musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser

November 9, 2006

A revolution of Kindness

I used to include the following in my signature when posting on some forums on the Internet:

“I want to start a revolution of kindness.”

I still think kindness is important, though that particular revolution was started at other times by much more qualified people than I. The biggest reason I quit using it as my signature line was, I began to think people looked at those words and thought “bleeding heart liberal” or “easy mark” — or they saw it as just plain cheesy. I became self-conscious about it.

Why? Why do we think of kindness as uncool, naive, or unrealistic? (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:11 pm PST, 11/09/06

August 18, 2006


After air to breathe, it’s the next priority. We tend to take it for granted. Rhubarb pointed out this article, in which some corporate experts predict economic problems “by 2015 as the supply of fresh water becomes critical to the global economy.”

Thinking about water shortages reminded me of the first business trip I made to Philadelphia. I wondered if Pennsylvania was always that green, or if it was possible the trees and grass were putting on a special show that summer. I recall experiencing the same amazement at the greenery of Western Oregon and Maryland, almost a distrust of so much verdure. It is never that green here. Even with the vast Pacific Ocean beside us, the nearest we come to that quality of green in Southern California is a dusty, grayish imitation in parks, and that in El Niño years. Our water is imported, much of it from the Colorado River, which is so strained by use that it dwindles to a mere trickle where it meets, or used to meet, the ocean in the Gulf of California. These days the spent river disappears somewhere in Mexico. The rushing torrent that carved the Grand Canyon, and spilled over in flood years to fill the Salton Sea, becomes no more than a creek trickling through irrigation culverts into thirsty Mexican farmland. According to U.S. Water News Online:

The valley along the river south of Mexicali produces roughly 10 percent of Mexico’s wheat, about 17 percent of its cotton, and important quantities of sorghum, alfalfa, and asparagus. Even when there are heavy rains upstream, a few steel culverts under a gravel road can handle what was once called “an American Nile” as it limps toward its mouth in the Gulf of California.

In dry years, the river is devoid of water. Between 1961 and 1978, when reservoirs were slowly filling behind upstream dams, there was almost no water in the lower channel at all.

Recently I read a collection of essays and stories by West Texas women, Writing On The Wind. The emphasis on drought, the importance of windmills, the quality of water in some places (one woman had lived in a house where her toilet bowl was perpetually stained black) carved impressions in my mind. I recognized, even if I’ve known it to a lesser degree, the disorientation and distrust of an unfamiliar abundance of green that West Texans feel when traveling to wetter places.

My limited travels and that book served as stark reminders of what a precious commodity water is. While those reminders centered in the wealthy US, where money so often manages to truck or pipe water where it’s needed, the world as a whole has a more tenuous claim on fresh water to begin with. If the shortage is worsening, we may all be in trouble soon.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 11:22 pm PST, 08/18/06

July 27, 2006

This is going to sound radical

But Rhubarb inpsired me to think about estate taxes.

I wonder what would happen to our economy if inheritance was done away with. If, when you (and your spouse) died, if you hadn’t chosen charities to give the money to, the state came in and decided how to divide it up among the needy. No passing one’s wealth on to the next generation except in a contribution to the world as a whole.

Maybe people would stop hoarding so much wealth, since not only could they not take it with them, they couldn’t leave it with their children either. Their children would start out (or at least continue on) with no more than anyone else. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 1:13 pm PST, 07/27/06

July 11, 2006

Order and chaos

The cat’s litter box is clean. That mundane detail isn’t your favorite sentence I’ve ever written, I’m sure. Mine either. But my day often seems to revolve around whether that task has been accomplished, and what comes after it. I go through a list of chores, on the days I think to make one, eventually reaching the line that has to do with writing, after checking off a lot of other stuff. Today writing comes after important things like the cat’s box, which is of utmost importance to her, though slightly less to us except through our affection for her, since we don’t use it and it’s out in the garage, easy for us to forget. Vacuuming comes next, mostly pet hair this time of year. That task must be accomplished while the day is still cool enough to have windows open, or not at all. A late-in-the-day shower will be in order, after all the creepy stuff on the list is done. (Bear with me, I do have a point here, this isn’t merely a run-through of my chores.) (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 10:57 am PST, 07/11/06

July 4, 2006

What is privilege?

The subject of privilege came up on a forum where I sometimes participate, and it seems a relevant topic for Independence Day, since we tend to think of the US as a relatively privileged nation. The discussion grew out of one person claiming to be oppressed (my word choice, used to boil the idea down), and another saying he was equally oppressed, with a resulting one-upmanship of who was worse off or better off, at one point involving the term privileged. Out of that grew a separate discussion on what it means to be privileged in this world. Here’s what I shared on the subject, with some edits:


To me being privileged means having more than one’s basic needs met, and there are degrees of privilege, and it is relative, and basically meaningless. I’m more privileged than some people I know, and less privileged than some I know. But all I can really say about that is what I see on the surface.

It’s tragic that so few people in the world have adequate food, water, sanitation, shelter, clothing, necessary transportation, education, rest, safety, security, and health care, even some people in the US. Those should be basic, subsistence level expectations, especially considering how far we’ve come technologically in this world. Unfortunately those advances seem to be reserved for the wealthiest people in the wealthiest countries, for those living under certain forms of government and economics. Basic civil and human rights should also be considered subsistence level—everyone should have them. Not everyone does, even in the most economically “privileged” countries. We can’t even agree on what civil and human rights people should have.

But I also think many people in the world have a skewed notion of what it is to live under what they consider privilege (i.e. better apparent economic or social conditions than theirs). It looks easier. In many ways it is. It’s no guarantee one will be happy. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 9:40 am PST, 07/04/06

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