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Canine Candidate Selects Running Mate

December 18th, 2011 · No Comments

Passed over for participation in the Iowa candidates’ debate, a canine contender for President has announced her pick for the Vice Presidential slot.

Porschy (not her real first name) is a part Pyrenees, part Golden political novice running as a respresentative of the t-bone wing of the GOP (Grassroots Organization for Pooches). The pooch party’s t-bone faction, a burgeoning social and political force among animals in captivity, espouses a single-message social agenda: Personhood for dogs. The loosely organized coalition contends that in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United in 2010, dogs, like corporations, should be granted First Amendment rights as citizens. Some more extreme member groups additionally espouse the principle that personhood (and citizenship rights) should date from the point when sperm and egg combine to create a canine embryo. Porschy has not indicated a position on this controversial contention.

In a prepared statement, Porschy characterized her Vice Presidential pick, Louie-the-Pug, as a “a tireless and unflagging advocate for the principle of animal personhood.” Louie, who lives in a California coastal county, “has passed the litmus tests for honesty, personal dignity, and sensitivity to issues of justice for animals in captivity,” Porschy noted, stating: “As a Beltway outsider, Louie is unlikely to be swayed by the persiflage of Washington pundits or led astray by specious reasoning. He will stay on message.”

Louie-the-Pug will make an ideal vice president, Porschy added: “He is pugnacious and tenacious. Louie will hound legislators on behalf of my agenda as Commander in Chief. He will also stand up for the little guy.”

“Together,” she added, “we will make a winning team, which can capture the White House and achieve real changes for the condition of ordinary animals everywhere. We are the real outsiders.”

The golden-haired candidate tends to be wary of the press. In a rare interview with buckdata.com, Porschy explained that she, like Louie, has a busy schedule “occupying the yard.” and cannot take out much time to speak with representatives of the human media. She has not appeared on Fox News and prefers to stay home Sundays with her human family, rather than appear on talk shows.

Buckdata.com has learned, however, that selection of other members of the t-bone transition team is already quietly under way. Under consideration at this time, according to a highly-placed source with the campaign, speaking not for attribution, are Massachusetts residents, Daisy and Tucker, who are being vetted for cabinet posts at State and Homeland Security, respectively. Both reportedly have the winning charm of able politicians and impressive pedigrees in inter-species relations.

Porschy has not yet opened a campaign office in Iowa, but contends that that is not a problem. “The caucuses will be able to hear me from the West Coast,” she said, adding: “My bark is definitely bigger than my bite.”

Porschy declined to comment on the failure to include her in the recent Iowa debate, noting only that her participation at last week’s event would probably have leavened the quality of discourse.

→ No CommentsTags: American Grotesque

Another Candidate for President?

November 22nd, 2011 · 3 Comments

After the Supreme Court’s opinion last year in Citizens United, which effectively declared that corporations can be treated as humans, I urged that votes be given to dogs, as well. Now, having observed the Republican frontrunners, I realize I may have done my dog a disfavor.

It shouldn’t just be votes for dogs. Porschy should aim higher. She should run for president herself. She’s qualified. She is smarter than Perry, better informed than Cain (I talk to her a lot about public affairs, and even a casual listener would have an idea what’s going on in Libya.) Unlike Gingrich, she has never orchestrated a government shut-down.

She is not cruel: she has never promoted waterboarding or executing anybody; she is firmly opposed to electrified fences. She would take me to the vet if I needed it without even asking whether I was insured.

Porschy has been consistent and unwavering about these positions. Further, she is popular with pets and pet owners to boot. She has never, ever, put anyone into a dog carrier on a luggage rack (even one with a windshield) during our seasonal trips to the inlaws’ place in L.A.

If the GOP frontrunners were all who were running, I wouldn’t hesitate to form an exploratory committee and set up a Super PAC: Pooches for Prosperity. I’ve already taught her to answer to the words “President Porschy.”

But oops – she’s probably too smart, I might not be able to talk her into running. I’ll have to beg.

→ 3 CommentsTags: American Grotesque

Occupying Grammar

November 4th, 2011 · No Comments

Serve and protect are noble words, suggesting nurturance and safety. They make me think of a good Mommy, or perhaps an excellent babysitter. However, as a motto, these two verbs exist in a kind of linguistic vacuum: They are profoundly ambiguous. Are they infinitives or commands? Ideals or marching orders?

Further, both verbs are transitive. That is, when used in real life declarative sentences that have meaning, these verbs, like the prepositions of, by and for, take objects. But the motto does not specify exactly what the objects of these verbs are.

Recent encounters between police and protestors of the various Occupations across the United States suggest that the police motto itself, unlike a direct declarative sentence, conveys a certain ambiguity about the role of law enforcement.

Increasingly, public debate is going to focus on just what these unnamed objects are. Animate or inanimate? What, or whom? It’s about time!

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A First Book at 65 – Why not?

September 20th, 2011 · 2 Comments

It’s never too late to follow a life’s dream, as writer Shelley Buck discovers.

All my life I’ve known I wanted to write books. But there were other things: a child, a husband, a house to buy, work to attend to, dirty dishes, even. Also, I’m shy, and even though I was a feminist, a journalist, and later a professor teaching writing, tooting my horn for my own needs came hard.

And then we moved to a boat. While there was plenty to repair, I wasn’t handy or good at it. Other family members took on these tasks. Living aboard a boat changed my perception of what a home meant: In a galley a quarter the size of the usual cubicle, there wasn’t much opportunity to do gourmet cooking. Dusting became easy in a salon living space of less than a hundred square feet. I couldn’t, even if I desired, shuffle the furniture around. Almost everything was built in. With only three plates and a handful of cups, there was little temptation to squander my days washing dishes. I walked the dog out on the wetlands paths, and while my son was at school, I wrote.

And eventually there was a book. I was working. It took time to finish and edit up the book. Time to format it for publication, time to learn web design skills for promotion, time to find an editor, a community, and the encouragement to proceed, time to learn about eBooks and how the opportunity for online publication might streamline the process. I had been waiting all my life for permission to write. Now, I decided to give myself permission to publish, too. And on November 6, 2010, Floating Point was born as an eBook.

UPDATE: Floating Point was published in paperback on August 16, 2011. See this link for an excerpt.

READERS: What are your dreams? What are you doing to get there?

→ 2 CommentsTags: American Dreams

A Tale of Two Pies

February 21st, 2011 · No Comments

I peek at Twitter periodically, but haven’t done so steadily. In the last weeks, that’s changed. I’ve been glued to the Twitter feed on my iPod Touch since the democracy protests heated up in Egypt.

Ironically, I first signed up for Twitter some years back because I had heard a tale about a journalist who was arrested in Egypt. The story was that he managed to use Twitter to alert his editor and others outside the country. They then helped him get released. Was that story true, back then? It sure is credible now.

The process has attracted some powerful voices. Scanning Twitter feeds in the last couple of weeks, I’ve discovered Twitter had emerged from an early stage I’ll call: “I’m cleaning the catbox right now,” to the major tool for democracy I hoped it might become.

The prompt for Twitter’s 140-character post now reads: “What’s happening?” And a lot is. I’ve read dispatches from Mother Jones Magazine, tweeting updates from the streets of Cairo, and later, from Wisconsin. I’ve found a a link to a YouTube video of Margaret Atwood’s keynote at the Tools of Change conference in New York, speaking about the future of publishing – a hot topic as Borders bookstores enter bankruptcy. I’ve found a link to a photo of Steve Jobs and other high tech titans at dinner with President Obama. I’ve studied up on book design on a linked page showing last year’s most favored font faces and even found a tweeter covering Wikileaks releases.

In short, Twitter is providing, in almost real time, the service editors and publishers – those who decided what was news or publishable – used to be fond of calling curation. But the curation’s in more hands now: It’s in the hands of the tweeters as they describe open cities and the shifting stakes ordinary people hold in the planet’s future. (And by ordinary people, I mean artists, writers, civil servants, laborers, bazaar vendors, bloggers and those who aren’t rich, people who read cereal boxes, news junkies and lovers of books).

Curation’s also in the hands of familiar magazines like Publisher’s Weekly, Salon, Granta, the New York Review of Books; think tanks like the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard, and the writers’ organization, PEN. These have ventured to establish feeds among the flock of less traditional tweeters.

The curation’s in my hands, too, as I make cautious decisions about what to skip and whom to follow.

Twitter’s potential to unify a global or a local village was always there. In 2010, our local fire departments began tweeting announcements about which roads were closed – a real service in a storm-prone rural area, where trees smash down in the winter wind. This week, I spotted an icon for tweets covering emergencies in the San Francisco Bay Area and another for San Francisco local news. I saw a picture of the Bay Bridge repairs which will be rerouting traffic and a newsfeed piping up from Berkeley. I saw a photo of a protesting teacher singing outside Wisconsin’s state capital.

This is not your grandma’s 2008 Twitter. Or even your offspring’s. A technical novelty with a lot of promise has hatched into an vibrant, inclusive infrastructure.

In her brilliant keynote speech to the Tools of Change Conference, novelist Margaret Atwood explained the changing economic relationship between authors and publishers. Using her own hand-drawn image of a bulging publishing pie, she traced the writer’s shifting share from the days of illuminated manuscripts onwards.

This metaphor suggests to me an equally ancient pie image – the one from the nursery rhyme. In this, our Twitter era, the pie before the king has been pried open; the crust has split away. The birds are emerging, fluttering. They are spreading their wings. They are singing out. And what a sight it is!
© Shelley Buck, 2011. Used with permission. Shelley Buck is the author of Floating Point: Endlessly Rocking off Silicon Valley, a memoir of living on a boat at the heart of the technical R & D world. You can find her on Twitter.

→ No CommentsTags: It's about time! · Science and Technology

We don’t need no stinkin’ books…or do we?

February 13th, 2011 · No Comments

Feb. 17 UPDATE- The Santa Cruz Library Joint Powers Board put off a vote on any of four proposals under consideration for the library system’s future. Two of the proposals called for closing multiple library branches. However, after hearing public testimony at its Feb. 14 meeting, the board instead directed a subcommittee to come up with a compromise. The board is to meet again March 7 to consider the compromise proposal. In a statement, Felton Library Friends, a group supportive of the threatened library branch in Felton, California, expressed hope that a compromise proposal would keep open all of system’s ten library branches.

Feb. 13 -SANTA CRUZ COUNTY- I used to wake up at night worrying about the misdoings of George W. Bush. With this recession, my worries have shifted closer to home. Our county library system, responding to a diminishing flow of tax dollars, is about to vote on a cost-cutting proposal which may close several community-based library branches, including one in our valley. If this plan takes effect, the nearest professionally-staffed library will be five and a half miles away.

We don’t live in a metropolis. Our town lies in a rural area which only recently achieved public bus service for one of its outlying communities. Before that, some of the area’s students had to hitchhike to get home from high school. Near the center of our tiny town, there is a library maintained on a volunteer basis. Though I’m sure the volunteers do what they can, whenever I pass by, it isn’t open. Now the library in the nearest town to the south may suffer a similar fate.

We talk a lot about civil society but not so often about what goes into to making and maintaining one. Like public education, a library is essential. It’s a meeting place where ideas are important, a setting where where elders can tutor struggling students, where kids can research their term papers, and where the unemployed can use the Internet connection to apply for jobs. (And that last is especially important: At Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2010, local residents hoping for charity turkeys at the mission on the main highway had to stand in a long line to get one. It’s not likely they’ll have the spare fuel to drive long distances or excess funds to spend at online bookstores.)

I hope the library board considers the following: A short while back, we were all snickering about Texas, where extremist officials voted to take evolution out of the school textbooks. Those Texans must be eyeing us here in Santa Cruz County with astonished wonder, now. For without a library, right-wing ideologues won’t have to make the effort to ban an idea or censor a book to keep it out of circulation: Why bother to ban a book, when the library has already been closed down?

© Shelley Buck, 2011. Used with permission.

→ No CommentsTags: American Grotesque · Op-ed

Leveraging Christmas

December 5th, 2010 · No Comments

Things are tight this year, so I’m going to take a tip from Wall Street. Usually I send gifts to charity in honor of relatives living far away. Doing this costs fewer trees and is far healthier for the recipient than lofting another calorie-laden package of designer chocolate into the mail for Uncle Rich or Aunt Sarah.

In the past, I have honored relatives at Christmas by making gifts of tree seedlings, rabbits, and a even a flock of chicks. I ordered these donations online through a charity that does on-the-ground work, helping village people around the world leverage the fecundity of the animals or trees provided to them into gifts for others and greater prosperity for their communities. It’s a wonderful program.

There are lots of animals to choose from…sheep, goats, camels. I’m tempted to get a camel this year, but at $850, the camel is way too much of a stretch. Geese are more affordable. Although I can get a share in something else for $10, that flock of geese I have my eye on starts at $20.

This year, as I noted, things are a little tight. I still intend to give, but I have decided to employ a Wall Street strategy. I will donate for one flock of geese, then carve it up (only on paper, of course).

Then I plan to honor each of my farflung relatives with a derivative of this gift.

Wait a minute! How are the unsuspecting recipients supposed to know I have really made the donation of the underlying geese? Will they examine the paperwork, or what? Will they want to know which end of which goose their fractional shares are from?

A goose is a pretty non-toxic asset, but I guess they’ll just have to trust me on that.
© Shelley Buck, 2010. Used with permission. Shelley Buck is the author of Floating Point: Endlessly Rocking off Silicon Valley, available at Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and (via Apple’s iBook app) on the iPad.

→ No CommentsTags: Thinking like Wall Street

Public Option Redux

July 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

Proposed legislation adding a public option to the health care legislation enacted earlier this year was introduced in Congress July 21, sponsored by Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

HR 5808, introduced with 128 co-sponsors, would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to begin offering affordable health benefits as a public option as part of health care exchanges beginning in 2014. Co-sponsors include, among others, California Representatives Anna Eshoo, George Miller, Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, and Henry Waxman, as well as Barney Frank of Massachusetts, and Alan Grayson of Florida.

The bill calls for offering at least three tiers of plans, “including a low-cost plan without compromising quality.”

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

It’s about time.

Read the full HR 5808. It’s short.

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Facing up to Facebook?

May 13th, 2010 · No Comments

I have two pieces of information that I haven’t acted upon. A relative has indicated that she is now on Facebook. And so has a professional organization.

I haven’t heard much from the relative lately. I suspect there are more frequent communications on her Facebook page. But I haven’t looked. Suppose I “friend” her? Will the writers’ organization I belong to then be treated to discussions of our extended family’s baby pictures?

Can I count on Facebook to keep these currents flowing separately?

Facebook pages are free and they are available worldwide. At a convention, I met Pakistani journalists, also using Facebook. It’s great to have international colleagues, but I suspect we have very different feelings about a woman’s role in society. Should I share my history as a feminist editor-a history well-known to my friends? Or should I seek out some professional common ground without giving out quite so much information?

Facebook has privacy standards, but they are still evolving. And so am I. I am still pondering which way to face in a world where all our faces are increasingly public ones. And as Facebook and other social media continue to grow, I am wondering whether that choice will even continue to be mine.

A friend tells this second-hand tale of a student seeking an internship: The organization the student applied to requested to see her Facebook page, then instructed her which entries to delete. Is some boundary being crossed here? Should it be?

As a woman writer, will I pay an extra price when work and family mingle in public? Do I want family pictures, with children’s names and personal information, available on the Internet? What do I do about the college students I taught, who now want to “friend” me? Would they enjoy a funny snapshot of my dog Porschy fleeing the buzzing vacuum cleaner? Would the Pakistani colleagues?

The “whole world” may have been watching at sixties anti-war demonstrations, but back then it was usually possible to go home afterwards. Which face do I face the world with nowadays, when the scrutiny can be 24/7?

Meanwhile, my high school held a reunion. And yes, I got more Facebook requests.

Perhaps I should grow a separate set of names to greet the faces that I meet. Maybe avatars are the solution. I feel a twinge of atavism. I wonder if Currer, Acton, and Ellis are pseudonyms that can be taken.

While I’m still deciding, I’ve tweaked my privacy settings again. Don’t look for me on Facebook. If you do, you won’t find me …um … I hope.

→ No CommentsTags: It's about time! · Science and Technology

Oil Spills and Mine Disasters?

May 11th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Isn’t it time we figured out some alternatives to oil and coal? (For those of you suggesting nuclear plants as a substitute, I suggest you rent “China Syndrome” at the video store and watch it, or acquire some penpals living around Chernobyl and get their opinions. )

We can do better for ourselves and the planet. And we need to do it now.

→ 3 CommentsTags: American Grotesque · It's about time! · Science and Technology