Oh, Thank Goodness!

Thank Goodness, Thank Goodness the House approved a spending bill just before deadline. Could you imagine? How disastrous! I really did not want to have to start blogging daily again about it!

I know for certain I would not have been able to keep my tone civil. Up to this point, I have argued that somebody somewhere must provide a match light’s flare of reasoned discourse, and better yet if multiple people (dare I wish for “many” people?) strike a tone of civility. Some consider this a trifling exercise, but as the current modus operandi of unyielding non-compromise has proved unsuccessful, why not try a different tack?

Thank Goodness I don’t have to spend hours editing a post that, in a vain attempt to be “family-reader friendly,” would never be so. My anger would spill. It wouldn’t be pretty. And I doubt I would apologize for my curt and unceremonious missives.

At what point do I completely “lose it” and succumb to the very tactics I abhor? One of the most telling moments of my life came when I shouted at a mother carrying her child out of a line. This mother carried her young daughter past the hundreds and hundreds of us holding official purple tickets as we stood in a freezing tunnel in Washington, D.C. waiting to be let into the VIP section to witness the first inauguration of President Obama. The mood inside the “Purple Tunnel of Doom” changed as time passed, from joyful anticipation to a speculation that the sheer numbers of ticket holders could never proceed through the line and security in time, then to the stark realization that we were not going to get into the inauguration at all, and finally to a controlled but palpable near-panic that we would not be let out of the tunnel. I believe I was overcome by an initial sense of injustice. We had all waited so patiently, and here was this woman, leaving the line, just walking and pushing her way through the crowd, going on ahead of us. This was a wrongdoing.  And so I shouted at a mother carrying her daughter. It was only after this moment passed that I realized that this mother was securing her own, and her daughter’s safety.  I will forever remember my deep frustration, my anger, my fear for my own safety, and my almost immediate embarrassment, remorse and shame.  When pushed to the brink, I blew it.

Talk about your life lessons. This is not a surprising finding; there is often the threat of violence in large demonstrations. Reasoned and reasonable people, passionate over a cause, fervent, find themselves engaged in escalating arguments. Right now people are convening throughout the U.S. and abroad, raising their voices every night in response to Grand Jury findings related to the death of black men by the hands of police officers. Scary things can happen when people are angry. This country has a proud history, and this history includes stories where members of the highest political office engaged in debate that went beyond charged rhetoric. There was a wild floor brawl in the House that progressed from insults to blows to general melee.  I’m not talking about the House and Senate now, this happened in 1858.* And this continues to happen around the globe today.

I had figured the Congress would strike a budget deal. Everybody seemed to be fairly certain of it. But the fact that our elected leaders waited so long, with what appears to me, anyway, to be a “thumb your nose” attitude, once again not seeming to care that peoples’ lives are on the line, that our country’s image is reaching new lows, and that folks are getting sick and tired of business as usual, is disturbing. So knowing that I once yelled at a mother holding a child while she tried to escape a tense and dangerous situation, I’m not sure I can keep my goal of “showing the leaders how it’s done” in line.

I’m not condoning violence – far from it. I was scared in that Purple Tunnel of Doom. But I don’t know how to “attack” this situation. I’m getting really tired of business as usual. My efforts to model proper behavior to legislators might be a useless exercise. My pen may have to drop the “Miss Manners” approach. The question is, how do I ensure that I don’t sink to lows that rival elected legislators’ tactics?

* U.S. House of Representatives: History, Art, & Archives

http://history.house.gov/Historical-Highlights/1851-1900/The-most-infamous-floor-brawl-in-the-history-of-the-U-S–House-of-Representatives/

Kathy Galgano

December 12, 2014

GREAT NEWS!

Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton

Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton (Photo by Kathy Galgano 11/6/2014)

Lick Observatory in the Diablo Range

Lick Observatory is high atop Mr. Hamilton in the Diablo Range (Photo by Kathy Galgano 11/6/2014)

This spring, I wrote about Lick Observatory, the world-class astronomical observatory research center and San Jose gem. Funded by the University of California, Lick’s days were numbered as U.C. was withdrawing its funding for this great institution of science and learning. For a refresher, you can check out my piece, “Keep It Open” at: https://kathygalgano.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/keep-it-open/ So here’s the news and yes, it calls for a drum roll!

The University of California will continue to fund Lick Observatory!

Phew. U.C. made the right call, and, you played a big part. Thank you, Readers, for your calls and letters to the U.C. President and the U.C. Board of Regents. Thank you, also, for contacting your local, state and federal officials, and a big thank you to these elected officials who worked hard to keep Lick Observatory the world-class facility it is. Thank you for letters to newspapers, and for your calls and letters to Lick Observatory, expressing your support. Most importantly, thank you all for keeping the conversation alive, and for your interest, care, concern and positive attitude that something could be done to keep this historic and important scientific observatory funded and operational.

Everybody wins!

Here are a few links announcing the great news:

UC overturns decision to withdraw all funding to Lick Observatory http://www.dailycal.org/2014/11/03/university-overturned-decision-withdraw-funding-lick-observatory/?fb_action_ids=10204291122349777&fb_action_types=og.likes

UC confirms continued support of Lick Observatory http://news.ucsc.edu/2014/11/Lick-support.html

University of California Observatories http://www.ucolick.org/

http://www.ucolick.org/SaveLick/lick_future.html

Thanks, U.C. And Thanks, folks.

 

Kathy Galgano

November 6, 2014

 

The Real Crisis

Kathleen, Can we talk?; terrible news; read the email carefully (don’t skim); Please, don’t click delete; Absolutely urgent; DISASTROUS; The next two years are on the line; Today’s critical deadline; NEVER in US history (completely unprecedented); DEADLOCKED; Photo finish;  Not an option – DON’T DELETE; All is lost; It’s going to come down to you, Kathleen;  disappointed; Kathleen!;  I need your help, Kathleen!; DISASTER; DEADLINE: Add your name if you live on Earth; I’m relying on you Kathleen; This is disgusting;  lost cause; All is lost; We’ve lost; All Hope is Lost; Doomsday.

And to think I woke up in a good mood. These emails litter my inbox daily.

“Shoot. Again? All hope is lost… again?”

Political action groups, political parties, U.S. Representatives, Senators, even the Prez send me missives. I wrote in a previous post that the Prez and I are good buds because we are on a first name basis. Nothing’s changed there.  I realize that folks sitting at their computers at home or at favorite coffee shops all over the place are being paid a pittance for these emails, and they are grasping at straws to find new sensational wording to get my attention, but really, is this necessary? Haven’t people ever read the story about the boy who cries “wolf!”?  What a waste of time and resources.

Usually, my responses are about as thoughtfully crafted as the emails themselves. “Idiotic!” “Are they kidding?” “What imbeciles!” “How stupid.” “Ridiculous.” “They’re off their rockers!”

Routinely, I delete the lot of them, but once in a while I take a peek. Just last week the Prez thanked me for my help, (What help?) and I could tell he doesn’t read my blog. For the umpteenth time, if I donate money, my name will be entered into a drawing and I could meet the President. This is all routine. Here’s the part that got to me; the missive said that POTUS wants to meet my parents! I just shook my head. These people sure have their demographics wrong.  I am the parent!  My folks are dead. I am not a twenty-something.

“Get it together, people! If you have to send stupid emails, at least target the right group!”

I started getting these emails as I wrote to elected officials a year ago pleading with them to end the government shutdown. I wrote to everybody, and so these responses are fallout from my kitchen grassroots campaign. My letters were impassioned, yes, but they were also respectful and, I believed, well crafted. Could it be that my kitchen campaign of activism has caused a dramatically different and unexpected outcome?

While I look forward to reading the rare but newsworthy and interesting political updates, I could care less about all these “crises.” I am not giving a dime. I am not signing petitions. I am not sending hate mail. I am not reading these missives. I don’t care about them. I am rapidly losing interest in the process. Yes. I mean it!

Of course, the campaign finance rules need to be changed. Yes, real work needs to be conducted on Capitol Hill. But does everyone really need to air their dirty laundry every single second? Can’t elected officials do one thing without calling everybody they know? Sure, there are days that go from bad to worse to really downright lousy, but is it every single day? We vote. We elect officials to do the business of our country. So just do it already, and stop bothering me with the petty stuff.

The sheer number of these nonsensical emails barraging my inbox for a year now is making me numb – well, emails, sound bites, news, all of it reflecting the reality that nothing gets done anymore. But my inbox is my personal domain and I don’t need groups and individuals harassing me every second of the day. I can feel my drive for activism being shut down.

Now that’s a crisis.

Kathy Galgano

October 15, 2014

KEEP IT OPEN!

I love Lick Observatory. It was built well over a hundred years ago on a peak that is 4,200 feet high in the Diablo Range to the east in San Jose. There are a number of domes at the observatory, and you can see them on the ridge from downtown San Jose and from around Silicon Valley.

Recently, the newly-hired President of the University of California, Ms. Janet Napolitano, announced that the facility will be closing for financial reasons. Since 1888, the University of California has operated Lick Observatory. Citizens, scientists, students, business leaders and political lawmakers have drafted letters and begun campaigns to save the observatory. Today, my U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren was one of 35 members of California’s Democratic Congressional delegation that urged the U.C. President to keep the observatory open. The text of the press release can be found at this address: http://lofgren.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=377280.

I, too, have written to Ms. Napolitano, and explained to her the positive impact this institution has had, and continues to have, on San Jose, greater Silicon Valley, the UC System, and the larger, global community. As a San Jose resident, I have felt a swelling of pride every time I have read an announcement, such as a discovery of a planet, hailing from the local observatory. I have driven up there many times over the years, for daytime tours of the facility and for evening summer programs. Years ago, in 1986 to be precise, I and many, many others drove the long and winding road built in the 1870s at a seven per-cent grade because that was the maximum for horses pulling large loads. Independently, people all over Santa Clara County chose the one viewing area they knew to be the best. The good people working at Lick Observatory did not sanction this event; it just happened. While most of us that night may have been unsophisticated in the night sky, two points were a given: First, Halley’s Comet was worth seeing, and second, Lick Observatory was the best place to view it unobscured, since it was soon to leave our field of view and not return for another 75 years. I am certain that no one drove down the mountain that night disappointed. Mars was gorgeous, too, if memory serves me correctly.

When touring the Lick facility, with its beautiful observatory buildings, the guide will probably tell you there are 365 curves in the road, one for every day of the year. True, it’s not the easiest road to drive, but can you imagine doing it on horseback or in a wagon? Once there, it’s an amazing sight. I remember looking east from atop this vantage point some years ago, clearly seeing the snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada range, about 130 miles away. Instantly, that image was indelibly captured in my mind’s eye. And while there is an old photograph that was taken from Mt. Hamilton of the Sierra Nevada range on display inside the visitors’ center, it’s the night-time work that goes on there that is, well, stellar. Just a very few of the discoveries at Lick are moons of Jupiter, asteroids, and planet systems, and now Lick scientists are using the first ever robotic telescope to find planets near stars close to earth. (http://news.ucsc.edu/2014/03/apf-telescope.html)

Lick Observatory is a jewel, physically, and metaphorically. It is the vista I seek every time I am a few blocks away from my home in my urban neighborhood in San Jose, and can look out to see the Diablo Range, and specifically, the highest point capped with white domes. The history of the observatory is fascinating. The science is top-notch. What I find inspirational is that as Silicon Valley is home to thinkers and scientists working on the most minute of scales, with computer designs smaller and operations faster, thinkers and scientists at Lick Observatory use the same precision to make discoveries in the largest of fields, our solar system and universe. It is fitting that San Jose, and Santa Clara Valley, be called “home” to the industry of science representing both scales of exploration.

I know that other sources of funding are being explored and ascertained by business and government leaders, and as a citizen, I urge you to keep this monument to history, science, and our future, fully operational. There are ways we can all help. Below I’ve added a few links so you can see for yourself this historic, remarkable facility that continues to do fabulous work.

If you’re a history buff, or if you just like a good tale, you’ll enjoy reading about the man, James Lick. There’s intrigue in this bio; he survived a storm at sea in South America only to be taken prisoner, and then made his escape. There’s a lot of talk of gold, and some of heartbreak, and idiosyncrasies (Lick had trees planted upside-down!), and chocolate, Domingo Ghiradelli’s chocolate, to be exact. James Lick figures prominently in the gorgeous Conservatory of Flowers open today in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. He almost had a giant pyramid built, but thankfully, science won that argument and the observatory came into being. Go to:
http://collections.ucolick.org/archives_on_line/James_Lick.html

Click on the following link for fabulous photos: http://collections.ucolick.org/archives_on_line/bldg_the_obs.html

If you live in the area or are planning a trip, you can hear some great music this summer at 4,200 feet. The “Music of the Spheres” Concert series, held annually each summer, gives you two great reasons to visit Lick Observatory. Not only do you get to enjoy a concert, you will also observe through the Great Lick Refractor and the Nickel Reflector. Go to : http://www.ucolick.org/public/music.html

Lick Observatory offers another wonderful program each summer. You can observe through both the 36-inch Great Lick Refractor and the Nickel 40-inch Reflecting Telescope. Also, you will hear two speakers who will present programs even if the clouds or fog prohibit viewing. Check the web site for further information and to buy tickets, which are very reasonably priced. The Summer Visitors Program information is found at: http://www.ucolick.org/public/sumvispro.html

Whether you can get to Lick Observatory or not, you can help save it. Click on the link below to join “Friends of Lick Observatory.” http://www.ucolick.org/public/friends/index.html

Or, you can go to this page to: Make a donation; Get the address of UC President Janet Napolitano so you, too, can write to her; and Get the address of the UC Regents to send them some mail. But here’s what I really love — Lick Observatory wants to hear from you. Do you have any ideas to save this treasure? Click on: http://www.ucolick.org/SaveLick/help_save_lick.html

Thanks, folks.

Kathy Galgano
April 24, 2014