oil
Chili flakes
Black pepper
Sea salt

Chop yellow squash into small pieces. Mince several cloves of garlic (according to your tastes; I used four small cloves to season five chicken legs). Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pour olive oil into a 9×13 casserole dish to cost the bottom. Place chicken legs into dish with skins up. Add squash and garlic on top of chicken, and shake the dish so that it all settles. Sprinkle with a few teaspoons of flour. Sprinkle with paprika, cinnamon, chili flakes, thyme, black pepper, and sea salt. Once again, shake the dish so that the ingredients settle. Cover with aluminum foil and put in the oven.

As a side dish, place washed and pierced potatoes on the oven rack beside the casserole dish.

Cook for 25 minutes, then remove casserole dish from oven. Carefully remove the aluminum foil, and drizzle olive oil on top of each of the chicken legs. Add green beans evenly on top of the other ingredients (I used french cut beans). Re-cover with aluminum foil and place in oven.

Cook for another 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature of chicken is 170 degrees. Potatoes are also done at this point. Enjoy!

I have had a headache and feel so drained this morning — but woke up fast when, just after getting off the bus and crossing the street to get to the office, there was a loud and horrible *SQUEAL* *CRASH* maybe 30 feet behind me. Everything went slow-motion for a few seconds, and then I was jogging back to the crash while simultaneously calling 911. There was already a military guy there who had jumped out of his SUV and had checked on the occupants of each of the cars, and when I saw he was taking more time with one driver, I went to the other one to talk with her and hold her hand and help calm her down. She was spooked because she was young and her car was obviously totaled, but no injuries. Just strawberry smoothie all over the place — it only looked like a bloodbath. I got to pray with her, but we got a few sentences out before things got busy again. (Oh well, I know God heard!)

Although I was the closest to the crash in proximity, I didn’t actually see it happen. Thankfully, there were a number of witnesses who were able to talk to the police and explain the situation. So I stayed with the drivers and helped with keeping them calm while the firefighters checked them out.

I gave the girl with the totaled car my contact information and told her that I’d help with giving her rides for a while if she wanted help with that. Who knows what will happen with that. And then after the police released me, I walked the remaining block to the office and got some cold water bottles for both drivers.

It is a miracle of modern technology how crashes like this happen and people walk away from them with only scratches! Even the older car, a ’97 Honda Accord, crumpled as it was intended and completely spared the driver inside. (Aside from the strawberry smoothie explosion.) Gerry’s mom comments from time to time about how the workmanship on modern cars is shoddy because they crumple so easily, but misses the point that, in the process, the people inside are being protected.

Thank God for science. Thank God for engineers. Thank God for technology!

Last week while picking up some items at Target, Gerry and I experienced an actual instance of Worst-Case Thinking, the type that I usually read about … not see myself! Now I’m debating whether it’s more appropriate to share the story with Free-Range Kids or with Not Always Working.

So we’ve been in between homes for two weeks while waiting indefinitely to get the keys for our new house. (Living out of suitcases is only fun when you’re on vacation, I’ve discovered.) With our travel supplies running low and our main stash of stuff in a Budget truck, we went into Target for the following small necessities:

  • Double-sealed bottle of vitamins
  • Shrink-wrapped travel bottle of mouthwash
  • Hard plastic package of shavers (razors)
  • Chocolate bar in a cardboard package

Okay, so maybe chocolate isn’t a necessity. Haha!

At checkout, the cashier dumped the vitamins, mouthwash, and razors into a large plastic bag. I should have offered to just carry the items … they looked lost at the bottom of the bag. And then she took the chocolate bar and placed it in its own separate plastic bag. “Thanks, but you don’t need to do that,” I tried to stop her. “There’s plenty of room in the first bag. Or I could carry the chocolate. It doesn’t need its own bag.”

“No, no, no,” she responded. “Take the bag. Accidents can happen at any time.

I was literally speechless as we took the bags and walked out of the store. Accidents?! What accidents?! For the life of me, I can’t think of a single accident that could possibly happen if all of our items were to go in one bag, or if I were to carry the chocolate.

Like … ahh … the shavers packaged in that ridiculous hard-plastic-impossible-to-open-without-kitchen-scissors package were to somehow get in their minds to escape … and then the blades themselves fell out of the handles … cut the shrink-wrap on the mouthwash … which then managed to jiggle its child-proof cap open simultaneously as the vitamin package unscrewed itself, peeled off its protective paper, and lost the cotton … they combine and make a gas that then wafts up through the cardboard chocolate package and its inner foil and … horrors … makes the chocolate smell like mint!

Oh! What a horrible accident that would be! Too bad it’s impossible. Clearly, this cashier’s imagination is far greater than mine!

I was quite proud of myself when, as a fresh-faced 21-year-old, I opened a retirement account with what was then First Union and started making regular contributions. The responsible thing to do, yes? “The power of compounding interest!” they told me. Sounded exciting! I wouldn’t be able to touch the money or move my account until age 62.5, or five years after my last contribution in certain circumstances, but no matter … it was for retirement. I didn’t need the money now.

But then First Union got bought out by another bank, and the new bank started charging me $45 a year to maintain the account. It was an inconvenience, but at least I was earning plenty of interest on this account.

And then the economy went south. I now made a paltry $45 in interest a year for a while, barely enough to pay the fee. (This isn’t a unique story by any means, but for the moment it is mine.) I stopped contributing. And then the bank got bought out again, this time by Wells Fargo, and the maintenance fee went up to $65 a year. Yearly gains almost came to a halt. Le sigh…. But it was what it was. All I could do was sit tight.

Until now! Five years had gone by since my last contribution and I had a reason for a qualified withdrawal … first home purchase.

Well, let’s skip the drama of lost paperwork and bad information and fast forward to 5:14 this evening, when the Wells Fargo manager I was sitting with calmly informed me that there would be a $95 charge to close my account … and no, I couldn’t leave a dollar in the account to avoid closing it.

I mentally calculated how many electric bills $95 would pay (2.8 months worth for those keeping track at home), paid the fee, closed the account, and walked away with money in hand … just about the amount I had put in originally. And finally I am free! (I am left with only credit union accounts, and hope to keep it that way.)

Now I’m sure that this experience isn’t unique to Wells Fargo. It probably would have happened with any of the major financial institutions. But it is a perfect example of how the banking industry is stacked against the “little guy” and how doing the “right thing” is not necessarily the right thing if you are a small-time investor. That $65 yearly fee was one percent of my principal, small but significant… but for an investor with $65,000 in the bank, $65 would barely register. And the $95 I paid to close the account, that’s 1.5 percent of the principal for me, but again merely a blip on the radar for a ten-thousand-aire.

The current banking system allows the rich to grow richer, and that’s okay, but it also penalizes the poor and makes them grow poorer … and that’s not okay!

I finally “get” it, what the 99 Percent protests were all about.

Please, Wells Fargo. Please, Chase and Bank of America and Citi. Consider the little guys. Treat us fairly. Charge us percentage-based fees according to the funds invested with you. (I can’t imagine that this would be bad for business!) We are willing to pay for your products, but it must be in proportion to the services you provide for us, otherwise we can’t afford to do the “right thing.”

Air safety isn’t just the TSA’s responsibility … passengers and crew these days know that it’s up to them to respond to incidents in the air.

JetBlue Flight Forced to Land After Deranged Captain Screamed ‘There’s a Bomb On Board!’

JetBlue Flight 191 had to make an emergency landing today in Texas. The flight was en route to Las Vegas from New York’s JFK when a man—allegedly the flight’s captain—got out of the restroom “foaming at the mouth” and screaming. (Gizmodo/FlightAware)

I can’t wait for Bruce Schneier (a security expert who blogs at to share his thoughts about this incident! He is usually spot-on about these things, and so many elements of the JetBlue story were prophesied by him.

Three observations of my own:

  1. Is there something in the water?! The description of the captain’s actions remind me of Jason Russell’s breakdown in San Diego a few weeks ago.
  2. TSA, take notice: Clippers, cupcakes, and breast-milk carried on by passengers are not fearsome weapons for taking down a plane. The only ingredient you need for disaster is one crazed pilot in the cockpit.
  3. The JetBlue story is proof that, these days, crew and passengers know it’s their responsibility to act if there is danger. It’s no longer the 1980s or 1990s when people were expected to “cooperate” with hijackers/terrorists/crazies.

The TSA didn’t avert this potential crisis in the air … a levelheaded first officer, cooperative crew, and responsive passengers did.

Edited 4-5-12: He mentioned it in his blog today! Bruce Schneier’s brief comments about the incident:



What I am thankful for today = new tires for my Matrix! (And it was about time … those bald spots on my old tires were seriously THIS CLOSE to blowing out on the freeway.) Gerry took care of everything for me this afternoon and got a spectacular deal saving us $180 over the expected price. Praise God!

It’s the first time that I’ve been able to hand off an auto maintenance responsibility to someone else, and boy, it feels good. I could get used to my husband taking care of me this way.