Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Prediction is Wrong--Again!

So I predicted that the next President of Cuba would be someone other than Raul Castro. And I was wrong. I think I'm disappointed, although I can understand why the Cubans decided for Raul. What was most interesting, though, was the replacement of Carlos Lage as First Vice-President. Hmmm. Could mean something. Could mean nothing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Castro's Retirement

It always amazes me that, when Fidel Castro makes an announcement that should have been expected for, oh, about five years now, there is such surprise. Can it be that I am the only person who suspected that Castro would not run for President of Cuba? I don't think so.

Indeed it's very likely that Castro intended to retire in 2003. In May 2001, Castro noted, in a address to the graduates in Social Work at the University of Havana, that he had worked to solve the problems of the twentieth century, while the problems of the twenty-first century would be solved by others. My eyes widened. I thought, holy s**t, the dude done gonna retire. (I don't talk like that most of the time, but occasionally thoughts register in this kind of language.) I was not the only person to note this, and many noted that it appeared that his international travel schedule was a "farewell tour." But then 9/11, and more particularly the decision of the US to use our military base at Guantanamo as an off-the-books prison camp, led the Cuban leadership to decide that Castro should stay through the 2008 election.

But if this failed to register with the major media and the CIA, surely his statement in December was a hint intended to clue in the clueless. In that statement he suggested that he might not run again and, if he didn't run, the next President should be someone "much younger." I noted at the time that this just might be a teeny little hint that Raul Castro was not going to be a candidate. (It also precluded the choice of Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, who had been mentioned as a possibility for the 2003 election, as he is only ten years younger than Castro.)

So his announcement today cannot be a surprise to the people of Cuba. Indeed it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who pays reasonable attention. It's not likely to lead to any of the apocalyptic visions so dear to the Miami Cubans. Nor are the Cuban people likely to decide that neoliberal economics is for them. After all, if anyone there did think it might be a good idea, they have the experience of the rest of Latin America to put them off that notion. I predict that the transition will be quite peaceful, and that the consensus candidate has already been chosen. The Cuban people probably already know who the candidate is so, should AP or the New York Times want to find out, they might just try polling a random sample of Cubans. That would be a scoop!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Preparing for Spring

I've spent some time this weekend preparing for Spring in Sacramento. Those who live in snowier regions might think that it's a bit early, but for the last several years, Spring has arrived along about the end of January. This year it's been so cold that I'm only now preparing for my flowering season.

In addition to clearing out still more leaves and debris from the beds, I've been brutal with the potted plants, and about a dozen have been put out of their misery. I've purchased several ferns for the shade garden, a couple of cistus for the front yard and more Icelandic poppies for the driveway strip. I also cut back the red feather grass, hoping that it will sprout anew next month. The pelargoniums had a hard winter and I've had to cut some of them back severely.

I also set up a little kitchen garden for J. It's not outside the kitchen, as the kitchen is on the north side of our house and herbs need sunny spots to grow well. Instead the kitchen garden is outside the bedroom slider, in the sunniest spot in the back yard. In addition to the lettuces I planted just before it turned cold in December, we now have parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano and mint. I've promised him basil too, but it's not time to plant that yet.

I don't grow most vegies, as my yard doesn't get enough sun for enough of the day for them to do well (which, however, makes it a very tolerable sitting garden for much of the year). The local farmer's market, though, provides very well for us, so we don't really need to grow our own. I've tried growing tomatoes, for instance, in pots, and found that we didn't get many tomatoes and they weren't very good. At the farmer's market, we purchase a selection of the varieties offered, drizzle them in olive oil and herbs, add a side of cheese and bread, and declare that dinner.

But we won't have a lot of tomatoes for several months yet. Back to Spring. I still have mounds of leaves to clear up, as it seems that every windy day brings leaves from the entire neighborhood to my yard. And, of course, there's the eucalyptus in the front yard. I need to clear out enough of the leaves there so that the plants can find the sun. And I have to plan more residents for the section of the yard J and I planted in the fall. It looks a little sparse, and many of the new plants won't grow in for several years. There I have to come up with contenders that will look right with the plants already installed, but that I'm willing to rip out when the plantings mature.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sleeping in a Heap

In the pet section of yesterday's Chronicle there was a small piece on a very expensive pet bed, one with a heating pad, so that Puff or Fido could have a comfortable place to sleep that wasn't the family bed. But our cats, Emma and Dashiell, would take one look at it, turn up their kitty noses, and head back to our bed. Yes, we all sleep in a heap, particularly in winter. And because this winter has been especially cold, the cats have joined us every night.

The cats believe that they are accommodating our needs by allowing us to sleep on their bed. After all, we're forced to scoot into bed around them. Should Emma choose to sleep at the foot of the bed on my side, I have to sleep diagonally, with my feet in J's territory. And if Dash wants to sleep between us, we use our best contortionist skills to allow him his chosen position. I do draw the line, though, at allowing Emma to sleep on my pillow.

I suppose I shouldn't expect the cats to sleep through the night since I don't. But I don't walk back and forth across the pillows, licking the faces of the beings thereon. I also do not engage in nighttime races across the bedroom, over the bed and back again. Nor do I challenge my bedmates to wrestling matches at 3:00 A.M. I remove myself from the bed carefully, so as not to disturb any of the other occupants and pad quietly to the living room. But this means that when I return to bed, I have to locate the other occupants to determine the contortions necessary to insert myself into the available space. Sometimes I'm amazed that I am so flexible.

Within a couple of months, though, Emma and Dash will decide that it's too warm and remove themselves from the bed. In the summer, when not sleeping on the living room chairs, they often sleep next to the open sliding glass doors to catch the evening breeze and keep an eye out for marauding cats who may be in THEIR YARD. (Emma, in particular, seems to take umbrage at the neighborhood cats who sometimes traverse the yard on their nighttime romps.)

When they relocate for the warmer months, we will miss them. I think.

The Election

I voted for Kucinich. And no, I didn't vote before he withdrew. After all, he was out of contention from the beginning, so that wasn't really an issue. I just decided that in the primary I'd vote for the candidate I'd rather have. I'm going to have to vote for Obama or Clinton in the general election and know that I'm going to regret it. There's no reason to regret my vote twice.

I've listened to Obama's speeches and can't figure out why he's so popular. He doesn't really say anything except that he's in favor of change. There's a scene in Mike Leigh's High Hopes where the main character is standing in front of Karl Marx's grave at Highgate. Reflecting on Marx's admonition to not just understand the world, but change it, the main character says, "Change what?" Well, that's the question I wish someone would ask Obama. And then how he's going to change it.

Clinton--well, DLC. Isn't that enough?

I struggle to find any reason to support one of them over the other, but I can't find enough difference between them to make it worth the energy. Instead I recognize that come November I will vote for one (or both) of them. Not happily, but I've never been happy with my presidential options, so I'm used to it. Although I do admit to being very slightly excited to be voting for the first woman and/or the first African American to run for President and have a chance of winning. I guess it's too much to ask that I actually like the candidate.